Will Bachman 00:01
Hey, welcome to Unleashed. I’m your host Will Bachman Unleashed is the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. And I’m Rick and Unleashed is produced by Umbrex, the world’s first global community connecting top tier independent management consultants with one another recording here today on Sunday, March 15. And in the interest of time, we’re going to I’m just going to self edit this one instead of sending it to Dave, our audio engineer, because we have a topic that is important to get out there quickly. on the phone with me, I have Susan drum, who you may have last heard on episode 65, of this show, where we talked about how to facilitate a high impact off site. And Susan, who’s an Umbrex member, and a BCG alum, and has had a fascinating career, currently runs her own firm is going to talk to us about how to facilitate and run a highly effective video conference meeting. So with that, Susan, tell me a little bit about what you what we want to cover today.
Yeah, I think given Thank you, first of all, it’s great to connect with you again, and happy to get this important information out for people, given the challenges that we’re facing and how there’s so many people now working remotely, what I’ve noticed is a lot of leaders, not really sure how to run effective virtual meetings. And since my own team is virtual, and I’ve been facilitating leadership development programs virtually as well as in person for years, I’ve developed an understanding of what works and what doesn’t, and what happens to people on virtual meetings and what to do to avoid. So wanted to share that information today.
Will Bachman 01:55
And great, and I think you have an article coming out, I believe on tomorrow, right? On Monday, the 16th. on this topic, where can people find the print version of the article online?
Yes, you just go to my website. So it’s marriage has leadership.com, that’s n e r i t, a G leadership.com. Slash blog. And the article is called an incredibly effective virtual meetings, 10 tips to plan and run them.
Will Bachman 02:30
Fantastic. So can we start with this Susan? Like, what is different from a in person meeting? And a virtual video conference? And and when we talking about this, are you? Are we talking mainly about the one on one meetings? Or are you really are we talking today more about larger meetings, we’re about three, three plus attendees.
really talking about larger meetings and and part of the the chips that we’re talking about is the larger the meeting, virtually the more easy it is for people to check out and multitask and do other things and really not pay attention to what’s going on. So one of our key question is how do you keep the same level of engagement that you would normally have in an in person meeting when you have a larger now if it’s if it’s small, and some of these tips are great for any meeting, even if it’s between two people, but you’re more likely to have engagement when it’s two people going back and forth? Then this feeling that you can kind of hide out on a virtual meeting and be a little bit less engaged?
Will Bachman 03:36
Yeah, and and I’ll say two things about that. So with I’d say, if there’s four or fewer people, maybe five, it’s it’s kind of straightforward. Now with Umbrex. We have a virtual team. We have a staff meeting once a week, where four of us get on on a zoom video conference. And it’s it’s not that much different than being around a meeting table. And you know, you can see everybody share your screens and so forth. No one checks out. You’re everybody’s looking at the screen. It’s kind of straightforward. Obviously, one on one meetings even easier. I mean, I love one on one zoom video conference. You’re so engaged, you’re seeing the person’s expression. On Friday, we held an Umbrex Town Hall on you know, the implications of the Coronavirus for Umbrex members and how are we helping our clients and what are we doing about our practice we have about 50 people attending I had not really coordinated or facilitated a large meeting like that before and it was a very different beast. It’s it’s just hard because unlike the big room where you can scan the room and see what people are are doing a few people are in the video a few people are on phone. It’s it’s difficult to kind of easily ask for a show of hands it’s it’s difficult to kind of have people speak up. So it’s it’s very boring if you just kind of go one person by one person. It’s okay everybody say your piece. So even if it’s 30 seconds, that’s gonna take half an hour. So it’s just a bit more complex thing. So I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts. And I also have a couple ideas to share. But but so to talk a little bit about, you know, kind of some of the ideas from your pace was Walk walk us through your points.
