In the world of Organizational Development, engaging the largest number of interested parties in your change effort or new program is going to give you the most well-rounded, expansive feedback possible. Sometimes engaging the highest number of stakeholders is just not feasible in a live, in-person setting. When this is the case, we can turn to technology to bridge the gaps, and bring people into an engaging virtual conversation. Programs like Zoom or MaestroConference, are great free to low-cost options to keep participants engaged and provide opportunities for everyone to share their ideas. While virtual meetings can provide certain challenges, S & G Endeavors can show you how to overcome these problems and make your meetings a success.
When we move out of the world of in-person collaboration and into the virtual world, there are always going to be technical issues. Bad connections and background noise can be two of the more frustrating tech issues you will face in your virtual environment. For important meetings, clearly recommend to all parties that they join with a hardline connection to the internet. This will remove any chance of weak wi-fi connections, and keep a nice flow to your meeting. Here are some other considerations to address when planning for a productive online meeting.
- Background noise can be just as harmful to keeping a nice rhythm and pace to your sessions. Environmental noise, feedback or echo can be avoided by asking all participants to use headphones, as well as muting their microphone when not speaking.
- Promotion and ensuring high attendance might be some non-tech struggle you face when planning your virtual meeting. Using polls to find the best date and time to schedule your meeting allows potential participants to share their availability for your proposed scheduling times. Send calendar invites and reminder emails to participants as your meeting nears to help ensure that participants make it on the scheduled date and time. Send out a clear agenda and prep materials (If there are any) so that individuals can come in prepared.
- Properly facilitating your virtual meeting can be a challenge, in itself. The every-day distractions of work or home life can make keeping participants interested and engaged much more difficult than having everyone together in a conference room. To get the most feedback from your participants, you need to be able to hear from as many people as possible. Monitor the flow of your meeting. Keep conversations moving, and recognize when progress on a certain topic stops being made. Make an effort to involve as many participants as you can by suggesting that answers or feedback be kept brief and to the point. Certain web conferencing programs, like Zoom or MaestroConference, offer the feature of “break-out groups”. This allows you to move participants into smaller groups to discuss topics further. These small groups allow more time for each participant to share, and give you more valuable feedback.
Virtual meetings can be a valuable tool in developing your organization, providing you with a broad reach of participants, and tools to gain the most from your meeting. They can save you time, money, and energy compared to in person conferences or seminars, and with the proper technique, can be just as, or even more effective.
Facilitation of a virtual meeting requires a balance of when to lead the conversation, and when to step back. As a facilitator, speaking for too long can disengage participants quickly. Long presentations or webinar type meetings can be especially difficult to keep people engaged throughout, without the captivation of a live speaker.
We find these virtual meetings to be much more engaging than simple telephone conference calls. With audio and video as part of the meeting, eye contact is possible (for those who do not have visual impairments). As process facilitators, S & G Endeavors will put your organization’s leaders in the best position to succeed in ensuring the largest number of participants will attend your meetings.
For more information on holding successful virtual meetings, check out the paper written by our own Jeremy Grandstaff and John Spalding here. To learn more about the types of consulting and facilitation we do here at S & G Endeavors, or to contact us to facilitate your virtual meetings, visit us at www.sgendeavors.com