I love the way this video clip portrays some of the communication barriers and group dynamics associated with virtual conferencing. For me, it also calls into question the format of most of our meetings.
Virtual meetings often make it easier for more attendees to participate, and as a virtual worker, I get it! But I also have a much lower tolerance for signing on to a virtual call (or training for that matter) only to find out that participation is pretty much one-sided. That’s not a great model for efficiency, and it definitely doesn’t support a creative, collaborative culture.
There are some lessons learned from the “flipped classroom” approach from the field of training and education. Basically, you change the sequence of instruction so that most of the presentation of content (i.e. lecture) takes place at home and in advance of classroom time. This frees up class time for discussion, problem-solving, and collaborative activities that truly benefit from the presence of peers and instructors.
Taking the same concept, why not trim out all of our virtual meeting content that is purely information to be conveyed? You could repackage this content in the form of a report, email, or advance organizer for the meeting and then use the meeting time to focus on items that actually benefit from real-time discussion and collaboration. Although it’s hard to break from the routine of regular meetings, sometimes we find that we actually need fewer meetings….Can I get a second to that motion?
To flip your virtual event, try:
1. Preparing for feedback and challenges in advance. Learn about your key participants, surveying them if it makes sense, to help you develop relevant preparatory documents for the event. Send out an agenda in advance and provide a format for commenting. For some projects, I like creating a template in Google Docs and allowing comments or direct edits.
2. Assigning work in advance. Sure, it’s hard to change expectations about what’s expected, but if your culture supports this idea (or you’re in a position of authority to enforce it), it can be a game-changer. Do you want participants to reflect on a key issue? Bring their 3 best ideas? Interview a colleague? Set the stage for active participation during the event by requesting it before you even start.
3. Mastering the technology. Make sure you’re proficient with your web conferencing tools, and provide opportunities for participants to practice and troubleshoot their systems in advance. You definitely don’t want your presenters or participants worrying about how they look on a webcam or whether people can hear them through VoIP or a phone bridge during the event.
4. Promoting active collaboration during the event. Since participants already know what will be discussed, they should be more prepared to weigh in, and if we’re not really interested in that to begin with, then why are we taking up everyone’s time with a meeting? Find ways for collaboration whether it be through audio, chat, whiteboarding, polling, or any other virtual tool that’s effective.
5. Providing continuity of information. One of the major advantages of working in a virtual format is the ease of recording the content. Make it easy for those that missed your session by providing a recording, backup documents, and minutes. For ease of access, hang it with the rest of your sessions on a departmental website. GovLoop does a great job of this with their virtual training events like 12 TIPS TO TRANSFORM YOUR VIRTUAL TRAINING AND EVENTS
How do you handle virtual meetings in your organization?
Dave Barton is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.
I turned the video off after 1:45. It was so annoying and painful to watch. The arrogance and unpreparedness. The woman presented an excellent question on point, and the guys were useless. There was not a written agenda sent out to the group ahead of time, there was no assigned tasks for each person to bring work product to the table, there were not follow up assignments. The CEO (in our case General) would not work in that department. Our PhD training at Oxford and the Harvard courses in measuring value for the customer were not concepts or principles some of the guys were capable of understanding. It appeared as if they were more concerned about their own problems, and perhaps attending lunch, than actually serving on a team with accountability as responsible citizens…
Very true, David, it’s tough to watch, but even worse if you have to live through it on a daily or weekly basis. Thanks for commenting.
Dave, a great lesson for us to learn. Thanks.