Yeah, so, so most of the time, so a town hall that when it’s very large, that’s another beast. So we’ll talk, we’ll talk about some of the things that you have to pay attention to, I’m going to primarily focus on most of the types of meetings that are a little bit larger, even I would say anything above four people, three or four people, it gets important, a little bit more difficult to manage. So let’s say like a typical typical size team is about eight, maybe 10 people. So that’s going to be the most common type of virtual meeting that’s occurring out there. And I think one of the most important things to do is to create some connection from the outset and that size meeting. But you could still, some of this we’ll talk about here and there where we could apply it to an even larger meeting. But when time is tight, and you’re separated by screens, it’s it’s tempting just to dive right into the work. But, but the reality is, people are feeling anxiety and and they’re having an emotional response to current events. So my view is to ignore that is to kind of ignore the elephant in the room. And giving people some space to share their current state of mind will create some connection, and also just demonstrates your leader that has heart you care about people. And it’s, there’s a very quick and easy effective way to do that, which you could start instituting a little bit, this phrase called the wet Give me the weather report, which is for hear from each person, a one minute update on how they’re doing and how they’re feeling right now. And it just gets things out on the table. And, and really, you’re there as a leader to to hold space, create some empathy, let people know you care about them as a human being before maybe diving into the very important subject matter that you need to talk to at hand.
Will Bachman 07:16
Okay, helpful. So and like what what? What words? Would you say? Literally, I mean, help me who’s sort of a, maybe not the most emotionally high IQ? Would you say, hey, let’s just go around. And everybody take a minute, like, how are you coping? or How are you dealing? What would you say? And how much time would you give people? Because you also don’t want to spend the first half hour, you know, kind of doing that? Yeah, you you, you
very much says, Hey, you know, given what’s going on, let’s take a minute to connect with one another on how things are going. So one minute from each person, how are you feeling right now? And you could if you’re worried that people are going to go over, you could literally time it, you know, using a timer. And and go through that in that way. Another place you could get people talking from the get go is you could even say what’s one tip, that something that you found that’s helping you during this time, somebody might share meditation practice, I’m going in my chair, I’m learning to cook again, a lot more. But But sharing with each other one tip, and this way, if you can get part of this technique is not only to get everyone’s voice in the room, again, we’re not talking about the town hall size meeting, but get a lot of voices in the room and get practice of sharing before you get into the subject matter. So people feel more comfortable sharing when you actually get into the business topic that you need to talk about, as well as meeting people where they are and they do have an emotional response right now.
Will Bachman 08:52
Okay, thanks. Okay, keep Let’s keep going. So talking about check in, what are some additional tips.
So think about if you’ve got a sense of ground rules, so most teams haven’t done as many virtual meetings as are occurring now. And so you may not have ground rules in place for how to have those meetings. And I think it’s worth a conversation with your team if, obviously, you’re going to be doing a bit more of the virtual meetings, what are those ground rules. And so I’m going to give you a couple ones that I’ve I’ve heard and it has been good with our team to discuss. The first one is default to using video cameras as a standard practice. Meaning just only allow video dial in if there’s an extenuating circumstance. Obviously, if I’m on my way somewhere, I’ve got to go to the doctor whatever. But but really let your team know how important it is for effective communication because so much is lost. When your phone only you can’t read body language and you miss the connectivity and if we’re not connecting in person as much as we might normally We need that video is an important substitute So, so number one is sort of the standard is we connect on video. And if someone doesn’t have a video camera at home, that’s, that’s fairly easy to get now, I mean, and that’s something I would encourage and find out whether or not they can expense that as well and make that a policy. so that everybody can be on video. That would be one of the first ones.
Will Bachman 10:27
Okay. And most, you know, most laptops will have one built in, but if it’s not set up, I mean, we’re talking 20 $25 to order one until they run out, because I mean, probably everybody in the world is gonna be
exactly hazard. Now. Another one is really practicing the art of brevity and talking about how important that is to keep everyone engaged. So I kind of have a two minute share rule, unless you’re giving a longer update, you know, unless you’re going through a presentation or something that you need to, to delve deeper into. So it’s talking about the importance of brevity with your team and trying to keep comments to, to shorter sound bites.
Will Bachman 11:10
Okay. I like maybe one rule would be, hey, let’s all agree that when we’re on this call, we’re not going to be checking email.
