How to Improve Your Virtual Meetings

Life is full of situations that you can’t control.  As a project manager this galls me on a regular basis, but I’ve learned to minimize the irritation by trying to focus on what I can control.

When you’re navigating your way through a Virtual Meeting and you narrowly escape being shipwrecked by Distractions, don’t let up in your focus.

You still need to ensure that the messages sent back and forth over the phone line are transmitted and received correctly.

While it may not be as bad a two cans and a string stretched across the Grand Canyon, we can miss handoffs or risks if we don’t take responsibility for the communication during the meeting.

Keep these recommendations in mind while planning/ structuring your meetings and the team’s common understanding of “what needs to happen next” will be clearer.

Seven Recommendations

  1. Give them something to focus on
    Rather than force the team to focus on my voice only, it is sometimes useful to share an agenda, dashboard or slides.  A visual presentation draws the attention far better than a verbal status, which depending on the status and its relevance to their work, may come across like Charlie Brown’s teacher

  2. Try to minimize or eliminate line noise as much as possible
    As I mentioned in my previous post: echoes from beyond, room acoustics in the remote site or the mad typist can be distractions that add noise and jumble the message. Ask for everyone to mute if noise becomes an issue.  If you can’t get them to mute, drag the operator in to mute the line.

  3. Push for feedback
    Sometimes there isn’t any feedback. Sometimes people just don’t feel free enough to speak. Run through the list of attendees that you captured when you did a roll call at the beginning of your meeting and ask each person if they have anything they want to add, a question they need answers to or an issue they want to put on the table.

  4. Build involvement from other team members into the structure of the meeting
    Sometimes when people feel that they have nothing to contribute to the progress of the meeting, their level of attention drops. Make them a part of the show. If it’s a status meeting, each team rep presents their slides or dashboard – ideally, they drive the Webex or Netmeeting. If it’s a document they want the team to review, they present it and request the input.
  5. Summarize at the end
    This is one of my biggest stumbling blocks as I forget unless I’m sharing my note taking in the Webex that people have forgotten most of the actions captured. Summarize the actions, the owners and the decisions that were made.  Nine times out of 10, there will be actions you missed or something that needs to be reworded.
  6. Make sure that every action item you capture has an owner and a due date
    I am guilty of forgetting to ask for a due date as I go under the crazy assumption that EVERYTHING can be done immediately after people hang up (just kidding) so I have to follow up sometimes. When you send out the meeting minutes, identify each action with an owner and a due date.  And don’t forget to…
  7. Send out minutes
    Without fail. Every time I have held a meeting and did not send out a summary of what we discussed and agreed to, someone has taken a left turn when the rest of the team went right. Now, meeting minutes don’t solve every problem – not everyone reads the meeting minutes – but it does mean that there is a record that people know they have to go back and check on before taking that left turn.

I know you have your own ways of ensuring that your Virtual Meetings are useful.  Care to share them?  Leave a comment or send me a tweet.  My id is jgodfrey.

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5 Comments

  1. In virtual meetings I always send the attendees the agenda prior to the meeting. What I include in the agenda, besides what will be discussed, is the “owner” of what item, i.e. the person that I expect to lead discussion regarding each item. For example, if it is a discussion about risk, I include the risk owner, if it is a discussion about a particular deliverable, a person who is responsible for that deliverable will be included. This helps other attendees know who will lead a particular item in the agenda, and each attendee will be prepared better for discussion.

  2. great points, thanks 🙂 and maybe one more…
    8. Try when possible to meet up in real life as well. A face to face meeting, gives a great portion of ‘reality’ into your project, business relationship and mutual goals.

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