Thursday | 30 April | 2020
By Essie Bester
Suddenly our world looks drastically different. Thanks to Covid-19 home offices have become the new normal. To many of us this means that we have to learn how to function resolutely and productively in a new environment.
If you are in a leadership role it probably means that you are compelled (perhaps for the first time) to enter the relatively new world of video conferences. For the sake of success in this excellent way of promoting better relationships and cooperation with geographically remote clients, colleagues and employees, it is important for you to master the skills and techniques of the virtual world.
As leader and communicator you need to show involvement and inspire others. Likewise facilitation (to smooth over things for others), which is very important at regular meetings, is even more important during virtual meetings, where misunderstandings easily slip in.
A few hints for leaders to strengthen their virtual presence
- Look directly at the camera. The camera eyelet on computers is usually placed in the middle just above the computer screen. Look at it. In this way you strengthen the impression that you are looking colleagues directly in the eye and is present.
- Look at the lighting and background. Do a short test run with a colleague before your real video conference call. Is the lighting sufficient? What items are on the bookshelf behind you? Is there noise in your vicinity that could distract colleagues’ attention and weaken your virtual presence?
- Assure colleagues that you are listening by being aware of how even the smallest movement on your side can be interpreted. This could mean the difference between seen as a person who cares and is present, or a person who is indifferent and is there only to promote his or her own interests.
- Explain the context of the meeting. It is important to set the tone of the meeting by shortly explaining the purpose and content of the session. It will enable your audience to react appropriately and it helps them to see how you take control and provide guidance during the meeting.
- Be yourself. Each of us has a different virtual presence. Some are inclined to be more formal while others are more relaxed and informal.
More hints that can guarantee more interaction and outcomes in a virtual environment
- Be dedicated. Virtual facilitation is a demanding task with its own dynamics ─ the energy and flow differ from those at regular meetings. Concentrate on guiding discussions and the flow to make sure that all colleagues feel included and are present.
- Remember the basic principles. Start at the given time and keep it short and sweet. Make sure that everybody understands the purpose of the meeting by providing an uncomplicated agenda. If you are technically handicapped, you will have to ask somebody to provide technical help while you need to acquire the necessary skills as quickly as possible.
- Start the session by probing the state of mind and attitude of participants. At the commencement ask questions such as: “Are any of you prevented from being fully present?” Also find out what each participant’s feeling and expectations are regarding the session.
- Be specific. By asking specific questions you can prevent too many people from answering simultaneously. Introduce a rule that each participant must give his or her name before starting each conversation.
- Use the technology at your disposal. Prevent boring sessions by using easy technology such as Mentimeter, Kahoot or Slido for quick surveys and quizzes. Short, inspiring videos on YouTube or Vimeo are further technologies that can give content a boost.
- Use intervals actively. Participants’ attention span is shorter during a virtual session. Make provision for intervals every 45─60 minutes, especially when there are complicated terminology in the content. Find out before or after an interval how each participant is feeling, ask for fast feedback or have a snap quiz session to test participants’ newly acquired knowledge.
How to Run a Great Virtual Meeting (Harvard Business Review)
Making Virtual Teams Work: Ten Basic Principles (Harvard Business Review):
Managing Virtual Teams: Ten Tips (Forbes):
* All information was correct at the time of publication.