Exactly, exactly. So the the being very present with your team members, and I talked about this and reminding everyone that being a supportive team member means being present. And it’s hard to feel supported by your teammate if you’re not paying attention to your presentation, or what you’re talking about. So really staying present in a virtual meeting is how we show we care for others in the moment, because where they are present with them. And these moments of crisis, at the end of the day, showing up contributing the conversation, that’s how teams survive. And so you have to reiterate how important that is.
Will Bachman 12:00
Okay, so be present. Use video can’t use the video. What are some other tips for the ground rules,
I think encouraging your team, to not be shy about asking for clarification on a point. And if you can’t get a word in to use the chat box, if necessary. So there is a chat box on zoom. I’m talking zoom, because I use that. But most most of the all the video conferences have some form of chat box. And I don’t know if you’ve ever been on a meeting where two people are just sort of going at it back and forth, and back and forth. And you might feel like it’s it’s hard to interject or hard to get in. And when we’re in person, you can see the person’s body language a little bit more easily to know that someone else wants to speak. So as a substitute to that use the chat box. And as the facilitator of the meeting just needs to keep their eye on noticing when that’s coming in and addressing that and making sure that people feel more engaged. And that doesn’t just hold off between a conversation with two people. And if it does, perhaps, is it worth taking that conversation offline?
Will Bachman 13:07
Yeah, the chat is actually one way that in some ways video conference is superior to real life. Because if you’re sitting in a meeting with staff meeting with eight people and one person’s talking, it’d be kind of rude to sit there and, you know, like, text them a question or something, right? But but it’s really nice. Actually, if one person is presenting multiple people can be asking their questions or adding commentary, it’s sort of socially acceptable. So the chat feature is a great way to effectively rather than raise your hand, ask a question, it’s put your question in the chat, and then the speaker can see those coming up and respond to them. And maybe another point would be your point about brevity, if you’re giving a longer presentation, you in this setting, you could really think about maybe different from a real life meeting, which is try to not use the session as conveying updates. But all of that, to the extent possible, send it ahead as a read ahead. So that in the meeting, it’s more about, like trying to make a decision or getting people’s quick feedback on something as opposed to giving a long detailed progress review update.
Yeah, absolutely. And I would even take that a step further. I think it’s super important. For let’s say, you need to present, you know, more detailed information to get very clear up front, how do you want your audience to engage? What is a specific question that you almost think about directing their attention in a certain way? and not the generic? I’d like to get your feedback or let me know if you have questions. Like I’m not saying that that that like sort of generality of questions. It could be in my post to give a couple examples, but You know, you know, we’re going to share our approach. And we want to know, we have two ideas, we want to know if there are any others? Or what are the specific potential challenges you see with the path we’re on? And ask whatever question that you want to engage the group on, ask that question upfront, present, and then re ask the question to get engagement. Does that make sense?
Will Bachman 15:26
I think it’s I think it’s, I always say like, otherwise, I could take the conversation anywhere. Otherwise, I’m gonna check out because I don’t know what I’m listening for. And I particularly mentioned over like, tell me what I’m listening for. Tell me how I could be helpful before you dive in. So my listening is oriented to that.
Will Bachman 15:48
Yeah, I mean, I suppose it’s a general meeting principle. But as a part of having effective meeting, it’s even more important, when you’re doing virtual when you still can’t exactly see everybody really great to have a really clear agenda for the meeting for the leader to say, this is what we’re covering, this is what we want to have, when we finish today’s call or video conference, this is what we want to have, you know, in the bag done. So this is the objective. Either we’re trying to make a decision on this, or we’re just trying to update everyone on this, or we’re trying to understand if there’s any roadblocks or we’re trying to problem solve and specific thing, or trying to generate ideas, but really being clear about what is the purpose of the call, as opposed to just we’re just doing a regular staff meeting just because you’re supposed to have a staff meeting.
