Rethink the Way You Conduct Online Meetings
By Nance J Williams
Online meetings – designed to save time, reduce costs and communicate with a global workforce, right? In a perfect online world, maybe so. But online meetings have now created a new set of issues. Employees now able to dial in to a meeting, are multitasking at an alarming rate. Some may check email, chat with friends, take phone calls, step out to grab some coffee, and schedule tee-times.
When management finally catches on they introduce online meetings with ice-breakers and engaging activities – all designed to keep employees from multitasking. I mean really, who cares about your favorite vacation spot or how to unscramble words that will be introduced in the briefing.
Ok, so it’s not always that bad – but for the most part, online meetings are not as popular as when they were first introduced. Therefore, business leaders need to re-think how to deliver information to their internal, global organization. There are a few things to consider when preparing and hosting online meetings:
1. Is the information to be presented sensitive by nature?
Generally speaking, if the topic you are presenting is sensitive by nature, for example, business re-structuring, business downsizing, diversity and legal issues, then typically you will want to deliver this information in a traditional manner (in person). If your employee base is geographically dispersed, and an online meeting is required – be sure to set up ample time, tools, and support during the meeting to address questions and concerns.
Nothing is worse, than attending an online meeting, being told the company is downsizing and the text chat feature is turned off and you are on a one-way audio call.
2. How important is participant input and feedback related to the content of your meetings?
If the message is not sensitive by nature, then ask yourself, “What is the real value of bringing everyone together for an online meeting?” Consider video recording the message or context of the meeting and offer it online for viewing or download. If video is not an option then audio record your message with the corresponding slides.
Give employees the option to download the message to their phone or laptop/desktop and view when they have a focused set of time. As a part of the video or audio message, leave the viewer with some questions to think about. Finally, provide a comment box/feature, where they can post questions or feedback. Review the comments and respond personally, or generally in a future meeting.
Virtual Town Hall meetings are very effective. By reducing the scale of attendance, opening up more dialog, and coming prepared with an understanding of what your employees think about the topic, you will create an engaging and productive meeting. Instead of offering one, large auditorium style meeting, offer smaller, meetings after employees have reviewed your video/audio message.
Offer multiple meeting times and for differing time zones. Skip the icebreakers and charts showing where people are dialing in from – get to the heart of the meeting. Review your message by highlighting the key points and then go directly into question and answer.
Using this format for your online meetings will increase the likelihood of your employees being more engaged and less likely to check out even before the meeting gets started.
Nancy J. Williams, Partner and Producer, holds a MBA in Human Resource Management, a M.S. and B.S in Education. Nancy has dedicated much of her career to providing the best in training for her clients. She has an extensive multimedia background and has worked in the field of video production for over 15 years. Under her leadership she has led several teams in achieving ASTD’s Excellence in Practice award.
Nancy is a published author of topics related to eLearning strategies, virtual workforce management and leveraging social media as a learning tool. Nancy is the co-author of a blog, Knowledge Knuggets?, which shares best practices and strategies in managing a diverse and global workforce.
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