18 April 2020
Why Virtual Facilitation is Gaining Importance
Change is the only constant in the business landscape. In recent years, the culture and processes in companies have transformed dramatically due to technology. And over the past few months since January 2020, the way we work, live and play has changed dramatically due to the global COVID19 pandemic. The landscape changes include:
With virtual meetings, companies can diminish the following challenges:
Face-to-face meetings, especially those that involve international travels can be a time-consuming and budget-draining dilemma. With virtual meetings, business meeting expenses can be reduced significantly, as only a good internet connection, a computer or even a mobile device, are needed.
A long and arduous commute, responsibilities at home and emergencies are the common causes of employee tardiness, absence and poor performance at work. As employees can attend virtual meetings from the comfort their home, the tendency to perform better is higher.
Face-to-face meetings typically take a lot of time to arrange and conduct, while virtual meetings can transpire quickly. Participants can be contacted quickly, especially if the one presiding just wants to point out a few things about the project. One click from a computer or from a mobile device and a meeting can start and end.
Traveling to attend to face-to-face meetings, especially with international travels, increases participants’ carbon footprint. It is also typical for multiple documents to printed at physical meetings. Virtual meetings reduce the need for travel and for paper print-outs to be distributed to participants.
The Usual Pitfalls of Virtual Meetings and How to Overcome Them
Here are some of the common pitfalls of virtual meetings and the means to correct them:
- Misunderstandings. Since you do not see each other directly, be familiar with voices and match them with the names you know. Always address each other by name to make relaying messages easier and quicker.
- No backup plan. Although virtual meetings are possible with technology, technology sometimes fails too. When it does, it can be disruptive to your meeting. Always have a backup plan so that you can all get back to where you left off immediately.
- No engagement. The inability to engage the participants is an instant path to failure. You should make sure that everyone speaks or asks questions.
- No consideration for time zones. Virtual meetings are successful when everyone is present. If there is a time zone difference, ensure that the difference is reasonable, especially when participants are on the different sides of the planet.
Tips for Virtual Meetings
The following are tips for virtual meetings:
- Prepare ardently.
- Acquire and master your virtual meeting tools.
- Use video conferencing so that everyone can see each other and feel comfortable.
- Have a contingency plan.
- Assign roles such as technology support, facilitator, timekeeper, or scribe.
- Prepare your visual presentation and share your documents and screens.
- Invite the relevant attendees and confirm attendance.
- Set clear meeting goals and agenda and invite comments from the participants.
- Build in relevance and engagement of participants.
- Clear the channels of communication.
- Confirm the meeting a few days beforehand.
- Make sure the participants use a headset and not a speaker.
- Look for the best means to share documents.
- Set the stage right.
- Test the system.
- Introduce everyone and always use the names of your participants to establish rapport.
- Lighten up the mood with some small talk.
- Set meeting norms, such as being respectful of others and using the mute button while others are speaking.
- Always remind the participants of the meeting objectives and agenda.
- Create visual focus. Present the meeting materials and share the screen.
- Tackle critical topics early in the meeting when participants are fresh.
- Keep meetings no more than 90 minutes or build in breaks.
- Encourage balanced participation
- Engage the participants and encourage them to contribute actively.
- Build brainstorming, Q&A segments, polling, feedback, etc. into the agenda (and at regular intervals) to help keep everyone involved.
- Introduce voting to include everyone in making decisions.
- Prohibit multi-tasking.
- Make sure that the meeting pushes through no matter what.
- Keep the agenda on track.
- Expect something to go wrong and be prepared to troubleshoot.
- Have a back-up plan, such as a phone if the web conference is being disrupted. Give commentaries for remote listeners to know what is happening if their Internet connection fails.
- Follow things up.
- Thank participants at the end.
- Agree on the next steps as you approach the end of the meeting.
- Do a closing by asking for questions, final comments and confirming action items.
- Circulate notes of meeting and action items.
- Ensure any assigned tasks are completed in advance of the stated deadline.
- Arrange periodic face to face meetings to bond the team.
Gathering team members together for face-to-face meetings is vital and the personal connections formed at these meetings are valuable for a company’s progress. However, the downside is that these meetings require a venue, and a good amount of time, resources and effort from the participants.
On the other hand, with technological advancements, virtual meetings are gaining importance and are best suited for participants in remote locations. They are less expensive to set up and encourage more efficiency in the workplace. Yet virtual meetings lack the tangible working relationships established during face-to-face meetings.
Ask these questions to choose the best option:
- Can participants make it to the venue on time for the schedule set?
- Is it practical for all participants to travel that far for a meeting?
- Do you have the resources to facilitate the face-to-face meeting?
- Do participants have access to the technology required for a virtual meeting?
- Are time zone differences acknowledged?
You could choose either option depending your project needs or your company’s preference. Be sure that every participant agrees to the house rules before you start and to the follow-ups after the meeting.
Of course, in every meeting, be it face-to-face or virtual, engagement matters most.
Learn More About Running Virtual Meetings Effectively
Facilitators Network Singapore organises “Leading & Facilitating Virtual Meetings, Conferences & Learning” training. Join us for an exciting journey to:
- Acquire the confidence and competence to lead or facilitate virtual meetings and learning sessions.
- Know when to use and not to use virtual meetings and learning.
- Learn the factors and components required for a successful virtual engagement strategy.
- Gain expertise in the use of appropriate hardware, software, competence and behaviours for an effective virtual engagement session.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how virtual meetings could benefit you.