You’ve felt the pain of hybrid meetings: the people who can’t hear what’s going on, the remote team members who can’t get a word in edgewise, the people in the room who get side tracked by birthday cake and the meeting runs long. What’s a leader to do?
For years we’ve been suggesting a solution that people have resisted. Lately, though, a number of our clients are coming to us with the same answer to the problem we’ve been championing all along. They are turning more of their hybrid meetings into completely virtual meetings. Why the turnaround?
There are several reasons that moving to a virtual meeting platform (and it’s almost irrelevant which platform. WebEx, Skype for Business/Microsoft Teams, Zoom, GotoMeeting share 90% of the same features) can help solve some of the problems with these conversations.
People are fed up enough to try something new.
As more people work from home occasionally, they experience what long-time remote workers already know: being the person calling into the meeting can be frustrating and annoying. When you can’t hear what’s going on, or you are the last one called on to contribute, you just want to put them all on mute and go answer email or something.
Leaders recognize that a level playing field is critical to team building.
Many people say that there’s a growing rift between team members who work in the office and those who work elsewhere. It is natural that when there’s unequal access to the boss, or to resources, or to other people, that folks will naturally build stronger relationships than with those who you seldom see or talk to. If the purpose of meetings is to get everyone’s input, and allow everyone to contribute no matter where they are, then having everyone use the same tools to communicate makes for a more egalitarian experience.
People are becoming more comfortable with the technology.
…Especially webcams. One of the primary reasons for holding in person meetings is that they’re, well, in person. Seeing each other is an important part of relationship building and enhancing teamwork. As more people become comfortable (which means they’ve been dragged kicking and screaming into this century, but they’re here now) with webcams and the features of virtual meetings such as polling and white boards, the virtual experience has gotten much better. No, it’s not as good as being gathered around the same table, but it allows for the best possible experience for everyone equally.
Getting Alice to schedule the conference room is a hassle.
It is amazing how many big changes happen for small reasons. As office space becomes more of a rarity, and just finding a room with the camera and voice capability to be effective, alternatives seem a lot more appealing.
If you haven’t yet tried to get everyone on a virtual meeting, try it soon. Don’t wait until the stakes are high and success is critical. Things may go wrong, or people may resent not being able to get together, so try it when it’s not a big deal, and there’s little pressure.
It’s amazing how the in-office folks develop empathy for the remote workers, and those out in the provinces will feel more accepted and engaged. Not a bad way to start the year.
If you want to learn how to be more effective leading remote meetings, try our on-demand course.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. Wayne and Kevin’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammate, offers a roadmap for success not just for leaders, but for everyone making the transition to working remotely.