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To Get Results, Open Your Webmeetings With the End In Mind

Well run webmeetings offer great advantages to remote teams: interactivity, rich communication and a chance to build real relationships. Too often, though, they don't get the desired effect, unless that effect is a chance to catch up on your email. If you want good results, leaders have to start with the end in mind.

What is the object of your meeting? Where are you going?

Is it to reach a decision that requires input from the whole team? Then you have to set the meeting up to generate that input. Do you want to update your team and get their buy-in? How will you tell if you have it?

Here are some tips for starting a meeting with the end clearly in mind.

  • If you want them to use the tools, make sure they're comfortable using them. If your team is new to webmeetings, or even just to each other, start by sending each person a chat message as they log in, and ask them to return it. This will ensure that they know how to use those tools for giving input, and also sends a clear message: we expect you to participate, not just sit there passively.
  • Encourage them to play and participate right from the start. Many webmeeting leaders get pretty freaked out at the notion of allowing participants to chat with each other during the meeting. What you'll find, though, is that just as in live face to face meetings some of the chat is rude or off topic, there's a lot of good discussion that goes on before anyone volunteers the information to the whole group. Don't block chatAlso, the polling tool in most web platforms serves as the online equivalent of a show of hands, and gets them involved physically with the meeting.
  • Tell them what to come prepared to do and hold them accountable. Sometimes asking people important questions out of a clear blue sky doesn't generate the good ideas you want. Maybe they hadn't been thinking about this issue, or they think you're just asking as a formality and don't really want their input. When you put items in the agenda, and they actually occur it goes a long way to helping your team trust your leadership and come prepared to volunteer better information. Also if you tell them to come prepared, and they're not there's nothing like a little old school embarrassment to hold them accountable for the next meeting.
  • Answer their burning questions at the start. One of the big barriers to participation in online meetings is what's going on in the minds of your participants. Concerns about what other work they should be doing, how long the meeting will take, and will this waste their time makes it actually impossible to give you their full attention. The first minute or two of your meeting should tell them how long the meeting will take, what will be covered, what their role is, and why it matters. If people know the answers to those questions you've gone a long way to helping them meet your high expectations of them.
Because of the way most of us feel about meetings in general, and online meetings in particular, getting off to a great start is critical to getting the results you need and letting everyone get on with their lives.

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Photo by flickr user Ed Yourdon CC 2.0