We are doing it… many weeks with the stricter regulations have passed, still a great part of your working time may be characterized by meetings which are facilitated virtually.
Leaders and HR managers from various organisations I work with describe different experiences. These range from „We are more focused in our meetings than before“ to „Our meetings get out of hand because everyone just says what they are doing“ to “Only one person speaks, everyone else is muted”.
So, what does it take to design virtual meetings effectively and efficiently?
In a nutshell: Use all the elements, which make effective and efficient face-to-face meetings and focus on C D I.
C D I stand for
- Discipline and
- Personal Interaction
Weaknesses and gaps that may have existed in face-to-face meetings are becoming more apparent in a virtual context, so the level of suffering increases.
Here you have some practical hacks to be able to focus more on your C D I:
Be clear about the following questions:
- “What is the specific objective of the meeting?“ Is the meeting the best way to handle the subject?
- “Which outcome would you like to achieve with the meeting?”
- Which type of meeting is it?” (e.g. transfer of information, brainstorming, decision-making, exchange of experience)
- “Why am I in this meeting?, “What is my task, my duty?”, “What can I contribute?”, “What is expected from me?”
- “Who else should be involved in the meeting?” (e.g. Stake holders, decision makers, knowledge carriers)
Yes, it seems tedious to clarify these questions, but only if there is clarity for the participants, they go into meetings with the same expectations.
DISCIPLINE & FOCUS
- Preparation: When objectives and type of meeting are clear, all attendees know what to prepare for the meeting. Lead by example and be prepared!
- Punctuality and interference-free environment: When a meeting is set for 9:00, then everyone should be dialled in and the required infrastructure and equipment ready to go, so that the meeting can start on time and without interference.
- Stick to the plan: An hour-long meeting ends after one hour. If at the end more time would be needed, clarify how to continue working on the pending topics.
- Shorter meetings (45-60 minutes max): Have shorter meetings, in which all attendees fully focus. If there are several topics that require more time, make virtual breaks after 60 minutes.
- Make sure there is a summary of the results and agreement for follow-up activities.
- … and well known, but not always easily implemented: make sure you really listen to each other and don’t interrupt.
- So far, in addition to virtual meetings, there usually would be the possibility for personal interaction. Therefore, the focus in these virtual meetings is often “on the matter/topic”.
- Since the possibility of personal interaction is currently very limited, make time and (virtual) space for it.
- If the infrastructure allows it, hold virtual meetings in video mode as it creates further closeness. It gives you the opportunity to engage more with the reaction of your dialogue partners.
- At the beginning of the meeting, consciously plan time for social onboarding. These can be questions such as “What is your current energy level at the moment?”, “What do you need so you can get involved in the meeting in the best possible way?”, “What does it take so we can use the meeting as best as possible?”.
- Generally, use questions more often so that the engagement is increased. In addition to the open and closed questions scale questions are also suitable. You can use it to query various things, from assessment to commitment to experience. For example, “On a scale of 1 to 10, what is your commitment to implement the proposed idea?”. Then ask further questions, such as “What does it take to get from 6 to 7?”. Use one-word questions to quickly get opinions or ideas.
- If social onboarding is needed at the beginning of the meeting, a feedback loop at the end is just as important. Questions like, “What went well today? What should we keep? What should we change next time?” help to continuously improve the quality and efficiency of meetings.
- Recommendation! ROTI = Return On Invested Time as a feedback method. With the scale question “Was the time you invested in this meeting worthwhile – in relation to achieved/achievable benefit/advantage?”, you get feedback on the meeting. The scale ranges from “1 = worthless” to “5 = great benefit”. This is followed by the questions mentioned above.
Finally, two more practical tips:
- Make sure that there is a moderator for each meeting who ensures that the essential principles of effective meetings are adhered to.
- … and last but not least: It needs the mindset / attitude of all attendees that virtual meetings are a suitable form of meetings.
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