Yes, exactly. So. So, I mean, this is important for any meeting, but even more as a facilitator of a meeting, you’ve got to get from the outside very clear, on what by the end of the meeting, what will be different. And I always like to put that as a even that phrase, at the end of this meeting, we will have what we will have done one. And to say that upfront, so we would call it a target. So what is the target of the meeting? And even further than once you get that target out from the from the outset, you could check in at the end of the meeting and say, did we accomplish this target? This was the target of the meeting. Did we get there? Do we need a follow up? What does that look like? Well, here’s here’s what portion of the target we accomplished. Right. But in addition, you also mentioned another piece that I think is important to highlight is really describing what what the purpose of the conversation is. So is it sort of have this di s framework? Which is to decide is this? Are we deciding something? Or is it input? That’s the I so D for decide, I for input? Am I gathering input about something to be able to make a decision in the future? Or is it s which is sharing, sharing feedback, I need to let you guys know what, you know, our our headquarters has talked about. So if you if you orient me to this, like that’s the purpose of the conversation, we’re here to decide something or we’re here just to get your get your input and use that for recommendations are we here to to inform you about and share feedback about what you need to know going forward, that can also really help me know how to participate in the meeting.
Will Bachman 18:33
Let’s talk a couple other ideas. You one was using some way to keep people engaged. One tool that I’m familiar with that actually used on Friday, which worked great as a way of engaging multiple people on a call is to do some quick polling. So mentimeter, m e n t i m e t r mentimeter.com is one solution, include a link to that in the show notes, where you can very quickly put together a quick multiple choice poll or open an open ended poll, where if you want to just get a quick pulse of the whole group, rather than saying, Okay, everybody go around and put in the chat what your answer is, or everybody Raise your hands or something, it’s hard to see everybody. You can you can you give people it takes about two minutes to set up one of these polls. And then you can show it on the screen people go to their phone, they type in a code, and they you know, fill in the answer on their phone. And in real time, you can see the results popping up on on your screen. And if you’re sharing your screen, everybody can see the results. So it’s a nice way. You know, if it’s more than four people, you know, if you start and get 810 or 50 you can quickly see how the sense of the room. And I think you have another tool that you used.
Yeah, it’s very similar and that’s super effective for the larger meetings. And people feel that it’s easier. For them to give their input and they stay engaged again, all of these are how do we keep people engaged in this in this particular format, the one I use is pole as p o l l e v. And it’s very similar. I think they’re almost identical. There might be some very small feature differences. But it allows people real time to give their feedback, you see bar charts for, let’s say, if you have a multiple choice question, you can easily see bar charts for how people are, you know, 10, people said, you know, item number one, and four people said item number five. And so I find that helpful. People find it fascinating to see how other people are voting in the moment. And if you can set some of those up, either real time in the meeting, or ahead of time is thinking about ways to engage people, that will also make a big difference.
Will Bachman 20:53
Okay, great. So that’s a tool to consider using. I think I’m at a cut you off earlier. So did you use did your article has 10 points that we want to go through some additional points from from the piece that you’ve been putting together?
Oh, well, one, actually, that’s not in here. So but I’ll get okay. But since we’re on this topic, when we talk about engagement, as I mentioned, before, it had to do training, virtual trainings online, there’s a program that we have called rising stars, which is leadership development for high potentials. And we deliver that virtually. And one of the things we do in the in person trainings that worked so well is breakouts where you work with a partner or work in groups of threes, maybe to work through how to move forward with a challenging conversation. And what we learned is, you can do the same thing on zoom. You can create virtual breakouts where either you randomly assign the breakouts, or you can ahead of the meeting, decide who’s going to talk to who and they literally go away from the main meeting into their own private chat room, they have all the same functionality where people can share their screen and have their discussion. And then you as the meeting facilitator can bring everyone back to the room. You know, after let’s say 15 minutes or whatever amount, a breakout that you’re going to that you’re going to have, you can bring them back for a discussion, which is, is a pretty cool feature to have. And if you want to find out more about how to use that feature, just just go to the search, support and type in breakout rooms, and they have a little video tutorial there about how to use them.
