Actively enjoying meetings might be a bit of a stretch, but unfortunately, they haven’t been abolished (yet!) so there must be a reason to continue having them.
Meetings do fulfil an important role in keeping disparate teams together – particularly now that many of us are used to working remotely and no longer have those little “what are you having for lunch?” chats that used to enliven our days.
So how can we ensure that virtual meetings don’t descend into chaos?
Here are some essential tips from our consultants.
Nominate both a facilitator and a scribe. One person can do both, but it requires some practice. The facilitator’s role is important in keeping things moving and can take time to master. Here are some tips:
- Disengage from the content. Imagine you are a counsellor, as if you are not emotionally involved in the content at all. You’re almost “sitting the meeting out”. Let the others do the talking and monitor how the meeting flows.
- Watch for hands up and actually act on them – nothing is more frustrating than having a virtual hand up for half an hour that is ignored.
- In a larger group, you can instigate a “10 second rule”. Everyone agrees in advance to stop speaking after 10 seconds, as if what they are saying is a Tweet.
- Look at the chat and react to it. Let people know that the point has been read and noted, and ensure questions are answered. If people chat, it could be they feel they cannot get a word in, so they are resorting to chat – another thing to consider!
Keep it visual
Most people are somewhat visual creatures. It helps to capture the discussion visually whilst it is happening. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy – even a screenshared Word document will do just fine. Seeing words on the screen allows people to remain focused and it can be incredibly useful to have an overview of the conversation as it evolves.
Stopping the wafflers
People who waffle – which is often the author! – are making a point (honest). But sometimes, they cannot quite see it for themselves. They are essentially “thinking aloud”. One way to deal with this is to summarize the best part of what they said.
Try not to allow bias to prevent you from listening properly to everyone, even that person who always talks for half an hour. Remember, you don’t know what they’re going to say yet!
One technique to stop the waffle is also to set the expectation that you’ll be going around the group and everyone will have a say. This technique also ensures that quieter or less confident people get to speak. More on that below.
Now for the KT bit. Why are we actually here?
In case you’re familiar with Kepner-Tregoe, and even if you’re not, set an intention to decide the ultimate purpose of the meeting beforehand.
The purpose of the meeting could be to: understand issues, decide something, solve a problem, make a plan, set priorities, and of course for purely social purposes.
Team Meeting Situation Appraisal
Here is a useful format loosely based on KT Situation Appraisal (a process for untangling complex issues and conflicting priorities). Looking at the table below as an example, the idea is to start off by going around the group initially only for the first column i.e. everyone simply states a concern, without elaborating.
Then go round the group again to add the information for the second column, so the person who had the issue below will now tell everyone why it matters. Then decide on the priority for each issue. Finally, decide on a next action for each issue. You can also add a column for “by whom” and “by when” if you like.
Keeping the process dynamic also keeps people on their toes. If the group knows they will be contributing very soon, they’ll be less likely to zone out or check their emails. It also ensures, as we touched on above, that everyone gets equal air time.
|What’s up? (List concerns)||Why is that important? (Clarify)||What Priority?||What next?|
|I have 40 cases outstanding **||I’m stressed. Customers aren’t hearing back within the SLA ..||H||Work on the 5 oldest cases this week. Hand over 2 cases to each colleague by EOB tomorrow.|
|Next issue .. etc.|
** Finish first column before starting the next
For more tips on how Situation Appraisal can help you to make yourself understood and share concerns effectively, check out this short webcast with Andrew Vermes, senior consultant at KT.
The last tip is somewhat more difficult as this is a very individual topic. However, one thing we can all ask ourselves is “why am I really talking here”?
Oftentimes, we aren’t really talking to contribute to the discussion, but we want some sort of validation or approval for our ideas. Other times, we are more or less simply complaining. Other times, we just want to “say something” for the sake of having said something.
It can be very useful to consider what kind of “virtual team meeting personality” we have and how we can improve.
Hope you found these tips useful and we wish you more effective, efficient and enjoyable meetings in the future!