Virtual meetings—by telephone or web services—have become commonplace in business these days.
On the plus side, they allow people to participate from anyplace in the world as long as they have a phone or an internet connection. And they cut down travel time and expenses.
On the minus side, they make communication more difficult. Most of the time you can’t see other people, making it harder to know who is going to speak when, and eliminating the ability to read people’s body language. And distractions—checking email, for example, or cleaning off your desk—become more tempting.
Whether you like them or not, virtual meetings are here to stay.
Here’s How to Make the Most of Virtual Meetings
Send out an agenda in advance with all the other required information (date and time, dial-in number, pass codes, etc.).
- Start on Time
Identify all the participants at the beginning.
- Work through the Agenda
Clearly state which item you are addressing, and address each item in the order on your agenda.
- Reduce Distractions
Ask people for their attention throughout the meeting. Don’t waste their time. Don’t prolong discussions. Keep the discussion focused and moving along.
- Identify Yourself before Talking
- Make Yourself Heard
If you’re using a phone, call in from a quiet place. Mute your phone when you’re not speaking. If you’re in a conference room with a speaker phone, speak directly into the phone and loudly.
- Be Extra Communicative
Because other participants won’t be able to see your body language and facial expressions, you have to work harder to communicate what you mean, what you want, what you feel.
- Conclude on Time
Take a few minutes to review the accomplishments of the meeting, to discuss action items, and to thank people for their time and participation.
Someday technology may improve–it’s not there yet–so that virtual meetings become as free and easy as face-to-face meetings. In the meantime, use these guidelines to make the most of them.
What’s your experience with virtual meetings? What helps you make the most of them?
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