Will Bachman 22:40
Yeah, I did not know how to do that. And that sounds really useful, particularly if you’re facilitating a larger discussion, or more of a town hall, sort of 20 plus people were eight or nine you might still be able to manage But well, if you get to a larger group, that’s fantastic. I’m gonna have to look out look that up how to do that. What are there any other features of zoom that you think maybe not everybody is super familiar, obviously, sharing screens is a is a core piece of it, and what I believe anybody can share their screen, so you can, which is very handy doesn’t have to be just the owner of the call. Any other tips that you find that people might not be familiar with, with zoom. It’s like advanced features.
You know, this is, this is a very minor point. But I, I’ve noticed that people can feel subconscious seeing themselves on video, and seeing themselves talking on video. So it’s a very simple thing that I started practicing, which is to hide yourself so that you don’t see your your self image,
Will Bachman 23:51
I didn’t know you could do that.
You can do that. And it just then you’re less self conscious, you’re just talking, it just feels like a little bit more like regular or regular meeting that way,
Will Bachman 24:03
you know, I that makes me one, I am waiting for someone to invent a screen where it has a little video camera right in the center of the screen. Because it’s, I always find myself like I should be looking at the video camera. So people think that I’m looking at them, but then you someone’s talking, you want to look at their face, but then it looks like you’re looking away from them. So it would be so awesome if you could like whoever is speaking would be in the center of your screen. And then there was a little tiny video camera right in the center of that that you would look like you were looking them in the eye. So please invent that somebody know about hiding yourself. So at least you don’t watch yourself talk, which can be distracting.
I just say yeah, I do think people get distracted by that and and they lose their train of thought. Because they’re, you know, generally we can be judgmental of ourselves. You can be Oh my god. Look how I’m looking. On screen like, this is a slide a lot of people don’t like to be on camera. And here they are on camera, right. So just just take that out of the equation, and you’ll show up much more naturally if you if you don’t if you can hide the self view.
Will Bachman 25:12
Okay. Any other tips for leaders who are planning a video conference?
You know, it’s, I, I always remember the the Socratic method and how effective it was in keeping people engaged, you know, I, I could get a Harvard Law. So back then, it was, it was the how things were done, the professor’s would call on you, and you never knew when you were going to be called out. And, and so it’s just a very simple thing, like, you know, so what are your thoughts on that, Paul? Or, you know, what are your numbers show, Kevin? But knowing that you if this is for the leader, that that you might be called on will increase level of engagement and not have people check out as much.
Will Bachman 26:03
Great. Now, what is effective tool? Yes, people know, they’ve been called a couple others occurred to me. So one is, and I did an episode on this, a few include a link in the show notes, I forget the episode number. But having someone designated to send out a recap, email helps a meeting be more effective, where doesn’t have to be the meeting minutes. So we’re not talking about a verbatim description of everything that happened. But if someone is designated upfront, hey, you’re going to send a recap email. And that is short, it’s, it should say, here are any decisions that were made, and then just list out those decisions. Here are action items that were assigned. So here’s who’s responsible. Here’s the action when it’s due by those are the main things right, so and so here’s the decisions that were made. And here’s the actions that were assigned when they’re due. That’s probably useful for any meeting that you go to particularly an online meeting even more. So. If someone’s doesn’t do that. And it’s easy. If, you know, maybe the leader is going to send it out, but maybe the leader designate someone else to own that, and then certainly makes that person pay more attention and get that out. Right after the meeting. Otherwise, you could have a great discussion, and then you kind of forget about who’s assigned what, and nothing happens.
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that’s great. Also, one of the features that makes the virtual meeting, potentially more effective is that you can record the meeting. So for those who have to be absent, for one reason or another, they can, you know, get the get not only get the written recaps, but they can actually rewatch the move the meeting themselves so that they can’t get caught up.
Will Bachman 27:54
Yes, that is a feature, I suppose it has to be a really powerful and important meeting to kind of make it worthwhile to watch the whole thing. You know, that sort of an option if if you’re doing maybe a training session, where you really want people to, you know, participate and see the whole thing. Another feature that is the leader can do a mute all. So you can mute everybody. There’s often some dogs or children or cars in the background. And rather than just asking people please mute, which could be one of the ground rules, just if you’re going to be on the call, go on mute until it’s your time to talk. leader can mute all. And let’s see any any other things that we that we should mention any other tips that you have.
