This weekend I am speaking about running effective virtual meetings at the “Best of the West” Conference sponsored by the Bay Area OD Network. With the current state of the world economy, it’s easy to understand why there is a surge of interest in virtual collaboration as a way to eliminate the expense of bringing people together in physical time and space. Some managers jump in feet first assuming a meeting is a meeting is a meeting, others put an apprehensive toe in the water, concerned about the lack of visual cues, the reliance on technology and so on. In my experience consulting with global organizations in many industries, the transition away from face-to-face interaction is not an easy one, but it is manageable if you recognize and address its unique challenges.
What is a “Virtual” Meeting?
A virtual meeting is an event or series of events where participants join in from multiple locations. A virtual meeting may be held “real time” where everyone is participating as the same time, often by teleconference or video conference. A virtual meeting may also have asynchronous components where participants are working at different times appropriate to their time zone or schedule.
For the purposes of our discussion we will consider virtual meeting as distinct from online chat, bulletin boards or social networks. A meeting is more formal and structured than these types of events and will most usefully have defined objectives and outcomes, an agenda and a facilitator. Our focus is on that facilitator or meeting manager and the skills we need to get great results from the virtual sessions that we design and facilitate.
As facilitators and meeting managers we have a lot to pay attention to from the planning and design of a meeting, to who should attend and how to manage the group dynamics. Everything that we already know about good facilitation applies to virtual meetings and using web meeting tools. In addition to the normal meeting planning activities there are some particular issues that we need to pay attention to as facilitators of virtual meetings. We can summarize these issues into six critical success factors for getting great results from virtual meetings.
Six Critical Success Factors for Getting Great Results Virtually
1. Planning a viable agenda or series of agendas
2. Effective use of technology
3. Preparing participants and pre-work
4. Keeping participants focused and engaged during a virtual meeting
5. Building trust and social capital
6. Maintaining momentum between meetings
I have written a paper about these critical success factors that I invite you to read and provide feedback. Are there more important factors that I have neglected? How has transitioning to virtual meetings worked for you?Share/Save