When I talk with clients, I often hear that the main reason they look forward to participating in regularly scheduled virtual meetings is because it’s the best time they have to catch up on their emails.
That’s a missed opportunity.
Reports can be emailed, updates can be left on voice mail, but conference calls are our opportunity to pool knowledge, build enthusiasm and move forward. Great conference calls are productive, interesting, and highly participative.
Want to make sure that your next virtual meeting is more than just a chance for people to catch up on their work? Begin with a compelling agenda. Here are four ways to get started.
- State your agenda items as questions. Change “Project Implementation Update” to What have we learned so far from the project implementation? or What is—and what is not—working in our implementation? A question stimulates thinking and prepares your participants to reflect and anticipate.
- Clearly state who is leading each agenda item. For example, “Fred facilitates brainstorming on the challenges we might face with this implementation. (10 minutes) Bring your ideas.” Be sure to include how long that item is expected to take and how meeting participants will be involved.
- Ensure your agenda addresses important issues that sound interesting and engaging. Instead of “Regional Updates” try, What are we doing that’s new? What new barriers are we discovering? Email the spreadsheet monthly reports later if necessary.
- Build continuous improvement into your meetings. End your meetings with a very quick poll. Go around the room (if using a seating chart) or call roll and ask each person for a few words of specific feedback on what went well or what the group could do better next time. Hold people accountable for providing specific feedback. Instead of “good meeting,” push for a specific comments like, “It was helpful to hear the perspectives from finance on our plan.” Letting people know they will be asked for feedback at the end encourages participants to pay attention, which improves interaction and ownership in the success of the meeting.
Conference calls and virtual meetings are how we build teams and accomplish work in the virtual world. Compelling agendas make the times that we work together more interesting and enjoyable. Use these four tips to get the most out of your next meeting. There will always be more emails to answer.
About the author
Carmela Sperlazza Southers is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. Her posts on increasing organizational, team, and leader effectiveness in the virtual work world appear on the fourth Monday of every month.