Sitting on the
end of a phone line listening to what just sounds like a whole load of noise, all
the while trying to make sense of what is going on and who is saying what, is a familiar feeling when you are attending a meeting remotely.
I have first-hand experience of this, having previously worked as a remote employee
for a US
company, spending a number of years dialling into weekly conferences calls at
5pm on a Monday. While my colleagues were all in a conference room chatting about their
weekends and getting ready for lunch (they were in NYC, so there was a five-hour time
difference), I was getting weary and wanting to get the meeting underway.
Instead, I had to listen to a rabble of people going off on random tangents before
we got down to business.
This, along with
a number of other issues, is a problem when planning a virtual meeting.
However, the answer is here - Harvard Business School has put
together ‘Five Tips for Better Virtual Meetings’, in the hope its simple guidelines will make virtual pow-wows a success. So, take note of the below if you are tasked with organising a
meeting with remote attendees.
The first tip is
to ‘be very interactive’ - it’s all about engaging with colleagues, apparently.
As each attendee joins the call, be sure to say a 'cheery hello', take a moment
for some small talk and take a personal interest in your team mates.
sure you have the right technology. Tips include virtual rooms for attendees,
white board functionality for taking notes, voting tools, anonymous feedback
and cameras so colleagues can see one another. Be sure to have a back-up plan -
how many times has technology failed us all in meetings?
Next up is the
point that a meeting should only be used for two-way communication. If one-way
meetings are bad in person, they are deadly over the phone.
Ah, number four
on the list, my personal favourite: ‘Level the playing field’. It is, of course, common for some employees to be together in one room
while others dial in alone from their offices or other locations. Harvard
suggests that if anyone is alone during a virtual meeting, everyone should be alone
and each attendee should dial in from their own office to level the playing
field. Good idea in theory, but is this really going to be easy in practice?
nugget of information is to establish a no email or instant messaging policy - an obvious one, again, but you wouldn’t have a
side conversation during a face-to-face meeting, so try to avoid it when virtual,
None of the
above is rocket science, but I sure wish this document had been sent out to my
former colleagues. It would have made those Monday evening meetings a lot less