09 Jul

What’s up with your on-line meeting skills?

by Michael Hoffman

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meetingsHow often do your on-line meetings start on time? Not often enough, I’ll bet.

Funny, there’s no traffic to fight, no coffee to get, no coats to hang, and still, very few people are able to manage getting to on on-line meeting prepared and on time.

Let’s be clear: this is not an IT problem; it’s a blind spot problem.

Here’s the basic stuff that most people are aware of, but often ignore:

  1. On-line meetings don’t always just appear on your screen at the right time (though with good tools like Citrix GoToMeeting great improvements have been made)
  2. You will occasionally need make an audio/video adjustment
  3. They require more preparation than we currently muster
  4. Since there is not travel involved, there is an added expectation of punctuality placed on on-line meetings

Now here is the stuff that you may or may not be aware of – but need to fix immediately because otherwise people will lose confidence in you and your level of excellence:

  1. No one wants to hear about your IT problems. If you want to blame IT or your laptop for being late, don’t waste time in a meeting doing it. We don’t care why you’re late.
  2. The darn video conferencing software needed an update? Yes, that occasionally happens, so why is that a big mystery to you each time? It just means that you need to be ready a few minutes before the meeting begins. You can get situated and once you’re in the meeting you can review notes, check email, do whatever you like.
  3. Your computer blew up? You lost power? These are novice excuses. You should always have at least one back-up device. That’s why we have PC’s, phones and tablets. If you have regular on-line meetings, it is simply irresponsible of you not to have at least one back-up device handy. (I usually have at least two – and have had occasions when I’ve needed three.)
  4. Don’t know how to navigate Dropbox or other social tools? Fix the problem by learning how to use the most common social tools: Dropbox, Trello, Skype, Whatsapp, etc.; whatever it takes to get your on-line skills to a professional level. These are not esoteric tools anymore, they are becoming industry standard.
  5. Do you feel like learning all this technology is actually getting in the way of your work? Re-think that mindset because the world is not slowing down for you.

If my advice rubs you the wrong way, talk to some of your more IT savvy colleagues. They will be glad to have the opportunity to reinforce what I’m saying – since you asked…finally.

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29 May

Meetings: The Purpose, The Pain, The Possibility

by Sharon Drew Morgen

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Sharon-Drew MorgenAs business folk, we hold meetings regularly. Yet often we don’t accomplish what we set out to achieve. Why?

The Purpose

Meetings are held to accomplish a specific, beneficial outcome requiring the attendance of the right people with the right agenda.

The Problem/Pain

Often we end up with miscommunication, wasted time, incomplete outcomes, misunderstanding, lack of ownership and ongoing personnel issues – sometimes an indication of internal power and faulty communications issues.

The Possibility

With greater success we can: stimulate thinking; achieve team building, innovation, and clear communication; and efficiently complete target issues. Here are some problem areas and solutions:

People. When outcomes aren’t being met effectively it’s a people- and management problem including: fall-out, sabotage, and resistance; long execution times; exclusion of peripheral people; restricted creativity and communication; exacerbated power and status issues. Are the most appropriate people (users, decision makers, influencers) invited? All who have good data or necessary questions?

  • Rule: unless all – all – relevant people show up for the meeting, cancel it. It’s impossible to catch people up or have them collaborate, add creative thoughts, or discuss annoyances. Once it’s known that meetings aren’t held unless all are present, the frequency, responsibility, and motives shift.
  • Rule: unless all – all – of the people who will touch the outcome from the meeting’s goals are in some way represented, the outcome will not reflect the needs of all causing fallout later, with resistance, sabotage or a diminished outcome.

Agenda. No hidden agendas! Recipients of potential outcomes must be allowed to add agenda items prior to the meeting.

  • Rule: unless all – all – of the items of ultimate concern are on the agenda, the meeting will be restricted to meet the needs of a few with unknown consequence (resistance and sabotage).

Action. Too often, action items don’t get completed effectively. How do action items get assigned or followed up? What happens if stuff’s not done when agreed? How can additional meetings be avoided?

  • Rule: put a specific, consensual, and supervised method in place to ensure action items get accomplished as promised.
  • Rule: as meeting begins, get consensus on what must be accomplished for a successful outcome. This initial discussion may change agenda items or prioritize them, detect problems, assumptions, resistance before action items are assigned.

Discussion. How long do people speak? How do conversations progress? How do the proceedings get recorded? What is the format for discussions? How is bias avoided?

  • Rule: record (audio) each meeting so everyone who attends can have it available later. Folks who didn’t attend are not privy to this audio. (See People above).
  • Rule: design a time limit for speaking, and rules for topics, presentations, discussions, cross talk.
  • Rule: include periods of silence for thought, notes, reflection.

Understanding. Does everyone take away the same interpretation of what happened? How do you know when there have been miscommunications or misunderstandings?

  • Rule: unless everyone has the same perception of what happened for each topic, there is a tendency for biased interpretation that will influence a successful outcome.
  • Rule: one person (on rotation) should take notes, and repeat the understanding of what was said to get agreement for each item before the next item is tackled. This is vital, as people listen with biased filters and make flawed assumptions of what’s been said/agreed.

Transparency. Agendas should be placed online, to be read, signed-off, and added to.

  • Rule: whomever is coming to the meeting must know the full agenda.
  • Rule: everyone responsible for an action item must be listed with time lines, names of those assisting, and outcomes.

Accomplishments. Are items accomplished in a suitable time frame? What happens when they aren’t?

  • Rule: for each action item, participants must sign off on an agreeable execution. A list of the tasks, time frames, and people responsible must accompany each item, and each completed task must be checked off online so progress is accountable.
  • Rule: a senior manager must be responsible for each agenda item. If items are not completed in a timely way, the manager must write a note on the online communication explaining the problem, the resolution, and new time frame.

Meetings can be an important activity for collaboration and creativity if they are managed properly and taken as a serious utilization of time and output. Ask yourself: Do you want to meet? Or get work accomplished collaboratively?


Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? (free download at www.didihearyou.com) and NYTimes Business Bestsellers in the area of sales, decision facilitation, change management, and helping buyers buy. She is developer of Buying Facilitation® and a recognized thought leader in communication and decision making. She is a coach, trainer, speaker, and consultant. For those in sales, coaching or leadership want to communicate better Sharon Drew Morgen has the tools to help make improvements with online learning, group coaching, or on-site training. Sharon Drew can coach and train your sales teams or license trainers to prospect and get more appointments by finding real buyers on the first call. She can be reached at: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.


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