How Do You Keep Your Virtual Meetings…Real?

Virtual meetings have become the norm for most Project Managers. A virtual meeting is the type of meeting that is necessary when project teams are disbursed across offices, remote locations, or different countries. These meetings can be via teleconference, video conference, webinar or any other method of bringing remote teams together.

Here’s the problem. Virtual Meetings are hard to keep productive. Why? Three words….Constant Partial Attention (CPA). CPA is caused by the incessant multi-tasking that many people will engage in when they are not in the same room together and feel they have become “invisible”. This includes catching up on email, having conversations with other people, to just altogether walking out of the room during a remote meeting.

Do you believe your team is infected with CPA? Look for these symptoms. Questions such as “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”, to answers or comments that have nothing to do with what is being discussed, to just plain old dead silence. All of these are clear indicators that your team has succumbed to the CPA bug.

What can you do? The following three suggestions may help:

  1. Require, mandate, dictate (you get the idea) that team members show up to every virtual meeting on time (if not early) – This is one rule your team needs to know you are serious about. If you are remote, you need to be dialed in and ready to go before the meeting starts, especially if a Client is on the same call. There is nothing more awkward than those minutes of remote silence when you are waiting for a key person to show up. You don’t want to move forward without that person, and you don’t want to have to backtrack to bring them up to speed. Bottom line, make sure everyone is on the call ahead of time and is ready to go. Period.
  2. Turn control over to someone else – An effective method for making sure people stay engaged is to turn control over to them during meetings that include web presentation or collaborative software. You narrate, they drive. This partnership works wonders to keeping people focused on the task at hand.
  3. Give your team a heads-up you are going to ask them a question – If you know that you are going to ask somebody a question, give them a 10-15 second notice that you are going to call on them. “Hey David…you know that is a good question”…and then repeat the question. This brief respite of time will help them focus and be engaged in the conversation when they need to be engaged.

The reality in which all of us work has become less than ideal when it comes to CPA (Constant Partial Attention). However, the above suggestions may mitigate some of the issues that arise, especially when Clients are involved.

What are some of the challenges you have run into when it comes to hosting virtual meetings, and what methods you have found to be successful in overcoming those challenges?

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