Topic of the Week A World Apart... The keys to virtual meeting success
Virtual meeting tips:
• DO have backup plan.
• DO rehearse
• DO create a feedback loop
• DON’T panic.
Your Rant: Can a virtual meeting accomplish anything?
Maintaining people’s attention when they are sitting in the room with you is tough enough today. It seems almost impossible to maintain their interest when they’re spread all over the city, country or even world. Which reminds me of an appearance that Bill Gates did on the David Letterman show. Letterman asked about a trampoline that Gates had in his house, thinking it might be computerized. “No,” Gates replied, “It’s a non-virtual trampoline.”
Gates used as his frame of reference the virtual world, not the real one. And you’ve got to adopt the same attitude for your meeting. You need to live in the land of viewing everything through the eyes and ears of your participants. I’ve included three Do’s and one Don’t below to help you do this. For more check out, “The Hamster Revolution for Meetings” by Song, et.al. (Berrett Koehler, 2009).
DO have backup plan. Technical difficulties happen, guaranteed. Computers crash, phones disconnect, Wi-Fi signals drop and any other disaster that could possibly happen, probably will. That’s why it’s so important to think through in advance everything that could possibly go wrong. Have the teleconference number on speed dial, create a bookmark for the web site, have a back-up facilitator ready to go if you suddenly go offline and have a slide prepared that lists all the emergency contingency plans.
DO rehearse. Anyone who knows me will crack up when they read this particular bit of advice, because I’m quite notorious for not rehearsing before my presentations (Wow, that little revelation really felt good to get off my chest). But you need to become the anti-Bob when it comes to your virtual meeting. Practice everything. But don’t only look at your screen or speak into your phone, also look at everything from the point of view of your users. I’ll guarantee if you do this that you’ll find a host of things that you want to change to improve their experience.
DO create a feedback loop. Welcome to the land of Web 2.0. From Twitter to Facebook, we love to join in the conversation. So don’t allow your meeting to become a monologue. Create a way for people to contribute their thoughts, ideas and questions. You don’t even need to get expensive software, you can just open a Twitter account or Facebook page where people can make comments. Anything to get them more active will improve the quality and commitment to your meeting.
DON’T panic. I once was speaking to a conference when the power went out for the entire hotel. After an initial minute of nervous energy in the room I just started joking with the audience. The power came back on after a few minutes and I resumed my presentation. One participant actually accused me of staging the whole power outage, because I was so relaxed during it. Stay calm.
Follow these tips and problems will just bounce off your virtual meeting just like Gates’ non-virtual trampoline.
About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. If you have a question for Bob, contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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