The absence of normal visual cues and lack of opportunity to use well-rehearsed face-to-face skills can make influencing in the virtual meeting room feel much trickier. Many of us have fallen into the trap of staying in our comfort zone and ‘in control’ by uploading our usual mountain of PowerPoint slides and presenting at people instead of working with them. However the lack of buy-in this results in often means we’d have been better off not running the meeting at all.
If you are leading change and have no option but to meet key stakeholders virtually (increasingly the case) you may need to rethink your whole approach.
There’s lots we can do even before the meeting starts:
2 weeks before
Evaluate the engagement level of your meeting participants towards the topic at hand, e.g. by mapping them on an Importance / Commitment grid (see diagram). Engage with those you are concerned about before your meeting. In this case you could give Katya a call to open the dialogue early, check your assumptions and understand her agenda and expectations.
As with any important meeting, plan based on outcomes you are aiming for: what do you want people to think / feel / do differently?
Send out agenda, clear joining instructions and briefing materials. Go easy on the quantity of pre-reading – highlight what is essential (and keep that short) and what is optional.
Consider asking a colleague to help plan and deliver your meeting. An extra pair of hands is very useful for dealing with any technical issues (e.g. problems joining), managing responses in the virtual meeting platform (e.g. chat) and taking notes.
Practice with your virtual meeting platform, including using your webcam and working on your voice – volume, intonation, speed.
30 minutes before
Log in to check all technology is working. Upload your slides rather than sharing your desktop if your meeting platform permits – most do. This will add to the professionalism of your virtual delivery by allowing you and participants to annotate the content and avoiding pop-ups appearing on your screen (no-one wants to see that email notification from your mum).
Set a timer to go off 10 minutes before the meeting end time. Reserving enough time to summarise and wrap up in this kind of meeting is essential. If key people have already left to join their next meeting all your effort has been wasted.
Be ready to meet and greet early birds. Use this time to build rapport.
Start on time: these are likely to be extremely busy people.
Set the right tone from the very start. Get their attention by sharing something new / insightful / surprising. Ask for a response and get them speaking early – this will set expectations that you are going to engage with them throughout – not present at them.
Do very brief personal intro’s if needed (the chat function works well for this).
So far so good. Next week we’ll continue this topic to explore what we can do during the meeting to inspire people to action.
For more detail on running great virtual meetings – click here