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What It Takes to Run a Great Virtual Meeting

As companies scramble to protect employees from the spreading coronavirus with travel restrictions and remote work arrangements, there’s a distinct possibility that in-person meetings with teams, customers, or suppliers may be canceled for days — or potentially weeks.

Under the best of circumstances, as soon as one or two attendees “dial in” to any meeting, productivity starts to suffer.  There’s a long list of reasons. Attendees often interpret virtual meetings as a license to multi-task. Meeting organizers tend to be less careful with the purpose and design of the conversation. And it’s not uncommon for one or two attendees to dominate the discussion while others sit back and “tune out.”

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Virtual meetings — even impromptu ones sparked by fears of a contagion — can be run more effectively, using basic meeting best practices and easy-to-use, inexpensive technology.

Here are 12 steps you can take to make that happen:

  1. Use video. To make people feel like they’re all at the “same” meeting, use video conferencing rather than traditional conference dial-ins. Technology — such as Zoom, Skype, and GoToMeeting — helps to personalize the conversation and to keep participants engaged.
  2. That said, always provide an audio dial-in option. Video conferencing can work very well, but it relies on a strong internet connection that may not always be available. People need the ability to participate via audio, but make it clear that video-first is the new norm.
  3. Test the technology ahead of time. Nothing kills momentum at the start of a meeting like a 15-minute delay because people need to download software, can’t get the video to work, etc. Prior to a virtual meeting, all participants should test the technology and make sure they are comfortable with the major features. And remember, supplier or customer conversations may require your team to familiarize themselves with different software packages.
  4. Make sure faces are visible. Video conferences are more effective when people can see each other’s facial expressions and body language. Ask individuals to sit close to their webcam to help to recreate the intimacy of an in-person meeting.
  5. Stick to meeting basics. Prior to the conversation, set clear objectives, and send a pre-read if appropriate. During the session, use an agenda, set meeting ground rules, take breaks, and clearly outline next steps (including timing and accountabilities) after each section and at the end of the meeting.
  6. Minimize presentation length. The only thing worse than a long presentation in person is a long presentation during a virtual meeting. Meetings should be discussions. Background information should be provided beforehand. If someone needs to present, use screen sharing to guide the conversation, so attendees can literally “be on the same page.” But prioritize conversation to maximize the time people are looking at each other.
  7. Use an icebreaker. Although we’re not big fans of them, it’s important to use every tool to reinforce interpersonal relationships when people may be feeling isolated. Also, it’s important to know if a participant may have a close friend or relative fighting the virus, so some type of “check in” is in order.
  8. Assign a facilitator. It’s usually harder to manage a virtual discussion than an in-person one. It can be helpful to assign one individual to guide the conversation, allowing the other participants to focus on the content. The facilitator can also use a polling system to “take the pulse” of the group on certain questions and ensure that all voices are heard. The facilitator should also be able to resolve basic questions on the technology being used.
  9. Call on people. Getting everyone to participate without talking over each other is one of the more challenging aspects of running a virtual meeting. To forestall this, we recommend periodically calling on individuals to speak, even by virtually “going around the table” before a decision is finalized. Some software packages even allow attendees to “raise a hand” if they want to. This can help the facilitator drive closure without the risk of excluding an introverted participant’s views.
  10. Capture real-time feedback. Gathering and processing high-quality input during a virtual meeting can be challenging, especially since visual cues are harder to read. Use a phone-based survey tool like Poll Everywhere to collect on-demand feedback from attendees on specific topics in real time. Keep the polling open, separate from the videoconference to avoid disrupting the conversation. Participants will need clear instructions on how to use the system and practices, but groups get the hang of it very quickly and it’s well worth the effort.
  11. Don’t be afraid to tackle tough issues. Meeting virtually is a learned behavior, and you’ll be amazed how much you can get out of it once you and your team begin to be comfortable working this way. It may seem natural to wait to discuss tough issues until everyone is in person, but that may not be an option. So don’t shy away from controversial topics.
  12. Practice once or twice while you’re still together. Hold your next staff meeting virtually, with each executive sitting in their office and hooking into the meeting with no assistance. After the meeting concludes, gather and debrief about the experience. What went well, and what didn’t? How can you evolve your virtual meetings to make them as productive as when you meet in person?

