Digital meetings have been a natural part of my daily working routine for over ten years. I have been a member of numerous virtual teams and networks within several global organisations. During this time, I have noticed distinct differences in meeting quality and team cohesion depending on how well and structured the remote collaboration is led and planned.
For people working globally the ability to work with colleagues around the world in different time zones, with different native languages and cultures, irrespective of geographical location, has become a must.
At the same time many people working with information feel that too much of their time is taken up by “non-productive” activities. 70 % of workers consider meetings to be unproductive and 40% consider “poor communication in the team” to be a problem. (Source: Gartner, Ovum, Microsoft)
Digital meetings are often introduced for environmental reasons and to save money. However, when employees reduce time spent in cars, on trains and planes, waiting for connections and delayed departures, they not only have more time for effective work; they will also have more time to spend with family and friends. Thus, it is not only the company that benefits from improving digital collaboration.
Previously the lack of good technology was the barrier to digital meetings but as technology has become simpler and people have become more accustomed to using it, this is about to change. Most organisations now have adequate technical solutions in place. Today, it is people’s behaviour and habits rather than technology which are the obstacles to efficient digital collaboration. I often see a lack of knowledge in how to create the right conditions for digital meetings, which leads to frustration, a poor level of communication and lack of shared understanding within virtual teams. In the same way we would book a room with the right equipment, order refreshments, send out material and an agenda prior to a physical meeting, we need to create the right conditions for a digital meeting.
Some conditions are the same regardless of whether the meeting is physical or digital but some differ and require a different type of preparation. With the right knowledge, simple collaboration tools, training programs and a shared vision, a virtual team can be just as effective as a team working together in the same place. A physical meeting at an initial stage is preferable but a virtual team can be highly cohesive even if they have never met face-to-face.
With a few simple steps you can improve your digital meeting right away.
As the organiser:
- Welcome participants by name and allow some small talk before the meeting starts.
- Go “around the table” a few times during the meeting and always in connection with a decision. Ask for a comment from everyone and never allow silent approvals.
As a participant:
- Introduce yourself by name when you connect and announce if you need to leave the meeting early.
- Say your name before you speak. You cannot be certain that all participants will recognize your voice.
In my mind all types of meetings can be held digitally. Group meetings, workshops, training courses, seminars, global conferences – nothing is impossible. You can also coach the team to achieve excellent virtual collaboration; it is about creating a common approach and the right conditions.
It is a privilege for me to help teams and networks move forward in their journey towards better digital collaboration and it is a pleasure so see them succeed again and again!