What is the #1 improvement you would like to make in your online meeting--that is, your audio conference, web conference, or video conference meeting? We ask this question of tens of thousands of people, and they always come back with one primary answer: Interaction.
Have you noticed that interaction has nearly disappeared from the majority of online meetings? You know its symptoms:
-Everyone is multi-tasking, rather than interacting with each other. Processing email is producing higher value than the team meeting, and that's the most important indicator that something very wrong is destroying your team performance.
-People dial into the same audio bridge, but only one or two people dominate the session. The rest are dead silent. Who even knows if they are even there at their desk?
-The leader asks a question, and no one answers. The silence is deafening as we wonder if anyone is really listening.
-The leader directs a question to a specific person, only to hear that person reply, "I am sorry, but could you repeat that question again?" Well, I'm sure fooled. Are you?
-Someone tells a really funny joke, but the mute button hides any laughter. A moment that could have bonded the team ends up being sterile and uncomfortable.
Virtual teams don't have time by the water cooler like same-site teams. The only time they have to interact together is when they link up for their weekly web or audio conference call. In fact, research shows that they interact 84% less frequently than same-site teams. That makes their live, interactive moments together in the weekly meeting really precious and rare.
So, if people on your team are multi-tasking during your team's online meeting, it's no wonder why 7 out of 10 people feel so disconnected at work in global companies. No team was ever built by watching slide shows or listening to someone talk. The ONLY path to high performance comes from raising the quality of their interaction together in every online meeting. The impact of NOT interacting is catastrophic on building motivated, committed teamwork. When virtual teams fail to interact richly enough.
-They fail to build essential levels of trust.
-They fail to establish rapport.
-They fail to create solutions together.
-They fail to leverage the diversity of its long-distance participants.
-They fail to collaborate on issues that matter to them and the company.
-They fail to participate in the result.
-They fail to feel energized by the team's work, and don't give their best.
-They fail to have fun.
When they fail to interact in an online meeting, they also hold back results--big time!
-They produce 1/3 less than those that interact effectively.
-They produce lower total returns for shareholders.
-They fail to produce a premium on the stock value.
-They experience higher turnover rates.
Are any of the items listed previously stated as goals in your performance review? Of course not. They all are signs there is a very big problem that NO LEADER CAN AFFORD TO IGNORE. So, the next time your team meets, pay attention to the silence. Then ACT to change it to interaction as fast as you possibly can. Here are some best practices to make your online meeting effective.
-Create a plan to change your company's meeting culture--starting today.
Let's face it. We've acquired some very bad meeting habits over the last few years, and habits don't change overnight. Change requires commitment, time, and a specific plan to make online meetings BETTER than face to face--better for people, for interaction, and your bottom line.
-Stop meeting by audio conference alone. Always supplement it with web conference technology.
If your virtual team meets by audio conference, only one person can talk at a time. When teams also meet by web conference, they can also have the choice to interact through chat, polling, raised hand, participant response panels, and annotations, among many others.
-Plan your online meeting for interaction.
Apply the 80/20 rule--80 percent interaction and 20 percent information. Use 80 percent of the time to brainstorm, raise issues, solve problems, make decisions, and build alignment. Use the remaining 20 percent to cover "headlines" of critical information everyone on the team needs to know.
-Make interaction overt.
Never ask, "Does anyone have any questions?" You already know the response you'll get: Full and absolute silence! Instead, use the web conference feedback tools to have people respond with a tangible yes, no, or I will go along with it. Then communicate verbally around those differences.
-Get trained in how to conduct engaging, interactive online meetings. The toughest job in the world is to engage a virtual team linked from the desktop, with all of its temptations (email, paper mail, and a very high stack of work to do). Leaders and facilitators of online meetings need new techniques and practices to replace missing non-verbal cues, to accelerate team interaction, and create trust when people can't see each other.
Jaclyn Kostner, Ph.D. is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, and webinar guru who trains individuals and organizations to improve interaction, engagement, participation, and results in web conference meetings. Sign up for a FREE webinar "CA$HING IN ON WEBINARS" at http://www.distance.com/Free_Webinar.html Access her eBook, 5 WAYS TO USE WEBINARS TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS-FAST! at http://www.distance.com/estore.html