Without consistent, value-added communication project teams will struggle to achieve optimum results, so it is imperative that leaders conduct productive, timely meetings.
In several past posts we discussed the many challenges associated with running effective team meetings, and shared best practices for overcoming these obstacles.
However, as emerging technology and numerous other factors have brought-about changes in day-to-day business practices, we can now define a new “type” of colleague: “the remote worker.”
As it has become more commonplace for people to work from home or other remote locations, so too has it become necessary for leaders to develop and master the art of running remote or virtual meetings.
Unfortunately, if people have struggled to run effective meetings in face-to-face settings (as documented by the Wall Street Journal and many others), the challenges quickly multiply in the virtual forum.
“I’ve participated in many teleconferences and find it difficult to stay focused because there is no visual contact between the parties,” one CI leader said. “Too many participants don’t pay attention because they multi-task, and these sessions are usually not productive.”
As a starting point for how a meeting leader must modify their plan when running a virtual meeting, consider the way in which people interpret a verbal message. As the image indicates, over half of that interpretation hinges upon non-verbal communication – that is, on “body language.” Since we can’t see one-another when involved in conference calls or in many other forms of remote group communication, the meeting leader must compensate by asking more questions.
In addition, there are two important requirements these questions must meet in order to be effective:
- Most of the questions are best phrased in an open-ended style (i.e., a style that requires more than just a “Yes” or “No” response).
- Each questions should be directed at an individual – by name. This is often perceived as overly-direct, but adhering to this rule is crucial. Consider that the frequently-used query, “Does anyone have any questions?” is perfectly fine for use in a conference room; but this same question is ineffective on a conference call because no one knows who should speak first… as a result, people tend to remain silent or talk all at once.
By following these two simple guidelines, meeting leaders can more successfully engage conference call participants and run more interactive sessions. By “directing” questions toward individuals as outlined above, the leader will also discourage the common practice of multi-tasking.
We will take a closer look at this aspect of “distant” communication in upcoming posts.