Yeah, I guess one other thing that I think is important is when we talk again, we go back to Greg, I do think it’s worth having a conversation about if we’re going to be doing more virtual meetings, what are some other ground rules that we want to set as a team, and actually have that conversation as a team? And we’ve already talked about some some topics that you could bring up, you know, default to using video camera, practicing the art of brevity and what that looks like, muting yourself when not speaking to others. You know, use the chat box if necessary, and that we will use that. Another thing is, as a team, how will you handle tangents or derailleurs? You know, someone going off on a tangent and spending a long time how do we handle that? And example, I’d like one team, I worked with Heather co Jester, holding up two fingers like bunny rabbit ears, which meant, I’m just checking in is this on topic for our current meeting, or are we going down a rabbit hole? And so they would laugh about it. I mean, obviously, you gotta have a team who you know, wouldn’t take sense of that that’s a good thing and could be like, Oh, that’s actually important. And we want to be able to encourage that. But But being able to use hand gestures or symbols, is a is an easy way to interject again in in the setting of a virtual meeting to say, Hey, is this on topic? Or should we? Should we bring that to another conversation? You know, that’s something you could talk about with your team.
Will Bachman 30:22
Yeah, or, you know, and maybe having a discussion about making it an acceptable norm, which would be really awkward in real life. But, you know, just for everybody’s benefit, maybe the leader says, Look, this might sound rude in real life. But what I’m going to do is, if you, I find that you’re kind of going on and talking about something that’s like, maybe just should be taken offline, or just as a one on one kind of thing, I’m going to mute you. And I’ll say, A, I’m sorry, I just muted you. Let’s talk about that one offline you can get with so and so to talk about that. Or you and I could talk about that that piece. But let’s just move on right now. And it just kind of take the person’s mic away, almost. And if that’s the kind of an accepted community norm, then it wouldn’t feel so awkward. If you have pre established it.
Yeah, I think you have to definitely pretty stuff.
Will Bachman 31:17
Because in real life, I mean, I’m sorry. But like, in real life, you can no more make physical movements, you can kind of stand up you can, waving at the person, you can kind of say, yeah, yeah, we got it. But it’s harder to do that in the video thing. So you can say, look, in real life, I would start nodding my head at you. But since I can’t do that, I’m just gonna cut you off.
And so that, yeah, ultimately, you could just take the microwave, but you can’t do it, you know, in a person meeting, you got to look at some of the benefits here. I guess I would say, you know, just one last last piece that I want to make sure you get clear is how important it is to know that your presence matters. And during stressful times, connecting more often than you might otherwise is critically important. So I know some leaders that are doubling or tripling the amount of contact that they’re having with their teams, or with clients, or finding ways to send a note checking in on you. Here’s an article I thought you might and people remember that. So, you know, for us as having our own consulting firms. I think it’s also important as we think about our clients, how can we stay more engaged with them during this time, just to let them know that we’re thinking about them, or we’re there are top of mind, even if an encouraging them to connect with their teams on a more regular basis than they might otherwise do?
Will Bachman 32:56
This, isn’t I those are such good points. And I think you’re right, it’s so important in this crazy pandemic that none of us have ever experienced anything like this before, to be, you know, showing how much we care be checking in with folks, remind us again, let’s just say one more time, where can people go to find out more about your work and about your writing?
Yes, so my company is maritime leadership, we do leadership development for senior teams, and high potentials and senior team alignment work as well. And you can find us at MERIT aG leadership.com. And the articles are under the blog tab or slash blog.
Will Bachman 33:49
Susan, thank you so much for joining today. So that’s it for this episode of Unleashed. Again, I obviously do not have the answers, but if you have a suggested topic out there, they’d like to see covered on the show, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any suggested topics that you’d like to see us cover on the show. If you have something to, you know add to this conversation you’d like to be on the show. also send me a note. Again, you can find email@example.com slash Unleashed the show and on all the major podcast apps, which is obviously how you found it. And thank you for listening. Thank you