Conference Call Solutions To Improve Your Next Virtual Meeting
Last week I wrote about the webinar I recently ran on conference call solutions, How to Effectively Lead Virtual Team Meetings. Of course we are fortunate to live in an age where technology makes alternative work arrangements possible. But with the challenges inherent in working virtually, we need conference call etiquette practices and procedures which maximize the upside and minimize the downside.
I received many questions from my webinar audience around effective conference call solutions, and this blog post is the second (of four) that covers selected questions from participants about how to run successful virtual meetings.
Question #2: Drawing in Silent Participants During Virtual Team Meetings
“My team just started working together about 4 weeks ago. Comfort level with technology is limited by some, so getting up to speed can be distracting as we are building norms. One of my issues is participant engagement–how do I engage quiet team members who tend to stay in the background and passively witness the conversation?”
Answer: It’s easy for team members to stay in the background and stay ‘silent’ during conference calls. These ‘Silent Riders’ may not contribute during conference calls¸ although they may fulfill their responsibilities and be key contributors on your team. These colleagues may need an extra push to join a discussion.
To encourage quiet team members to speak up, try several approaches. You can ask questions that directly relate to that individual’s expertise, and specifically ask his/her opinion about the subject. If s/he is still reluctant to communicate, break down your questions to allow a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response and then work with him/her to elaborate on the topic. Another approach is to do a round-robin at an appropriate part of the conference, where each participant voices an opinion. If someone is particularly unwilling to speak, work one-on-one before the next meeting about proper conference call etiquette to increase his/her comfort level going forward.
Also, keep in mind that new team members who are Silent Riders may need an extra nudge. It’s up to you to spend time with a new staff member to encourage him/her to contribute during meetings, and to privately address any issue that may keep him/her from doing so. Consider the kinds of questions that new team members participating in their first call might have. For example:
• Were important points about the topic made on prior calls? (In other words, what is the history of an ongoing conversation?)
• What is this call supposed to accomplish?
• Who is responsible for specific agenda items and who is knowledgeable about key issues?
• Do I know what our team’s specific acronyms and shorthand mean?
Keep the saying, ‘None of us is as smart as all of us’, in front of you as a reminder that the results of encouraging more reticent team members are worth the extra effort.
In addition, you cannot assume that everyone on the call has all the relevant information about a project or deliverable, since the team is a fluid entity, with members leaving and arriving due to the scheduling needs of other projects and commitments. If you want your meetings to be as impactful as possible, prepare beforehand so that your team will appreciate your attention to their needs.
Conference calls are indispensable for moving complex projects along and getting deliverables out the door. It is up to you to create the context for effective meetings that participants value and enjoy contributing to.
Please comment and share your best practices for conference call solutions and drawing Silent Riders into the game.
A Manager’s Guide to Virtual Teams, pp 77-79.