Many businesses were web conferencing before COVID-19 changed the normal rules of engagement for the rest of us. Lucky us! Once I decided to look, finding ground rules for hosting and attending virtual meetings (and happy hours!) was not much of a challenge. However, translating and enhancing them so that they work for us collaborative professionals was a little trickier.
Let me start by stressing that the best path to success for your virtual get-together is always going to be by providing your ground rules to attendees well before your meeting. Ground rules provide the meeting etiquette and assist your process by respecting everyone’s time and ideas, as well as by providing a consistent framework for mission-critical items to be addressed and resolved. So don’t surprise your attendees by issuing guidelines at the start of the meeting that may be impossible for them to meet without more notice.
Suggestions For A Successful Meeting
That said, here are a few simple suggestions for ground rules that will help ensure the success of any virtual get-together.
- Be on time. As with all of our collaborative meetings, we promise to start and to end the meeting at the times specified on our agenda. If you arrive late, please don’t interrupt. Remain silent and catch up as best as you can.
- Come prepared. Bring a positive attitude. Review the agenda and attached documents beforehand. Consider the issues and be prepared to discuss them and to offer solutions.
- Participate. Be candid. Share your perspective. We expect everyone who attends to share their ideas, to ask questions, and to contribute to the shared strategizing.
- Use a tool you can count on. Cell phones are tricky. They can work. But you also can have a bad connection. If at all possible, attend by computer.
- Use your video. Amy Cuddy tells us that 55% of communication is body language, while another 38% is tone of voice. Only 7% of our communication is via our words. While I admit that our body language on-screen is certainly limited, it is still extraordinarily valuable.
- Be present. It is easy to be distracted during a video conference. But our objective is important, and we need your full attention in order to meet our meeting goals. You were invited because you have something unique to contribute so focus and do not multi-task.
- Mute yourself. Background noise disrupts the meeting for everyone and might prevent us from hearing the information we need. Choose a quiet location – away from pets, children, etc. Turn off the TV and any music. Use the mute button when you are not actually speaking.
- Don’t use “hold.” If you are forced to attend by phone, do not put the meeting on “hold” to answer another call. If your hold feature plays background music [and many do], you will disrupt the meeting. Leave the meeting and re-join it after you complete the other call.
- Identify yourself. Especially if you attend by phone, the first time you speak, state your name and your role. Not everyone will recognize your voice.
- Speak slowly and clearly. Please try not to talk over another speaker. If there are multiple participants, people tend to talk at the same time – making conversations extremely difficult to understand. Try to speak one at a time so that we can follow your point in its entirety.
- Stick to the agenda. Stay focused. Your meeting has a specific purpose. Stick to it and avoid side conversations. If need be, adjourn any one-on-one conversation to a virtual caucus space. All discussion is meant for everyone.
Engagement Is Key
According to Julia Young, Vice President and co-founder of Facilitate.com, “engaging participants consistently comes up as the number one challenge in running effective meetings.” Luckily, she also offers many suggestions for resolving this concern, such as assigning everyone a role (timekeeper, scribe, etc.). Another great suggestion she offers for leading virtual meetings is to encourage discussion more often by asking questions, using names, and ensuring no more than three slides go by without some engaged interaction.
It is truly amazing how easy it is to do all this. And if there’s anything about your virtual meeting that you don’t know (yet), Google “how to…” and you’ll find your answer instantly.
As collaborative professionals, our mission is to transform the way families resolve conflict. To do this, even in a Safer-at-Home regime, we must ensure the success of our full-team collaborative meetings, as well as of our professional/client caucuses. What’s the best way to do this? Use virtual meeting platforms like Zoom, Webex, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, and others. Then ensure your productivity by using virtual meeting etiquette even your grandmother would approve.
Helpful? Let me know; I’m Joryn Jenkins, a collaborative lawyer in Tampa, Florida, and I would love to hear from you… on Facebook, Twitter, or even via my own email at Joryn@OpenPalmLaw.com.