Thursday, January 20, 2011

Virtual Meetings Are Like Broccoli: 8 Tips for Better Virtual Project Meetings

By Wayne Turmel

Running good meetings for  remote teams is like eating our vegetables: we know we should do it, we know how to do it, it’s critical to our health in the long run and we rationalize our way out of it every chance we get.
Just as the secret to a healthy diet isn’t much of a secret (if you burn off more calories than you put in your piehole you lose weight ) ,there isn’t some magic potion or mystery to running a good webmeeting or teleconference. But just like being nagged about eating our broccoli, a good reminder doesn’t hurt to keep us honest.
The ProjectWeb blog by Chris LeCompte offers 8 tips that, while blindingly obvious, are often ignored at the peril of your project, your team and your sanity:
  1. Only hold necessary meetings- just sharing information is not a sufficient reason to get people together, especially if time zones are a problem. You can use email, shared file sites, recorded webcasts and other tools to put information out there. Meetings are designed to accomplish a purpose. You can often boost productivity by not pulling people away from important tasks.
  2. Have a clear purpose- “It’s Monday and we always have a status meeting on Monday” is not a compelling purpose.
  3. Clearly list your objectives-Is this a brainstorming session? People should come prepared to discuss the matter at hand and have ideas ready. Do you need to make a decision? Then read the attached material before the meeting. Knowing what your meeting is designed to achieve does two things for a leader: it allows you to help people prepare (and hold them accountable for their role in that preparation) and tells you when the meeting is over. You’ve either accomplished your objective or you haven’t. When you have, you’re done.
  4. Know who really needs to be there- There’s nothing more frustrating than being forced to attend a meeting that you don’t have a stake in. Other than getting some email answered, the only thing it accomplishes is building resentment and sucking up time. An effective meeting leader knows who the stakeholders are based on the desired outcome. If you want team members to feel valued but not pressured, let them know the meeting is occurring but their attendance is optional and that you’ll send out a report with anything they need to know. As long as people don’t feel like they’re left out, it’s amazing how many will choose to do other things- actual productive things.

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