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John Spence's Rules for Virtual Meetings

One of my favorite leadership writers is John Spence of the Achieving Business Excellence Blog. He recently shared some best practices for leading virtual meetings that are well worth sharing with you.

John is the author of Awesomely Simple-Essential Business Strategies for Turning Ideas into Action, which is well worth checking out. You can hear an interview with him here. As the "Executive in Residence" for the University of Central Florida's Technology Incubator he understands the new world of work and business better than most.

Here are some of his tips:

  • The rules haven't changed all that much- a meeting is a meeting. A good meeting is still a good meeting. Just because you can schedule meetings on the fly doesn't mean they don't have to have good clear agendas and well defined action items. it's amazing how sloppy some teams get about this over time (and by that, of course, I mean managers since we're usually leading the meetings!)
  • Reduce distractions like email by setting rules Each team needs to set expectations about keeping their heads in the game by not answering email or setting the phone on mute and taking the dog for a walk.
  • Check in throughout the meeting. Whether it's by using what John calls "roll-call" questions or stopping every 5-10 minutes to check in with how people are feeling about the direction of the call it's critical that you get input from the audience so you know they are still connected and you're on task as the leader. In a live meeting you can see their glazed eyes or rapt expressions of interest, on the Web or the phone you have to consciously build in a chance to get those cues.
  • Be sensitive to cultural differences. Many remote teams work across national and language barriers as well as time zones and workplaces. Constantly check in and listen for understanding. As the leader you have to take responsibility... know that many people either through cultural differences or just plain fear, don't speak up and let you know they don't understand what's going on. (And for what it's worth, culture doesn't just mean countries or languages... HR and Engineering can have very different cultures as well).
These tips are right on the money and it's good to know that smart people like John Spence agree with me about the need to run good virtual meetings. What are your tip and best practices? What help is your company giving you develop the meeting facilitation skills you need?

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