Collaborating through virtual meetings

24th November 2008

The use of virtual meetings (conference calls, video conferences, web-based meetings) is on the increase, as a result of globalisation and technological advances. However, in the current economic downturn, budgets are being slashed and travel bans enforced, which means people are turning to virtual meetings where it is not appropriate.

Whilst virtual meetings are useful for disseminating information, it is face to face meetings that allow us to have powerful conversations, ones that lead to action and changes in the workplace. In order to decide whether a virtual meeting is appropriate I suggest you look at the decisions that need to be made and, in general, avoid using virtual meetings where you need to make decisions collaboratively and need commitment to those decisions.

Getting genuine commitment to decisions in meetings can be tough anyway but the virtual environment, with all its technological advances, still can’t give us that eyeball to eyeball contact that allows people to raise difficult issues.

If, however, you HAVE to make a collaborative decision in a virtual meeting, I offer the following advice…

  • If the group are not already a team with high levels of trust, do as much as you can before the meeting to create a trusting environment. For example, talk to participants in advance and involve people in the development of the objectives and agenda.
  • When you set up the meeting, be clear about what decisions need to be made and how they will be made. For example, we need to decide how we prioritise our budget next year, we will go with the majority view.
  • Establish rules at the start of the meeting that allow people to contribute reservations. For example, I want to hear all
  • Design a process for the meeting that allows people to contribute reservations. For example first ask people the positives and then ASK FOR the negatives.
  • Summarise and recap all decisions, checking with everyone on the call in turn.

If you would like more advice on any tricky virtual meetings that you have coming up, please give us a call on +44 (0)1628 471114