During last week’s Telepresence discussion with the Center for Information-Development Management group on LinkedIn, group member Doris expressed her challenges as a remote worker attending meetings. She often misses nuances of conversations that are barely within audible range. In addition, she welcomed the possibility of a telepresence, particularly during meetings so that she could have visibility around the room instead of single fixed focus.
Doris’ comments reminded me about the effort required from onsite and remote participants to make virtual collaboration, particularly meetings, professional and productive. With that in mind, I wanted to offer a few tips. Before you blow past this with some dismissive thought about how many years you’ve been involved with conference calls, web meetings and the like, think about how many times these basic rules were not followed and the resulting confusion and lost productivity.
1. Send an agenda prior to the meeting: this allows participants to conduct any preliminary research and understand where they fit in the big picture.
2. Include ALL information within the meeting invite. For example, if the meeting is a combination web-based for visual and conference call for audio, list all information in the invite so people don’t have to scramble just to join the meeting.
3. Include information for first-timers. You never know whether someone’s laptop blew up since the last meeting, your company has switched to a different vendor, or if you have new hires who haven’t checked their settings. There are often ways to test the system so that you don’t spend the first 5-10 minutes of the meeting trying to bring everyone online.
4. Try new features. Most web-based meeting tools have provisions for chat, raising hands to ask questions, switching presenters so someone else can show their desktop, and even polling the audience throughout the meeting. You don’t have to make it a game show or circus, but it is helpful to learn about tools that increase participant engagement.
5. Be mindful of your remote attendees. There are often system delays with refreshing screens, some equipment is better than others. Periodically ask your remote attendees about visibility (“Can you see the screen yet?”) and as speakers change throughout the meeting, ask people to speak up or be certain to speak into microphone so that everyone can hear. Additionally, keep devices and equipment away from the phone or microphone. Finally, if you are meeting across time zones, identify which meeting times are most feasible and convenient for everyone.
For remote participants:
1. Test your connection/equipment in advance of the meeting. Be certain that you don’t need to upgrade your browser, change your settings, etc.
2. Announce yourself, not only at the beginning but as a preface to each comment.
3. Mute your phone unless you are speaking. Pets, remote sidebars, or hold music are a major distraction.
4. Speak up if you unable to hear. The earlier, the better. No one likes to give an extended discourse, only to be asked to repeat everything that they said.
For onsite participants:
1. Arrive early so that your placing items on the table won’t be a distraction.
2. Announce yourself before speaking so the remote participants won’t have to wonder who’s talking.
3. Keep sidebars to a minimum. The remote attendee can only follow one conversation at a time.
4. Put your phone AWAY! At the very least, turn the ringer off and don’t set it on the table. Buzzing phones can sound like the world is crashing down to a remote participant.
While you may be a meeting guru, be mindful of those who many not be as skilled in this area. With thoughtful consideration in exercising CyberEtiquette – we can make our meetings even more productive. I’m certain you can think about times that these guidelines were not followed and the embarrassment or humilitation that ensued. You’re invited to share your experiences where things did or did not go well…