Online Meetings Made Easy
Finding time to meet can be a struggle, especially if there is a important distance between both parties. Conference calls are a possible solution, but so much is missed without any visual interaction. That’s why video-conferencing can be a great solution. Recently I facilitated a Skype session with a board, and although doing a facilitation with this technology presents some very different dynamics than a regular confront-to-confront meeting or a conference call, in the end, both the board and I were very pleased with how well it went.
Some improvement preparation for the meeting ensured that it would go as seamlessly as possible. We both connected from rooms that were wired for internet service, and the board’s room had a large wall-mounted screen, a wide-angle camera, and good speakers. I connected from my notebook computer using a webcam and the internal microphone. A few days prior to the meeting, their technology expert and I connected on Skype and made the necessary adjustments to the quantity, connection, and placement of the equipment. The day of the meeting we met about twenty minutes before it started, and were able to adjust where some of the board members were seated so I could see them all on my screen.
Some of the dynamics I observed during the virtual meeting were:
– I wanted to call participants by name when I was seeking their input, so I asked them to have large print name tents. Unfortunately, I could only read those closest to the camera. Solution? As everyone introduced themselves, I wrote down their names on a quick map of the room. (This, of course, was only helpful until I had them change seats to work with other small group partners…!)
– Microphones are another thing to think about. There were several instances where I had to ask people to repeat themselves, as the mic did not pick up voices in some areas of the boardroom very well. I also had to keep my distance from my microphone because when I leaned too close my voice did not come across clearly in the boardroom.
– When I stated activities to pairs or threes, the video satisfy was very helpful. I went around the board room telling each person their group number and then I indicated where I wished each group to meet. When I could see that everyone was located in their new groups, I stated them their task. Then I was able to keep an eye on all the board members as they engaged in the task with their group members.
I received very positive feedback from all the board members. They (and I) found it much superior to an audio-teleconference. We started to develop relationships. From their body language I had a feel for when they were done each assignment. They could focus on my picture when I was talking instead of their mind wandering when they looked into space. Everyone agreed that although being physically present is the best, the experience of meeting virtually using video far surpassed that of doing an audio-only teleconference. Video-conferencing technology enabled quality interaction with a moderate budget.
Skype and other similar applications for video-conferencing can be an ideal solution for long-distance facilitation. With the proper preparation beforehand and a flexible attitude during the meeting, you too can have great success.