Not being able to work together in the same room with colleagues may become a major challenge in the next few weeks. To make virtual meetings work, you might need to adjust how your team conducts them.  But a small investment in preparedness now could have a huge impact if that time comes.

By Bob Frisch and Cary Greene, March 05, 2020

Source: https://hbr.org/2020/03/what-it-takes-to-run-a-great-virtual meeting?utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=hbr&utm_source=twitter&tpcc=orgsocial_edit

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5 Small Habits All Leaders Should Do to Grow Their Business

Growing a business takes continual commitment.
Tiffany Pham
ENTREPRENEUR LEADERSHIP NETWORK CONTRIBUTOR
CEO of Mogul
March 8, 2021 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

While working in the media industry, I taught myself how to code to build a platform that connects women and minorities to professional opportunities. I worked at my day job and then coded at night — night after night, week after week, month after month. The commitment to my purpose became a habit, which then provided the momentum to scale my company, Mogul, to what it is today.

I believe that what makes certain businesses struggle and others thrive is the difference between the daily commitments and small habits that leaders create in order to help others move toward their greatest potential. Here are five daily habits that will help your business thrive.

Commit to listening

Listening is a superpower. I can’t stress enough how important it is to develop your active listening abilities, especially when you lead a team of individuals. Everybody on your team is unique, and their communication preferences are as well. Some people like to be cheered on with positive affirmations. Others prefer straight talk and getting right down to the point.

As leaders, part of our job is to listen and learn how our team members communicate, and to adapt our communication style to match theirs (more on communication below). It’s our responsibility to listen, uncover what makes each individual tick and elevate their passion that empowers them to produce inspired work.

Commit to communication

The way we speak to our team matters. Especially because you’re in a position of influence, your words hold more weight than others. Any sign of talking down to a team member can ultimately erode a working relationship — and it can happen fast. When providing feedback, it’s important always to be mindful of your messaging.

My suggestion is to first aim to validate. For example, we once had a situation where our team continued pushing back the delivery date for a project, so I decided to step in and provide support. Instead of just expressing frustration, I made sure to share what I did like and precisely why. I then offered my notes for edits and focused on framing everything in the positive. Our primary goal with the way we communicate is to lift our team, help them grow in their role and support their career advancement.

Commit to learning

Taking time to deepen your expertise should be a mandatory practice. Information is ubiquitous, and it’s never been easier to further our education and develop a deeper understanding of our field. I’m continually reading about current events, industry trends, following other peers and thought-leaders and finding ways to continue uncovering strategies that help me be a better leader.

Like many of us, I wish there were more hours in the day, so I schedule time once or twice a week specifically for learning and upskilling. If something doesn’t get on my calendar it doesn’t exist. I give myself a certain topic to focus on throughout the week, and I dedicate the scheduled time to focused learning.

 

Commit to systems

Now more than ever, speed wins. And the essential way to be more effective with your decision-making ability as a leader is to create flexible systems. The more you tangibly understand the mechanisms that make your business run, the better it allows you to iterate on your systems. From how you hire, share internal communication and deploy external messaging, to how you structure your entire organization, nearly everything within your business should be put to a system and continually optimized.

By having a process in place, you can better track and locate inefficiencies. Systems can empower you to think long-term more effectively because they stack on top of each other, which will then enable you to make more informed decisions. The best leaders I’ve known are the ones who continually commit to creating more efficient systems.

Commit to yourself

You can’t lead a team of people and grow a business if you don’t care for yourself. Forgive me for what may seem like stereotypical advice, but we all need to make sure we’re doing the foundational things well. Find your optimal amount of sleep, eat breakfast in the morning, mind your posture at your desk throughout the day and take breaks for your physical and mental health. As often as I can, I stop scheduling meetings at a certain time of the day to help me end the workday at a reasonable hour and stave off burnout.

The best way I’ve found to keep my mental and physical health at the forefront of my mind is to schedule my day as detailed as possible. I even plan my short breaks to stretch or take a walk. I periodically put 20-minute breaks in my calendar and use them to unplug from work-life and reconnect with real life.

The little commitments matter, and the habits will compound over time. If you want to be an effective leader, it starts with leading yourself. So take care of yourself and live to work another day.

Source: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/365862