As you find yourself in the midst of social distancing measures and the forced transition to virtual platforms like Zoom, it’s never been more important to take a step back, to seize this opportunity to learn, and to improve your virtual application skills. As Joryn always tells us (and her clients), “Make lemonade from these lemons!”
Just like many others, I’ve also been forced to adapt to virtual meeting spaces to continue my spring semester at the University of Tampa, and like you, I’ve encountered my share of challenges with this next step in our evolution.
Just the other day, I attended my first Zoom class meeting. For those of you who haven’t yet had the opportunity, or are unfamiliar with Zoom, it is a virtual meeting space similar to Skype or FaceTime. I simply clicked the link provided to me, and off I rocketed into this virtual classroom space. I quickly realized the potential that this tool holds. And, the best part: it’s free!
What I also soon grasped, however, is that the use of virtual meeting spaces will only increase even after COVID-19 measures dissipate. After all, this is the direction in which we’ve all been headed for some time; it was simply accelerated by the Safer-at-Home regimes recommended by our leaders.
How To Master Virtual Applications
So, you ask, “How do I become a master of virtual applications?”
You know the saying, “practice makes perfect.” The easiest way to become acquainted with any virtual application is to, obviously, use it. I recommend that you make a Zoom account and hold your next office meeting virtually. Zoom, as well as other similar services, is suitable for video meetings, conference calls, and screen sharing, i.e. showing your meeting participants what you want them to see on your computer screen (and theirs).
Some professionals are even utilizing Zoom’s services to provide their customary services, like mediation or collaborative team meetings, online. After all, Zoom also has the ability to provide a private virtual “conference room” outside of but at the same time as the main one. So you can caucus clients when one of them prefers a private meeting. Or the lawyers when they need to confer.
Develop Your Virtual Skills
But Zoom is just one of many virtual applications with which you should become familiar. In fact, our staff finds that we’ve been able to avoid some of our most frustrating tasks, like scheduling up to ten collaborative professionals and clients for a full team (three-hour) meeting, by using virtual tools. Doodle, another fantastic app, allows users to create polls and schedule meetings, simply and easily. Our office, Open Palm, is notorious for using Doodle-polls to schedule collaborative team meetings. If your collaborative practice, like ours, struggles with scheduling professional or team meetings, I assure you, Doodle is the go-to app.
To become a master of virtual applications, you’ll need to develop your virtual meeting skills. FacilitatePro’s Julia Young provides critical success factors to improve virtual meetings. Young writes, “the nature of effective virtual meetings is that they tend to be short, up to 90 minutes…pre-work is often an essential tool to limit actual meeting time and ensure that the precious ‘real-time’…is focused and productive.”
But, although they share many of the same ground rules, some guidelines do differ. And virtual meetings can actually be more productive than face-to-face discussions. As always, it is crucial to create an agenda for virtual meetings. Young notes, “engaging participants consistently comes up as the number one challenge in running effective meetings.” To combat this issue, she suggests starting “the meeting by asking people to remove distractions.” You may want to keep track of who is participating and call on those who have not yet contributed to the conversation. Establishing visual cues for those wishing to speak, like raising a hand, will also foster more engagement and therefore a more productive environment.
Stay Ahead Of The Curve
See Joryn’s blog, Mastering Your Virtual Meeting, for a more comprehensive discussion of the ground rules for running a productive meeting on-line.
As technologies develop, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve. If you’re in the market to transition your practice to virtual applications, take some time (we have plenty of it as we stay Safer-at-Home) to experiment with these tools. Once you solidify your virtual skills, you’ll never want to let them go!