Virtual Meeting Tips: Part Two

Work From Home (WFH) Series No. 11

In our last post we talked about 3 tips on how to run virtual meetings. As many organizations are still working remotely, and will either stay remote for at least a few more months or permanently, we talked about 3 ways we can keep our virtual meetings engaging and productive. In case that wasn't enough... here are 3 more!

1. Avoid Back-Channeling  

Have you heard of back-channeling before? Chances are, you know what it is, but you might not have heard this particular term, coined by Dr. Brené Brown. Back-channeling is a broad range of behaviours that ultimately mean you are not being upfront with people. Rather than expressing your thoughts, feelings and opinions with people to their face (in meetings, for example). You are sharing these thoughts, feelings and opinions with others before or after meetings. Back-channeling can look like: "This is a bad idea, in the meeting tonight I'm going to say I don't think it's a good idea, will you back me up?" [1].

Whilst this is one of the most common forms of back-channeling it can also happen when people meet after a meeting, or something called the 'dirty yes'. The dirty yes, is someone saying 'yes' to your face, or in front of others, but then saying 'no' behind your back.

Back-channeling can be very destructive because it prevents people from having honest, upfront conversations with one another. This can increase confusion, reduce productivity and create a highly toxic working environment. The reality is, many of us back-channel, often without realizing it- and back-channeling doesn't make you a bad person [2]. However, rather than engaging in back-channeling, how can you gain the courage to have hard conversations that are upfront, and honest, whilst maintaining a safe environment for everyone? How can you help others do the same?

2. Make use of online collaboration tools

Now that virtual meetings are the primary way we are communicating with one another, making use of the technology available to us is a must. Most meeting software have various features to assists your meetings such as, whiteboards, 'hand raising', scheduling, screen sharing etc. Whilst not all of this is completely frictionless using these tools can actually facilitate conversations, streamline processes, and get engagement and creativity flowing [3]. It's important to select tools, not based necessarily on what other organizations or teams are using, but more so, ask yourself: what functionality do you need for this remote team to be successful [3]?  

3. Make an engaging meeting agenda

This can be harder than it sounds! There are various tips on how to keep people engaged when hiding behind a computer screen on mute is almost too easy. But thankfully, there are some ways you can spice up a meeting to increase engagement in your meetings. Firstly, it's important to 'read the room' and understand who is in your meeting, in order to make it engaging. Assigning tasks for everyone in the meeting is a way to ensure people are paying attention and contributing [4]. This can look like having a question master, a note taker, someone to ensure you stay on track and a meeting leader. Making time for casual conversation, or 'watercooler talk' is more important now than ever, since such serendipitous conversation is hard to come by [3]! Lastly, asking people to contribute in meetings is a way to keep people involved in all the topics that are being covered. This does not mean aggressively 'calling' on people, but can be asking questions through genuine curiosity, or asking others to take ownership over certain parts of a meeting [5].  

In order to make these tips habits, what will you start to do, stop doing, continue doing to run engaging virtual meetings? As much as we wish, there isn't always a 'one size fits all' for tips on what will work for your teams. The points discussed in the this post and the last post are starting points, how you choose to internalize these, is up to you!


[1] Key Language, Skills, Tools, and Practices

[2] Back-Channeling Is a Toxic-Communication Habit That Probably Exists in Your Office

[3] The Ultimate Guide to Remote Meetings in 2020

[4] What we Learned from Training 800+ People on How to have Great Remote Meetings

[5] Remote Meetings: 16 Secrets to make them Engaging

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