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Virtual Meetings: Fighting Fire With Fire Doesn’t Work

Monday, November 24, 2014
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Here are some statistics about virtual meetings (also known as webmeetings) that I love to share with people:

  • Eighty-seven (87) percent of managers say that online meeting tools like WebEx, Lync, and others are mission-critical.
  • Only 10 percent of managers say that they’re competent and confident using those tools.
  • Eighty (80) percent of online presenters use fewer than 25 percent of the interactive features available in webmeeting platforms.
  • Two-thirds of online meeting time is considered wasted.

Okay, so we have something that is really important to the way we work today, but we do it really badly. Obviously, then, the answer is training. Right?

  • Curently, WebEx and other providers say that more than 80 percent of users present for the first time with innocent victims on the other end. They receive no training or coaching before being expected to use the tools in meetings, presentations, or webinars.
  • Some 90 of companies that offer training offer links to online tutorials or videos to help people develop those skills.
  • Fewer than 10 percent of licensed users take advantage of online/on-demand/ video training.

There is training available, at least in some fashion, but people don’t seem to be taking advantage of it. So what does that mean to those of us who are responsible for building the skills and technology literacy of our people?
Well, if we’re supposed to do something that too few people are doing well, and there’s lots of training in one mode available but people are unwilling to access it, then we can probably make some assumptions. Either the training is ineffective or people aren’t much interested in learning that way.

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Actually, it’s a bit of both. It’s not that there isn’t some terrific on-demand resources out there. There is a paradox, though. If the challenge is that people are uncomfortable and inexperienced using technology, the solution to the problem is probably not more technology! Fighting fire with fire doesn’t much help in this instance.

In fact, getting people to adopt technology hasn’t changed in hundreds of years. If we make the assumption that people are self-directed, willing to learn useful skills, and capable of change, then the way to introduce new work tools looks like this:

  • Are people in agreement that the tool will be helpful?
  • Have they seen it used and modeled effectively?
  • Are they getting information and training to use it well?
  • Are they getting practice and feedback on their performance?
  • Are they being rewarded incented to use the tool back on the job?

Let’s take the first point. If you’re rolling out webmeeting tools, people need to see the tools used well—in the context of their work. If they’ve only participated in one-way virtual presentations or meetings with minimal interaction, how are they to know their real value as collaboration tools?
Most human beings need to be shown how the tools work in their real-world work environment. They need to get their hands on it, ask lots of questions, and have a chance to practice in a safe environment. If the first time someone conducts a webinar is when there’s a high-stakes client on the line, or their boss is watching, or they might look foolish, what are the odds someone’s going to make the effort to use the tools?

If the online resources aren’t being used, maybe you need to find other learning modalities like live virtual instructor-led training (VILT) or individual coaching. How is your organization helping develop, not just the technical skills, but the capability to use technology as part of everyone’s daily work? 

About the Author

Wayne Turmel is a writer, speaker and the president of GreatWebMeetings.com, which teaches companies and their people to sell, present, train and lead people using online and virtual presentation and meeting tools.

He's the author of several books, including his newest, Meet Like You Mean It, a Leader's Guide to Painless and Productive Virtual Meetings.

He has spoken internationally on virtual and online team and communication skills, and is a frequent speaker at ASTD?ATD events.

He lives in suburban Chicago.

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