Forget those boring voice calls – video conferencing is 200% more effective. Here's why
Virtual workers are putting a new spin on online meetings these days.
What was once a boring and monotonous voice call for some is now slowly turning into an online ‘happy hour’ between friends – or even into a quirky game of conference call bingo, like the one circulating on Twitter last week.
Indeed, the world of work will never be the same after the sudden and massive shift to remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it doesn’t mean workers can’t thrive in this ‘new normal’ either.
For workforce managers and team leaders who manage telecommuters, the secret is to master the art and science of online meetings.
If you’re a neophyte to leading virtual teams, you’re likely to make mistakes, says Howard Tiersky, co-author of the book, Impactful Online Meetings: How to Run Polished Virtual Working Sessions That Are Engaging and Effective.
“Those mistakes can have major ramifications in terms of how well people perform, once they log off and get back to work,” he said. But when executed correctly, online meetings are an “incredibly powerful method of enabling collaborative work.”
“It’s worth investing a bit of time and effort in learning how to maximise them. Frankly, they have the potential to move the needle for your business, and right now, this is more important than it’s ever been,” he said.
Tiersky has uncovered five mistakes that online-meeting rookies tend to make:
Mistake #1: Ignoring one (or more) of the success factors of online meetings. As an expert in virtual working, Tiersky recommends taking note of the following:
- Clearly defining the purpose of your meeting
- Getting attendees in the right mindset
- Getting them ‘fully engaged behaviourally’
- Presenting high-quality content aligned with the purpose
- Making it easy to participate
If you fail to pay attention to these, “there’s going to be a lot of awkwardness and inefficiency,” he said. “Worse, bad meetings can lead to bad workplace performance, which is the last thing any of us need right now.”
Mistake #2: Opting for voice calls instead of video conferences. Get attendees to turn on their cameras. Online meetings are 200% more effective when it’s on video, Tiersky said.
When they are visible to the team, participants are more likely to be engaged. “They’re far less likely to multi-task, which is one of the greatest obstacles to audience engagement,” he explained.
Mistake #3: Failing to sequence and pace the meeting. To keep things moving at the right tempo, team leaders should state the purpose of the meeting first, then address ‘elephant-in-the-room’ issues that workers want immediate answers to.
“If you have some sort of fun or exciting announcement,” Tiersky said, “you may want to hold it for the end, letting the participants know that it is coming but keeping the outcome a surprise to create suspense.”
For topics that are bound to raise questions, set them in the middle of the meeting. “Get people warmed up and feeling productive first, then hit them with the challenging topic,” he said.
Mistake #4: Not giving people an active role. Of course, it’s easy for organisers to have just one person running the entire show. But, to truly engage a remote team, leaders need participants to play specific roles, and these can be any of the following:
- The facilitator who runs the agenda
- The presenters who “share specific units of content”
- The timekeeper who alerts presenters on “how to adjust their speed and content”
- The notetaker who documents the meeting
“When you give participants something to do, you prevent them from being passive listeners or webinar watchers,” Tiersky advised. “When people have an active role, they are far, far more attentive and engaged.”
Mistake #5: Failing to create breakout sessions. Big group meetings can lead to only a few participants voicing out ideas to the entire team. This causes the silent majority to appear uninterested or unengaged.
Tiersky recommends breaking big groups into smaller clusters that can hold more dynamic discussions among them. These breakout teams then return to the big group with fresh ideas.
“We give each team clear instructions for the work they are to do, in writing, and then usually give them a small amount of time to do it, like 20 to 40 minutes,” he said. “A compressed time frame forces the group to organise quickly; get to work; and focus on progress, not process or perfection.”