Online collaboration saves time and the additional costs that may be incurred including travel and accommodation, venue hire and more. This said some costs need consideration including the equipment that the team have. It is essential that they have modern computers or handsets with quality microphones, cameras and video display capabilities. Biometric access control may be warranted. Adequate bandwidth is an overriding enabler. If the quality of sound and video is bad, the tone and focus of the meeting shifts to a focus on connectivity instead of on the meeting content. The hardware or handset devices need to be user-friendly. Attendees need to be familiar with their tablets, phones, earphones, microphones, etc. The best is to keep it simple while ensuring that it works. Fortunately, most people already have all this rolled up into their phones.
The trick to online meeting success is the ability to sustain the camaraderie that is key to teamwork. BlackBerries took the world by storm with instant messaging. Facebook taught the world to be who they are. Video conferencing gave new meaning to face to face meetings. Screen sharing opened the door to virtual meetings. At the core of leadership and teamwork, in this new technology-enabled environment, is the need to be economically competitive, while maintaining relationships with colleagues and customers alike. We meet to seek solutions as the knowledge of the group is critical to the success of action plans.
Attendees need to log-in or phone in to establish their connection before the meeting starts so that at the "Go Live" time the meeting can proceed with knowing who is online and who is not. Connectivity issues should be addressed before the meeting and if they are not they should be attended to by way of private messages or calls to support staff.
The availability and structured use of a virtual meeting room pre and post meeting is an innovation that can be geared to unlock significant synergy and benefits.
Having a Meeting Administrator keep the meeting to a timed agenda schedule will keep the meeting focussed. In roundtable meetings much can be explained over a cup of tea or lunch but this off the record interface is not available which supports a policy of holding shorter meetings with a strict focus on a shared agenda. Out of scope matters need to be parked for later discussion or inclusion on agendas for sub-committees or for future meetings.
Many meetings have apologies from attendees who cannot make it. Recording the meeting and having an audio word search capability will allow those that could not attend to catch up. The minutes may give the decisions however reviewing the discussion on some topics may be essential to an understanding of how and why the meeting decided as they did.
There will be times when delegates do not have bandwidth, but they have sufficient signal for a telephone call. Having dial-in conferencing is essential to meet these needs.
When time is limited and when groups are large, not everyone can have their say, and at moments like this, the use of online opinion polling increases efficiency and inclusiveness. Committee members can answer questions on all agenda items, and this will give direction to discussions in the limited time available.
While screen sharing is an option it often does not crisply present material. Delegates should consider document/file sharing in the virtual meeting room so that others can open the powerpoint or word,etc., file. Better still would be the inclusion of the documents as flipbooks or blog topics in the meeting packs so that opinion can be considered and so that sharing can be explored before the meeting.
What would you think of a policy that did not allow Powerpoint Presentations and which called for a six page submission on your views on the agenda items before the meeting?
Top of the "time wasters," are not having a mandate and not needing one!
I assisted a large parastatal entity, as a volunteer to help effect a turnaround. Nine monthly, ten-hour workshops later I resigned. There was never an agenda; the attendees never got a mandate to draft an action plan. It was the longest "talk shop" I ever attended.
There was a time when I left the office at midday to check in for a long haul international overnight flight. Arriving the next day, after the flight and a road trip, I was in time for a two-day meeting. Largely, I did not get to voice an opinion. A fax would have saved three days!
These are my top five meeting don'ts.
Some may be tricky to establish but certainly they are essential to an effective meeting: 1. Make sure that there is not another way to attend, such as by way of a video conference call, online meeting, etc. 2. Make sure that you have the mandate to contribute. 3. Make sure that you are prepared and that you have the skills to assist brainstorm a solution on the Agenda topics; you need not attend every meeting of the committee. 4. Make sure that dominant personalities have managed time allocations. Time management is a critical ground rule and more so if the meeting is between partners or Club, NGO, etc. associations. (This can be tricky, but it is essential). 5. Make sure that the meeting chair, facilitator, timekeeper and minute taker are not the same person and that responsibilities are agreed to before the meeting.
Top five ground rules: 1. Be guided by measurable synergies, what's right and not who! 2. Look beyond the numbers to establish to whom a proposal has meaning and purpose. 3. If a change needs explanation, it's not simple and probably not scalable. 4. Challenge convention and think how not no. 5. Dig deep but never get personal.
Top five questions: 1. Is this a regularly scheduled meeting, e.g., a monthly meeting and if so is it necessary? 2. Has the agenda detailed discussion topics plus the objectives for the review and have possible solutions been circulated for research? 3. Do the time allocations allow for debate, decision-making and for drafting an action plan? 4. Has time been allocated for getting the opinions of all attendees? 5. Are critically urgent matters raised at the beginning of the meeting under general and are other non-critical matters referred to a sub-committee or the next meeting.
Top five game changers: 1. Get meeting packs out as soon as possible so as to maximise the time allowed for research and review. 2. Make collaboration a way of life and encourage the committee to start pre-meeting dialogue immediately with a view to reaching pre-meeting consensus. 3. Being strict on scope creep and manage a defined process with ground rules: Call to order; Attendance and quorum verification; Finalise the agenda; Approve pre-circulated minutes; Committee reports and action plan feedback; Discuss carried forward agenda items (discuss decide and draft an action plan); New Agenda Items (discuss, decide and draft an action plan); Adjourn. 4. Circulate minutes and action plans ASAP. 5. Follow-up on action plan feedback. Committees must be responsible for decisions and implementation.