Do’s and Don’ts for Virtual Meetings

Many people don’t like teleconferencing or virtual meetings, in part because they’ve probably had some bad experiences with it. Whether you’ve been a participant or struggled as the leader of a large teleconference, video-conference or Web meeting, you know the challenges: Audio problems, delays in information and images, managing everyone’s input (or even getting them to participate!), plus dealing with early birds and latecomers.

Here are some tips for ensuring your next virtual meeting is actually productive and engaging for everyone:

ThinkstockPhotos-4674469101. Lead from a landline. It’s common to lose upwards of 20% – 50% of your communications on some virtual meetings, so go a little “retro.” Many people extol the money-savings benefits of VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol), but if half the message doesn’t get through, what have you saved?

2. Beware of “talking down.” The speakerphone is poor-quality sound, and you literally are “talking down” to your audience using it. Invest in a headset. You’ll be amazed at the difference.

3. Set the rules of etiquette. In the absence of any formal rules, people just make their own up. So set the ground rules by outlining the behaviors you expect ahead of time. Some good ones to start with might be: Arrive early, start on time (regardless of who has turned up yet) and end on time.

ThinkstockPhotos-4660707254. Always say your name. When there are lots of people on a call, it’s easy to lose track of who’s speaking. Make sure you let everyone know your name, and be careful of making newcomers feel like the regulars all know each other. Don’t let someone feel like they’re on the outside looking in because they can’t keep track of who said what.

5. Use the word “pause” to good effect. If you have a problem with technology, or just with participants who are headed off track in the discussion, just say “pause.” Then direct the discussion by saying something like, “Pause. Steve, we’re running tight on time. Would you please sum up your concerns in one sentence?”

ThinkstockPhotos-787480366. Engage the early birds. They’ll probably spend their waiting time discussing the weather or the big game. Why not begin by asking the first one on the call a simple question that’s pertinent to the meeting. As others join the call, invite them to respond as well. It’s a great way to jump-start the engagement process.

If handled incorrectly, Virtual meetings can be a drag and will probably not accomplish much. But when managed right, your teleconferences can promote communication, generate new ideas, foster morale, create goals, and so much more!

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