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Engage Virtual Meeting Attendees—With CASH

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Mon Nov 17 2014

Engage Virtual Meeting Attendees—With CASH
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In traditional, co-located meetings we often incentivize people to participate. We supply donuts or the fancy coffee from that quaint cafe down the street. We make sure a high-profile leader attends the meeting. We send out a review email to everyone as a reminder of who did what.

A virtual meeting lacks many of those incentives. So how do we get people to attend and participate in our virtual meetings? A good rule of thumb is CASH. No, you shouldn’t have to pay people to attend your virtual meetings, but by using these four suggestions you can make your meetings more productive.

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Consider who you invite. Not everyone should be invited to your meeting. If you want an engaged, useful, and progressive meeting, you have to have attendees that are invested in the meeting topic. If someone is on the conference call or online meeting as an ancillary participant, they don’t have a reason to participate. Then, the people who should be participating may be less inclined to thinking, “There are 12 other people on this call and they haven’t spoken up. I guess I shouldn’t either.”

Accountability for all. For routine staff meetings, invest some time talking about what being an active participant means for the group. I’ve seen groups create a list of rules, including “be on time,” “no multi-tasking,” and “everyone has to speak once.” Then, encourage participants to hold each other accountable.

Standardize the meeting with an agenda. Every meeting needs an agenda sent out to all participants prior to the meeting. The agenda will outline the purpose of the meeting, and will give participants an opportunity to prepare their thoughts. Prepared meeting attendees participate more.

Help staff manage distractions. When is the last time you were at an in-person  meeting where someone wasn’t multitasking? The same distractions are present for virtual meeting attendees, minus the accountability of someone watching what you are doing. Give staff permission to turn off their email notifications for the duration of the meeting. Set a clear expectation for complete focus. For a brainstorming meeting, encourage an open internet browser to help generate new ideas. Be flexible while modeling the behavior you want to see from your participants.

Virtual meetings can be even more productive than a traditional meeting. An adept meeting facilitator, carefully chosen participants, and an investment in the topic can turn a meeting overridden by distractions into a meaningful use of time and energy.

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For more tips, join me for the Essentials of Managing Remote Workforces Certificate program, starting online December 2, 2014.

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