Tele-Meeting Leader Tips

By Carol Wolf

Virtual meeting leaders have a particularly tough job leading a meeting where people are not in the same room and where they can’t judge if people are paying attention or are anxious to say something. Here are some tips for making sure everyone is heard and understood.

  • Warm up with small talk to “break the ice”
  • Ask over-talkers to help draw out quiet people
  • Assign buddies to act as helpful neighbors to guests or new participants, etc.
  • Go around the “table” (or down the attendee list) at least once before concluding any discussion (more often for long or controversial discussions)
  • Watch for, identify, and resolve any conflicting conversational conventions that derail discussions (e.g., some members expecting a margin of silence before the next person starts talking, while others expect anyone wanting to speak to signal their intention by audibly “reving their engines” as the current speaker winds down)
  • Regularly use a talk-tally-tracker to check for over-talking or over-quietness
  • Leverage out-of-the-box inputs
  • Use break-out sessions frequently (e.g., groups of three people can use 3-way calling)
  • In very small meetings, encourage identified kinds of informal murmur; otherwise, enforce mute among those not speaking
  • In meetings longer than 1 hour, include bio breaks in the agenda, so people can plan on them and don’t feel they have to slip away and miss discussion
  • Sometimes provide “brown bag coffee break” time for people to use as they would use face-to-face coffee break time

Here are some additiona tips for providing visual context and cues to help people picture in their minds what they would normally experience in a face-to-face meeting:

  • Provide a visual meeting table, either with assigned seats or for people to claim (and write in) where they are sitting as they arrive
  • Have participants provide a photo to be used on meeting materials (and do not use it for any other purpose or circulate it any farther without obtaining each person’s express permission)
  • Provide a photo roster of participants
  • Provide a photo agenda
  • Provide a photo meeting table
  • Provide a way for people to show when they are AFK, so everyone knows when someone is missing and adapt accordingly. (Changing status in an IM tool shared by all participants is one way)

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