Virtual Teams

Are large virtual meetings better than face-to-face alternatives?

I participated last week in a video conference where the CEO of one of our clients and I interviewed each other on matrix management. We had an audience of 1900 people which was 95% of the people in the business and we got lots of questions and interactions.

It’s just the latest of many large scale events we’ve run over the last six months where we engage with very large audiences.

I’ll be honest, when we went into the COVID lockdown, we tended to recommend small events of 12 to 15 people if you wanted real interaction. However, there has been such a massive need to get support out to people at scale that we quickly found ourselves running much larger events.

Today, many of our participants think that communication has actually improved during the pandemic.  they feel they are getting much more direct access to senior leaders and in a strange way the communication feels more personal then sitting at the back in the large face to face Town Hall type meeting.

Here are some of the things we’ve noticed

  • when you interact with someone by video it can be quite intimate. You are only a couple of feet from your screen and they are too, so your brain is fooled into thinking you are having a one-to-one or small group interaction, even when there may be many hundreds of people participating
  • even with very large groups it can feel interactive provided you have a role and you feel listened to. Being able to comment, ask questions and seeing that many of these questions are being answered and that individuals are being called out to speak, even if they didn’t get to you, makes it feel interactive. If managers take the time to respond afterwards to questions they didn’t have the time to take on the day this makes it feel even more personal.
  • many people have found this kind of interaction to be more regular and personal than before COVID-19 and they like it
  • many others have commented that they are seeing their very senior leaders more often and getting the message more directly from them then they might have done through the traditional cascades and team meetings
  • Large scale events enable us to get a consistent message at the same time to groups we may never have got to using face to face methods.
  • Its not to do with the technology, but it is worth mentioning that many have also commented positively that their wellbeing is on the agenda of their senior leaders – some are seeing engagement rise as a result even in otherwise difficult circumstances

Most of the senior managers we talk to are really enjoying the experience of being able to engage at scale and get immediate feedback. It’s much more satisfying to them too than recording a video message or sending a PowerPoint deck out into the void.

Let’s hope that this learning stays with us for the future and we create much more interactive and two way conversations at scale across our businesses.

We are often told after our virtual meetings and training sessions that companies and participants have never seen so many comments and interactions before. It is a skill creating and responding to comments and interactions online . If you’d like to learn how to do this please see more here. The ability to engage and create interaction online is already a key leadership skills and we can expect it to be even more important in the future.

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