Virtual Workshop Gurus Reveal Secrets of Successful Virtual Meetings

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New Ways of Working hosted an online workshop to learn about managing effective virtual meetings. Virtual collaboration experts Nancy Settle-Murphy of Guided Insights and Julia Young of Facilitate.com modeled leadership skills and shared best practices for effective virtual meetings.

Today, there are many more tools available for virtual interactions than for face-to-face meetings. So, in some ways, meeting virtually can be more effective than meeting traditionally.

How many meetings have you attended this week? How many did you really need to attend? According to a Microsoft study, American workers spend 5.6 hours a week in meetings and rate 71% of them as unproductive. To address this issue, members of the New Ways of Working network, recently attended an online training session focused on improving distant meetings.

Virtual meetings have to be managed differently than do face-to-face meetings, said Joe Ouye, co-founder of New Ways of Working. “Today, there are many more tools available for virtual interactions than for face-to-face meetings. So, in some ways, meeting virtually can be more effective than meeting traditionally.”

Virtual collaboration experts Nancy Settle-Murphy of Guided Insights and Julia Young of Facilitate.com led a lively online classroom session, “Planning and leading exceptional virtual meetings.”

The leaders modeled virtual meeting best practices, helping attendees learn effective techniques to make meetings more engaging and productive. These included pre-introductions, keyboard brainstorming, and even moments of organized silence to allow for reading, thinking and integrating ideas. At the end of the 90-minute interactive session, the group had generated 22 pages of ideas for improving virtual meetings. And there was no note-taker. Using Facilitate.com’s virtual documentation tool, notes grew organically as participants added comments, questions, and links.

Quick Tips for Keeping Virtual Meetings Focused & Engaging

Start with clear objectives/outcomes. Effective meetings require careful planning with stated objectives and outcomes. 80% of the work happens before the meeting begins.

Assign prework. Asking people to do a bit of homework, such as “list three major challenges” or “what do you hope to get from the session?" deepens commitment and encourages participation.

Invite as few people as possible. Often, the most productive meetings have the fewest participants.

Structure team meetings to foster teamwork and collaboration: Build connectiveness/social capital by learning more about team members.

Keep hands off the mute button: Ask everyone to stay off mute unless if there is too much background noise. People are much more likely to participate if they don’t have to deal with their muting technology.

Level the playing field: Have everyone participate in meetings by phone, not split between face-to-face and virtual. Having mixed (virtual vs. co-located) participants creates first and second classes.

Avoid the tyranny of distance. Rotate meeting times so that all time zones get an equal share.

Pair technology and phone for greater productivity. Ask each person on a call to type comments, rather than speak them. All can quickly see the combined results, which can then be discussed by the group.

Bake multitasking into every meeting. Create activities that get participants typing. This can be done in a variety of ways --structured group exercises, electronic brainstorming, prioritizing, and voting.

According to New WOW co-founder Jim Creighton, “the workshop was an excellent demonstration on how to get a high level of participation in a virtual meeting.”

About New Ways of Working
New Ways of Working (New WOW) is a membership organization of thought leaders from companies and academia exploring new ways of working such as distributed work (telework), environmental sustainability and work, cross-cultural work, innovation and productivity.

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Jim Creighton

Joe Ouye
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