Magazine article Talent Development

Hello, Is Anybody out There? Six Steps to High-Impact V-Meetings: The Bad: Poor Meeting Management Leads to Virtual Team Performance Issues. the Good: A Few Steps Can Help Team Leaders Successfully Facilitate Virtual Meetings and Lead from a Distance

Magazine article Talent Development

Hello, Is Anybody out There? Six Steps to High-Impact V-Meetings: The Bad: Poor Meeting Management Leads to Virtual Team Performance Issues. the Good: A Few Steps Can Help Team Leaders Successfully Facilitate Virtual Meetings and Lead from a Distance

Article excerpt

We frequently hear about marathon virtual meetings or v-meetings, some of which last a full day, that quickly lose focus and end up being a waste of everyone's time. Unfortunately, many leaders have never been trained on best practices for v-meeting management. Given that successful virtual meetings are essential to team performance, here are six guidelines to help virtual leaders get the most out of them.

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1. Build an effective agenda

We hear about regularly scheduled v-meetings that are conducted without agendas or clear objectives, but they take place because they are on the calendar. Poorly run meetings not only waste already scarce time, but they can also jeopardize the team's ability to meet its deadlines. This is especially true when people are on multiple virtual teams and need to better manage their time.

To get the most out of the meeting, outline what will happen before, during, and after the meeting. Determine who needs to attend, and invite participants, giving them as much advance notice as possible. At least several days before the meeting, send a meeting reminder with the agenda, any necessary materials, and information on technology that may be used.

2. Choose the right medium

Some virtual teams unwittingly choose certain technologies for communication and collaboration that hurt rather than help them reach their objectives.

Identify the appropriate technologies to support the meeting's objectives by considering how much collaboration will be necessary, and then determine the appropriate level of "richness." Some experts classify communication media by their level of "richness" based on certain factors such as their capacity for feedback, the number of cues used, and how personal they are.

On a "richness" continuum, face-to-face communication would be classified as the "richest," followed by video, telephone, instant messaging, email, and bulletin boards. For example, email--a one-way medium--is generally best for tasks that require little collaboration such as information sharing.

When teams need to solve complex problems or make decisions, technology such as videoconferencing or collaborative software tools, such as Hewlett-Packard's Halo or Cisco's TelePresence, are best. Shared web-based conferencing tools including WebEx or GoToMeeting have whiteboard functionality that can be used to brainstorm a team's ideas and polling questions that can be used to periodically solicit feedback and engage team members.

3. Address time zone barriers

One of the most common difficulties is finding a meeting time that works well for all team members, especially for global virtual teams whose members may span multiple time zones. Team members often complain of having to work longer hours--working at 10:00 p.m. or even getting up at 3:00 a.m.--to accommodate their virtual teammates.

The challenge is finding times that are convenient for team members who are across multiple time zones. Effective virtual leaders rotate meeting times so that the same team members do not always get stuck working at undesirable hours. If you are a global virtual team, this is one way to alleviate a significant burden on team members.

4. Minimize tangential discussions

How do top virtual leaders keep everyone on track during the meeting? They are well-prepared, which makes the meeting more efficient. They also use process intervention techniques when necessary to keep the team focused. …

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