Recently I responded to a question from someone in one of my LinkedIn professional groups. He asked: “During web conferences involving several locations, I often find myself sending SMS’s to my boss at the same time so as to steer or modify the meeting/discussion on the fly – does anybody else do this?
Yes, indeed I do. This is an excellent practice that allows a facilitator, presenter, moderator or panel to tweak their material as they go. I usually have a chat tool open (Skype, AIM, etc) while conducting a webinar or virtual meeting in order to talk with a co-facilitator. I find it extremely helpful if more than one of us are steering a session. We have developed some useful ground rules around this:
- Decide on the roles each of us will play ahead of time and discuss the kind of input that will be helpful during the session (time reminder, when to slow down or speed up, interject an interesting question or comment, reminder of a question missed or a person with their hand up, and so on).
- Send messages that are short and to the point. We don’t want to interrupt the flow of the meeting and if lots of messages come in it can actually be a distraction. Better to give feedback about the session afterwards and focus in-meeting messages on what will be most helpful in the moment.
- Avoid having chats open with too many people. I find a co-facilitator can be extremely helpful, especially with larger groups. However, too many facilitators using SMS can be more of a distraction than a help. Those who are not actively involved may fall into the trap of having a side conversation on chat and cause the speaker/facilitator to lose their train of thought.
- Turn your computer volume OFF (mute) so that participants don’t hear a beep every time you receive a message. Often, I let my participants know that someone will be helping me on the call and that we may be exchanging messages in the background. This also gives me permission to talk directly to that person if need be during the call, making it perfectly natural to ask if we are running on time, if there are other points to add or how they think the conversation is going. Sometimes it is easier to talk to a person than it is to type and to keep the meeting going at the same time.
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