Managing online meetings: remote direction and instruction skills
1 April 2020
Many organizations have been coping lately with the shift to remote work. Emergency instructions have obligated management to quickly shift from managing their team in person in a physical workplace to managing online meetings, usually unprepared and insufficiently equipped.
Furthermore, vital workplaces such as hospitals, educational institutions, and banks struggle with massive and intensive work obligations towards their workers. New tasks have taken the place of the regular emergency tasks. This has required instructing workers precisely and clearly in order for these tasks to be fulfilled correctly. In this tumultuous time, virtual team meetings are critical for any team's conduct as they provide a sense of togetherness and allow workers to share their feelings as well as come up with collective solutions. Morale support and recognizing workers' efforts are ever more vital and may be just what the team needs in order to soldier on.
This article is an attempt to address these challenges during the coronavirus pandemic and assist team leaders or workers using zoom or any other virtual meeting tool. It will hopefully provide them with insights and instructions regarding the "soft" side of managing internet meetings. For example, how do we retain human familiarity when speaking to a screen? How can we generate a sense of togetherness when convening online? And how can we still make use of nonverbal signals to promote the meeting's purpose?
As an organizational consultant and group director I was pleasantly surprised by the many interpersonal skills apparent in remote direction or team meeting. I wish to share some of the knowledge and insight I have gained on the subject.
Setting up a meeting
These days, many people are at home with their families. Chances are that this meeting will be conducted with other people present and hearing. This issue should be disclosed at the beginning of the meeting or even in a preparatory email. It is important to explain that meetings should conducted in optimal settings, devoid of any background noise. Furthermore, many would rather share their needs and difficulties discretely. It is best to recommend participants to adhere to the following guidelines:
Find, if possible, a quiet room in which they alone will sit for the duration of the meeting
Use earphones and microphones rather than the computer's inbuilt audio. Earphones and microphones assist in muffling background noises and focus the participants' attention on what is being said.
Notify the group in case someone else enters the room. This provides all participants with a sense of security and privacy regarding the discussed subject.
Viewing interfaces: personal or collective
Once all members are in attendance, before the actual meeting begins, it is best to ask all participants to make sure their viewing interface is displaying all participants' video feed rather than only the speaker (e.g. Zoom's gallery view).
Note: this viewing option operates optimally using a computer, less so using cellphone. Therefore, participants should be instructed to take part in the meeting via their computer.
This viewing interface's advantages include:
It simulates the participants' sitting around the conference table, familiar to the participants from working in person
Enforces the engagement of those speaking at the moment as they seen at all times
Enables members to recognize situations in which two participants are trying to talk, yet only one member's words are being transmitted
Meeting managers benefit from the gallery setting, as they can identify members have yet to speak or are positioned in a way which makes it difficult to view them. This allows the manager to turn to these participants and allow them to offer their opinion.
Interpersonal skills in online meetings and remote instruction
Online work meeting interfaces differ from sitting in a class or conference room. Nevertheless, paying attention to some issues can enhance the sense of togetherness, a cohesion which enabling the group to advance its objectives:
An online interface does not allow us to see the participants' entire bodies, only their face. Therefore, we cannot see whether they are moving uncomfortably or tapping their foot impatiently. However, the system does allow me to clearly view their facial expressions and other nonverbal behavior. These should be considered, as they may express agreement, disagreement, discomfort, etc.
It is vital to address these issues in form of a gently inquire and not as a statement. For example, you may ask how they feel about what has been said.
Meeting mangers should be aware of participants which have muted their audio system for quite a while. While muting allows muffling background noises in the participants' homes, or its way to express that they sense their voice is not being heard. In these cases, it is best to address the participant directly, not as an instruction or reprimand. We can, for example, say that we have not heard their opinion on the matter and that we value it.
An online meeting interface allows one to see not only everyone else's face, but their own face as well. People become very aware of how they are perceived by others during meetings. This can be addressed and discussed: how do I view myself? What strengths do I recognize when reviewing myself during meetings? Are my interjections useful and significant? For many, this is an opportunity to discuss a subject seldom discussed openly.
In conclusion, I wish to share my optimism regarding managing online meetings, remote instruction, and online direction via online meeting systems. I feel that these meetings are helpful, effective, and most importantly allow the economy to conduct itself despite circumstances.
We at ROM Knowledgeware will gladly offer our assistance by instructing and presenting those interested with further tips on managing online meetings and instruction. Mutual support, making knowledge accessible and cooperation are more vital than ever!