On Lines

Making a virtue out of virtual

Home working and multi-site offices are making virtual meetings the norm. But the undoubted benefits of convenience and saved time can be offset by the difficulty of keeping participants engaged. To keep out-of-sight attendees more focused on your agenda than monitoring their emails, follow our checklist:

  • Ask everyone to remove local distractions, including smartphones, tablets and laptops
  • Request that people stay off mute, if you can bear the background noise. It creates an expectation for interaction
  • Keep taking the meeting pulse by listening, asking direct questions and speaking to named individuals every few minutes. This will discourage people from multi-tasking and keep them concentrating. (However, beware of open-ended questions to the ether. You’re likely to get ‘dead air’, then several people speaking at once)
  • Don’t do all the talking: presentations should be no more than three slides or 10 minutes long. Encourage interactivity
  • If you’re video conferencing or using LiveMeeting you should move at a slower pace than normal, since most systems have a two-to-three second delay. Leave sufficient pauses after asking questions
  • Keep track of who has given input. Don’t let people absent themselves just because they’re not there…

Source: Running Effective Meetings, by Rebecca Dowman, for Unilever.