By Mike Song, Tim Burress, and Vicki Halsey
Thanks to a troubled economy, rising environmental concerns, apprehension about global pandemics, and the ever-increasing need to boost productivity and save money, companies everywhere are exploring the benefits of virtual meetings.
Unfortunately, few professionals know what it takes to run effective and engaging on-line meetings. According to a new survey conducted by infoexcellence.com, two-thirds of the respondents complained that virtual meetings are boring and plagued by technical difficulties. If meeting attendees aren’t actively engaged by the proceedings, they tune out—surfing the Web, bonding with their BlackBerry, or texting friends—and, as a result, productivity plummets.
Five Tips for Amazing Virtual Meetings
The good news is that properly run virtual meetings can be a boon to employee engagement, productivity, and the bottom line. Here’s how:
Turn On the Lights!
A teleconference is like meeting in the dark. No visuals = boring! Help participants see the light by upgrading dismal phone meetings to colorful web conferences. Use charts, slide presentations, and photos to build interest and make your point.
Quick Tip: Look for ways to incorporate team photos into your virtual meetings in order to create a stronger bond with participants. For example, place a professional-looking headshot of yourself on the cover slide of your next virtual presentation.
Become a Champion of Chat
Invite participants to make frequent use of the public chat feature to provide insight, feedback, and even jokes. While you might think this would distract participants, it actually rivets them. Tech-savvy Generation Y colleagues especially love to leverage chat to communicate and probe for important info. Chat also cuts meeting time because the speaker doesn’t need to be interrupted every time someone wants to make a point. Use chat early in your next meeting to send the message that participation is welcome and that everyone’s opinion matters.
Quick Tip: Use the Chat feature as a rapid polling tool and idea generator. For example, ask participants to list the single biggest obstacle to getting more done on the job.
Become a Screen Writer
You’ll have a better chance of engaging your audience if the screen is alive with movement and color. Practice using Web conferencing tools that allow you to draw or type on the Web meeting screen to highlight key points.
Quick Tip: The next time you display a document reflecting a co-worker’s great work, draw a smiley face or A on the screen.
Survey the Crowd
Web meeting surveys are easy to create, make meetings fun, and yield a ton of useful information. Impress and engage your colleagues with a few well-thought-out survey questions during your next virtual meeting. You can create questions specific to the meeting’s purpose or general questions like this:
What would make our meetings more effective?
a) Start and end on time
b) Better preparation
c) Stay on course
d) Complete all action items
Quick Tip: Create an open ended ice-breaker question that you can use with early participants to test the survey tool and build your confidence. For example: Who will win the big game tonight?
Avoid Tech Disasters
Avoid technical glitches by being prepared. Create a “Tech Glitch Cheat Sheet” that lists key features, simple fixes, and support and account information for all virtual meeting technology. For example, include instructions on how to mute all phone lines. This is useful when a knuckle-headed participant puts you on hold forcing everyone to listen to the extended version of Barry Manilow’s Copacabana!
Keep your cheat sheet handy whenever you launch a virtual meeting and you’ll overcome technical glitches gracefully.
Quick Tip: You can download a free cheat sheet template at: http://www.infoexcellence.com/icfreelessons.htm
Become a virtual meeting virtuoso and your colleagues and clients will be happy—and even inspired—to participate at a higher and more meaningful level.
Content copyright © 2009 by Cohesive Knowledge Solutions, Inc. Permission to reprint granted and encouraged. Copyright strictly enforced on exact reprints and adaptations.
About the Author(s)
Mike Song, Tim Burress, and Vicki Halsey Mike Song is America’s leading business productivity speaker, coach, and researcher, and developer of the "Get Control" productivity webinar and seminar series. Vicki Halsey is an optimal learning strategist, consultant, and vice president of Applied Learning for the Ken Blanchard Companies. Tim Burress is an efficiency expert and cofounder, with Song, of Cohesive Knowledge Solutions. Song, Halsey, and Burress are coauthors of The Hamster Revolution for Meetings: How to Meet Less and Get More Done (Berrett-Koehler, 2009, $19.95, www.hamsterrevolution.com).