How to easily set the stage for more successful meetings

Bob: “I’m back, Wendy. Want to continue?”

Me (Wendy): “Sure!”

Bob: “Let’s tackle what we have to do during the meeting. Any meeting has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end, like any good movie. We need to be intentional about what we do in each of these sections. Things have to be crisp and clear in each of these areas.”

Me: “Right. How about we give space for people to get in the right frame of mind as they arrive? While we wait for potential stragglers, let’s give people 10 minutes at the start to see each other’s contribution and digest everyone’s asynchronous input?”

Bob: “Yes, that gives people time to align themselves. If people come late and they don’t have time to read, that’s their fault. We can’t waste everyone’s time waiting for people.”

Me: “Oh, I hate that when we do nothing while waiting for everybody to join. Let’s do this as a way to build new meeting norms for ourselves as part of the training. I also think we need to set a rule since I don’t know if everyone will be remote. So, as long as 1 person is remote, we all log into Zoom individually. That way, remote people can have an equal chance to participate.”

Bob: “Good point. Remote folks shouldn’t be treated like second-class citizens. Also, as facilitators and trainers, we need to keep in mind that everyone needs to be able to interact and participate, whether their videos are on or off.”

Me: “Yes, we need to ensure everyone can participate. We need to highlight the various modes of engaging with people – visual, aural, read/write, kinesthetic (VARK). it’s always good to have multiple modes since everyone interacts and processes information differently. We don’t want some people to dominate and others disengaged.”

Bob: “Agree. Most facilitators and meeting hosts assume that their mode is THE mode and want everyone to comply with their preference. How many times have you heard something like, “It would be good to turn on your video. It’ll help everyone’s engagement. But for whatever reason you cannot, that’s fine.” They think that as long as they say “for whatever reason you cannot, that’s fine” is ok – it’s really not. They have already announced their preference, which signals other participants that they have to “go out of their way” to accommodate those who are non-compliant. That’s not a good way to motivate people to engage.” 

Me: “I completely agree! Facilitators and meeting hosts need to upskill and go out of their comfort zone. It’s not about them. It’s about the outcome the meeting is supposed to achieve. It’s about the people in the meeting. We should also say that they don’t need to mention “camera on or off” at all because that would make it an issue – which it should not. As long as the meeting utilizes as many modes as possible, people will be able to participate and they will engage.”

Read Wendy’s entire story here

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