Virtual meeting mistakes leave attendees bored, disengaged, confused, and frustrated. In today’s episode, we interview Gwen Stirling Wilkie, author of From Physical Place to Virtual Space. In this episode, she emphasizes that our team meetings will need to be more purposeful, build stronger connections and be open to new ways to collaborate and co-create. Inside this episode you’ll learn about eight common virtual meeting mistakes leaders make that when avoided can increase connection and communication.
Virtual Meeting Mistake #1. Copying & Pasting the In-Person Meeting to a Virtual Setting
The first virtual meeting mistakes leaders make, is making the assumption that meetings in person and virtually should be ran the same way. Full-day meetings are typical when everyone is in the office. In these meetings, leaders have time to introduce some context, have several presentations and then have a discussion around certain topics.
Virtual meetings need to be structured in a different way. Meet shorter and more frequently. For example, in-office meetings often can run smoothly for 60 minutes. But virtual meetings should be shorter and more frequent. Bring in different voices virtually to enrich the conversation in a way that you can’t when you are all geographically located, and use collaboration platforms to share the information that can be got out of the way before the meeting
Virtual Meeting Mistake #2. Jumping Right Into Business
Leaders tend to want to knock tasks off a list, but miss the essential need for connection. In reality, one thing many people are missing in the virtual world is our sense of connection. Leaders need to focus much more on connection. But leaders need to remember that Leadership is inherently relational. Leadership is about creating connections between people.
Leaders need to remember “connection before content”, and they have a responsibility to connect. Leaders make sure people feel listened to, valued, appreciated and a part of the team. As you plan for your virtual meeting, consider how and where you will create more connections in that meeting.
Virtual Meeting Mistake #3. Unrealistic Expectations of Attention Spans
Our attention spans are much shorter in the virtual world. It’s much harder to concentrate for a long period of time and recent research from Stanford University acknowledges the impact of ‘Zoom fatigue’. We face many distractions at home; the dog barking, the lawnmower running outside, Amazon ringing on your door bell.
When leading a virtual meeting, take into account how long attention spans will last with each activity. Once you identify that, you can leverage that time accordingly in your agenda.
Virtual Meeting Mistake #4. Not Using Pre-work Strategically
One way to leverage that time, is to create preparation work; work done by attendees before the virtual meeting itself. When leading and planning online meetings, leaders think about themselves as master event planners. Completing work before the virtual meeting allows space during the meeting to bring different stakeholders together to share their unique perspectives and generate breakthrough thinking.
Questions to help you identify and accomplish more pre-work before your virtual meetings:
- How do I make the most of the time when I have people together so that they can be as active as possible?
- What is it that we can accomplish before the meeting? Can I send them something to read or what video can I record for them to watch beforehand?
- What questions do I want them to think about to prompt the conversations?
Virtual Meeting Mistake #5. Trying to make a Hybrid Meeting “Inclusive”
Whether you want to admit it or not, the truth is, we’ve all tried this. If you haven’t tried it, you’ve been in a meeting where someone else tried it. Attempting a meeting where half of the people are in person and several other people are somehow on Zoom is a recipe for disaster.
This creates a huge imbalance. It is extremely difficult to follow a ZOOM meeting when half of the people are in the office. If you have some people in the office and some people remote, stick to a fully virtual meeting, or choose to all meet in person.
Virtual Meeting Mistake #6. “Having” All the Answers
Leaders need to be in a mindset of being more like a talk show host when they are leading virtual meetings. The purpose of having the meeting isn’t so that you (the leader) can come up with all of the answers. The purpose of the meeting is to get everyone’s contributions and perspectives so that the team can create the best answer. “Having” all the answers causes your team to depend on you to “have” all the answers, and they will then never come up with their own.
Virtual Meeting Mistake #7. Using Technology Above the Participants Skill Levels
Leaders need to consider the technological skill level of the meeting participants. After identifying the skill level, leaders can choose technology that is appropriate for everyone.
Choosing technology that is overly complex and above the participants’ skill levels leaves participants feeling anxious. Participants end up spending more time focusing on learning and using the new tool rather than focusing on contributing to the meeting.
Virtual Meeting Mistake #8. Avoiding Conversations that Create Accountability
One of the most important virtual meeting mistakes leaders make is avoiding accountability conversations. Working virtually has given us more of an excuse to avoid hard conversations. Whether you’re working virtually or in person, as a leader, it’s your responsibility to have conversations that create accountability, and to do so with the right approach, right spirit, and right intent. It’s not easy to do but the longer you avoid facing issues, the worse it’s going to get.
When you need to have a difficult conversation, confront with care. It is difficult to know what is going on in the participants house, or their life situation. Most likely, after you finish your conversation, the participant will turn around and be with his family!
Let us know in the comments which virtual meeting mistakes you find yourself making and remedies for these mistakes.
About Gwen Stirling Wilkie
Gwen is an experienced Dialogic Organisation Development consultant, change leader, author and educator with over 20 years’ experience. She has pioneered new approaches to virtual Dialogic OD, captured in her best-selling book ‘From Physical Place to Virtual Space – how to design and host transformative spaces online’ (Amazon No1 Business Consulting Book, February 2021).
Her consulting work focuses on shaping and guiding organisational transformation, culture change, and senior leadership team coaching. Her educator work focuses on developing transformation skills in leaders and mentoring new-to-the-field OD consultants.
Gwen runs her own consulting business, Seeds Of Transformation from the UK, and works with global clients in different industries and sectors. She can be contacted on email: firstname.lastname@example.org , Twitter @gwenstirling, and Linked In linkedin.com/in/gwen-stirling-wilkie-6171356
Creating Transformative Spaces Online
Gwen is running an online workshop to introduce the key models and approaches that feature in her book. Join here to build your skills and confidence in designing and hosting transformative spaces online. An Introduction to Creating Transformative Spaces Online
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