By now, I hope you’re convinced that video meetings are here to stay even beyond the pandemic, you can upgrade your virtual meeting environment and thereby improve the experience for your guests, and you can enhance your chances for securing virtual meetings with the different and creative approaches.
Now, what can you do to achieve greater involvement from your virtual meeting guests?
The same principles that guide effective in-person meetings work for virtual meetings. But it’s worth highlighting three areas where we can still improve: 1) demonstrate active listening, 2) use visuals, and 3) ask for advice.
- Demonstrate Active Listening
One element of virtual meetings that differs from in-person meetings is “the pause.” Because of differences in Internet speeds, we need to get used to the pause that occurs after we’re done speaking. It’s awkward. But it’s an inevitable part of the video meeting experience and we must allow space for it. Talking over the pause rather than patiently waiting does not demonstrate active listening.
The virtual meeting environment offers different challenges for us to achieve active listening ideals. Here are some ways we can improve: exhibiting good posture, making eye contact, avoiding distractions, and summarizing what we’ve heard.
- Exhibit Good Posture. In a previous post, I recommended your virtual meeting environment be structured with your camera as close to eye-level as possible. This gives you a better chance of making eye contact through video. Good posture, in the video meeting environment, means properly aligning your camera with your eyes.
- Make Eye Contact. When speaking, try to look into the camera as much as possible. Admittedly, it’s not intuitive. But this represents eye contact in video meetings. The more you do this, the more professional and attentive you will appear. Because we’re prone to look at images of others or even ourselves during a video meeting, you might consider placing a sticky note next to the camera hole with a big arrow reminding you to focus on it, instead.
- Prevent Distractions. Be sure you’re in a private, quiet place when conducting virtual meetings. Turn off your email and your phone’s ringer. Clear your desk. Eliminate background noise. And avoid typing. Typing creates a distracting noise and it also implies that you’re not fully engaged or paying attention. Even if you’re typing notes, it’s still distracting. I’ll admit, this is something I need to change. At your next virtual meeting, join me in deploying good old-fashioned pen and paper (or a tablet and stylus) for notetaking. As a double bonus, being seen taking notes on paper (or a tablet) shows great respect and interest in what your meeting guest is saying.
- Summarize What You Heard. Paraphrasing what you heard shows that you’re paying attention and you care about what they’re saying. It also helps you keep a meeting productive and efficient by summarizing and transitioning from one topic to another (or ending the meeting). Get used to using phrases such as, “So what I hear you saying is [paraphrased summary].”
2. Use Visuals
One way to maintain interest during virtual meetings is to use visuals and present them through the “share screen” function.
Do you have a document for which you’d like feedback? Send it to your meeting guest in advance and during the meeting pull it up on your screens to review and discuss.
Do you have a short video that offers insight about some aspect of your institution that is “hot off the press?” Share it during the meeting and get instant reactions or answer questions your meeting guest(s) might have.
Don’t have any visuals to share? Create a PowerPoint of 3-5 slides of information that you want to present and invite comments/feedback.
It may not be necessary to use visuals during your first virtual meeting with someone. But to maintain interest and break up the monotony of a normal video meeting, using visuals should be considered.
3. Ask for Advice
There’s an Advancement saying that you may have heard and probably can identify with: Ask for money, get advice. Ask for advice, get money.
Virtual meetings provide a great platform for asking for advice. Extending the previous point on using visuals, asking for advice makes constituents feel like co-authors in your efforts. This leads to another Advancement saying: Involvement leads to investment.
Requesting someone’s participation in a virtual meeting prefaced as seeking their advice on an issue, topic, document, etc., is an excellent way to secure a virtual meeting. But sometimes, it’s vital that we pause and ask questions during the meeting to maintain their participation, interest, and involvement.
Questions such as, “Can we brainstorm with you on this topic?” or if you’re meeting with a group of people, “Can you take a minute to write down 1-2 questions you have? I’d like to open it up for your questions at the end.”
Asking thoughtful, meaningful questions aimed at seeking advice and feedback should be an aim of every meeting, but it is crucial in a virtual meeting environment to maintain involvement and interest. And be sure your questions open-ended to garner the very best feedback.
4. Ask the “Magic” Question
Finally, if your meeting has gone well, ask this magic question: “Is there anyone else who comes to mind that you feel might enjoy discussing this topic?” If your meeting guests provide a name, ask this follow up question: “Would you be able to help me get a meeting with them?” You will never have a shortage of discovery visits to schedule if you ask this question consistently.