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Tips for Having Great Virtual Meetings

Tips for Having Great Virtual Meetings


    (Editor’s note: The following post is an excerpt from the book The Collaboration Imperative: Executive Strategies for Unlocking Your Organization’s True Potential by Ron Ricci and Carl Wiese. Ron Ricci is the vice president of corporate positioning and has spent the last decade helping Cisco develop and nurture a culture of sharing and collaborative processes. In addition, he has spent countless hours with hundreds of different organizations discussing the impact of collaboration. Carl Wiese is senior vice president of Cisco’s collaboration sales — a multi-billion global business. He has presented on the importance of collaboration to business audiences in dozens of countries, including Australia, China, Dubai, India, Mexico and all across Europe and the United States. For more information please visit http://thecollaborationimperative.com.)

    New technology and the reality of working in global organizations means we are replacing traditional in-person meetings with travel-free, technology-enabled, face-to-face collaboration that can occur at anytime, with anyone, anywhere in the world.

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    The virtual workplace has many advantages, but it also introduces new challenges. We work with people we’ve never met before, and we cannot bond in the same way we do when we are sitting across the table from them.

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    The three most important ingredients of a successful virtual meeting are trust, communication and ready access to information. Here are a few tips to help you succeed:

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    • Before the meeting, make sure attendees have all the preparation materials they will need and the time to review them.
    • Begin with a quick warm-up. For example, start the meeting by asking remote attendees to describe what’s happening in their country, town or office.
    • During “blended” meetings, where some attendees are gathering in person and others are participating virtually, address remote attendees first and then offer the opportunity to speak to in-person attendees.
    • Identify in-person attendees. In-room speakers — whether presenting or making a comment — should introduce themselves so that remote attendees know who is speaking.
    • Ask remote attendees to be vocal. Emphasize that it is their responsibility to let in-person people know if they cannot hear or follow the discussion.
    • Don’t assume everyone is comfortable with the virtual collaboration technology. Communicate and publish the location and guidelines for the tools you’re using.
    • Rotate meeting times. Ensure that each time zone has a meeting scheduled during normal business hours.
    • Solicit participation. Regularly ask remote attendees if they have comments and encourage participants to post a message.
    • Assign a meeting monitor. Keep an eye out for questions, IMs or chat postings and interjects from remote attendees.
    • If your virtual team includes customers, partners, suppliers or vendors, ensure the security of your documents and corporate information.
    • Avoid colloquialisms, acronyms and corporate-speak if you have nonnative speakers.

    (Photo credit: Businessman and Businesswoman Having Meeting via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on August 6, 2020

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

    “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

    Are we speaking the same language?

    My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

    When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

    Am I being lazy?

    When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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    Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

    Early in the relationship:

    “Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

    When the relationship is established:

    “Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

    It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

    Have I actually got anything to say?

    When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

    A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

    When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

    Am I painting an accurate picture?

    One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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    How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

    Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

    What words am I using?

    It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

    Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

    Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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    Is the map really the territory?

    Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

    A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

    I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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