• Pam Stoik

Here's How to Create a Better Virtual Meeting...


"So what are we doing then?" That is the question often asked at the end of a meeting that drives me bonkers! 😫

Most would agree: meetings, in general, suck.


Too many circular discussions, too few decisions. And if you thought you’re doing more of them, you’d be right—approximately 13 per cent more of them in 2020.


But it doesn’t have to be that way.


Most organizations could benefit from reducing the number of meetings they hold by 30-50 per cent. BUT…then use this time to PLAN for laser-focused 🎯, action-oriented kick-ass meetings—even virtually (and by that I mean ESPECIALLY virtually).

It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with #designthinking and why I incorporate MURAL boards into nearly any virtual meeting I'm leading these days. Of course, there are other options out there including Miro, Stormboard and even less fancy whiteboards on Zoom or Teams. I just happen to use Mural at the moment for the extra tools, and gazillion customizable templates on the platform.


At my last organization, I had to survey people who had participated in these design-thinking based meetings (all conducted on MURAL with various customizations for the task at hand). And you know what? 96 per cent of respondents said these sessions “produced meaningful outcomes.” 😃


As much as I’d like to say it was my masterful leadership skills that accounted for this, it wasn’t. It was all about creating an appropriate STRUCTURE.


Why do I think using a visual tool is so effective? A couple of reasons…


1) Preparation: Using a visual board prompts you to go beyond a generic agenda and forces you to think 🤔more deeply about the goals of the meeting. What are you hoping to accomplish? What feedback do you require? It also compels you to plan in advance which always makes for a better meeting experience.


2) Active vs. passive: How many of us have sat through a meeting that really could have been an email with an attachment? If you want to create a meaningful meeting, you need to ENGAGE people. Instead of “broadcast”-type meetings where information is passively received try designing an “insight-based” meeting. I find asking for SPECIFICs (e.g., “Based on the information I’ve just presented what should be our top priority moving forward?” Or “What are 2-3 things we could do to improve XYZ and why?”) versus the vague and undirected….”so, is there any feedback?” helping in generating meaningful and appropriate discussion.


3) Feedback can be captured in a “together alone” brainstorm (meaning everyone is writing down their thoughts at the same time) and quickly read back to the team. This can help your team steer away from group think or pandering to the highest-ranking person in the room. EVERYONE is expected to contribute and, as a meeting lead, you can go through the thoughts at a faster pace, setting aside an allotted time for clarification/discussion (versus having one verbose person “overshare” their feedback while everyone else checks their LinkedIn feed).


Many of the more sophisticated tools also offer anonymous voting options to help the team land on decisions quickly and without fear of offending anyone, or making your boss look bad. At the very least voting tools can provide a quick #heatmap about where your team is at on a certain issue or subject that can help you determine next steps (or uncover there is still work to be done to get people on the same page).


4) Information processing prompts: It’s no secret that different people process information differently. While some people are great with auditory learning, others tend to gap out when there is only talking and little/no visuals. A virtual whiteboard provides additional cues to visual learners and, I’d argue, helps most people stay on task.


5) A clear record of the meeting: Minutes are soooo much easier when the work is all laid out on a white board. Plus, the flow of the meeting is captured, ideas can be sorted and grouped together, and action items are laid out at the end of the meeting for the participants to see.


6) A sense of accomplishment !!! 🥂 You’ve gone through the contents of your meeting. You’ve stuck tightly to timing. People have shared their insights, feedback and ideas. An action plan has been created. And all of it is there for everyone to see. A bad meeting (dry, disorganized, circular and with disengaged people) is like nails on a chalkboard for most people. But a good meeting? It’s a symphony with a dynamic and harmonious crescendo at the finale. 🎵 🎵 🎵Nothing rallies a team better than a meeting where people feel they’ve actually ACHIEVED something with their time and effort.


Are there technical challenges with using a virtual whiteboard and a “fear factor” 😨to overcome as a meeting leader and participant?


Sure.


It’s why I’d always recommend having a “tech savvy” sidekick 🤓.


But these are small learning curves that are easily overcome with some practice and support and I can assure you, in the end it’s totally worth doing for your team’s engagement and success!


Are you interested in learning more about how you and your staff can develop more meaningful and productive meetings using design thinking? Feel free to connect to set up a free, no obligation (I really am NOT a salesperson lol) 30-minute conversation.





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