Whether you like it or not, some of the people on your campaign committees won’t get their bodies to meetings. They’ll participate by phone or Skype or some other program.
For some meetings, you will have some people around the table and some conferenced in. But you may actually elect to hold some of your meetings entirely virtually.
Virtual Meetings are the New Normal
Today, more and more people meet virtually. And because it’s more common, people are getting used to it.
In fact, I encourage you to make the most of the new meeting technologies. If you get good at running virtual meetings, you may have more success recruiting great volunteers. Because when they’re at their summer home or on a skiing vacation and you’re in the office, they can still participate!
But don’t make the fatal mistake of assuming that you can run virtual or semi-virtual meetings as though everyone was in the room. If you don’t make important changes to they way you run your meetings, they won’t work very well.
And if your campaign committees are boring and disconnected and uninspired, you’re volunteers won’t even attend virtually!
Why Have Meetings at All?
Meetings are powerfully important for your capital campaign. You can accomplish things at a good meeting that you can’t get done sitting by yourself at your computer.
- Meetings harness the energy of multiple minds around a topic.
- They nudge people to think more expansively and creatively than any one mind is likely to do.
- Moreover, meetings are the key to engaging people around your campaign.
We encourage you to take full advantage of possibilities of meeting in different and disembodied ways. But before you go down that road, here are some tips that will help you make your meetings work well.
Tip 1: Don’t Forget the Essential Ingredients of Every Good Meeting
Good meetings don’t just happen. They’re planned. And just because you are meeting on Skype or a conference call, the basics of good meetings still apply:
- Think through the purpose, outcome and process of a meeting in advance.
- Invite the right people and no one else.
- Set an agenda that uses your meeting time for discussion, not reporting.
- Plan to end the meeting with clear outcomes and follow through plans.
- Limit the meeting time to no more than 90 minutes.
- Start on time (whether or not everyone is there) and end a few minutes early.
Tip 2: Virtual Meetings Require Iron Fist Facilitation
The biggest challenge of virtual meetings is that people can’t tell when it’s their turn to speak. Even with video, it’s hard to tell when it’s your turn and when someone has finished talking. So again and again, people speak at the same time.
Appoint a facilitator to function as traffic cop, spelling out the rules of engagement and calling on people when it’s their turn. Because people can’t see body cues or the interactions between participants, the facilitator in a virtual meeting plays a much more forceful role, both making sure that people don’t talk over one another, but also making sure that everyone has a chance to speak.
Tip 3: Observe Special Tips for Combined In-Person/Virtual Meetings
Many meetings today have both people at the table and people on the phone. Unfortunately, the telephone participants often forget they are a presence in the meeting, and the people in the room forget the phone people are there at all.
Two simple strategies will help in mixed meetings.
1. Discuss participation with virtual attendees in advance.
Contact those who will be present through the phone beforehand to discuss how they will participate. Warn them explicitly about background noise and not putting the call line on hold. And let them know that they will be called on to participate.
2. Assign a monitor for virtual attendees.
Assign someone in the room to take care of those on the phone, making sure they get called on and acknowledged throughout the meeting.
Tip 4: Use Tech to its Fullest, and Prepare for Problems
If you’ve been in a virtual meeting, you’ve probably witnessed or experienced tech problems. Connections fail, audio crackles, people can’t figure out their systems, and shared documents are unreadable. These are common problems
To avoid and combat these challenges, try these simple solutions:
- If it’s the first meeting using the platform, schedule a tech check 30 minutes or more before the meeting.
- Be aware that different people may have widely different internet speeds. If that’s likely, don’t use video. It’s not necessary — the phone will work just fine.
- Good audio is essential. Ask people to use landline telephones rather than their computer mics, cell phones or wireless. That alleviates a host of problems.
- Take full advantage of some of the features of your platform like real-time note taking and new apps like NoteApp. But practice with them beforehand so you know how to use them seamlessly.
Tip 5: Keep Participants Focused and Engaged During the Meeting
One of the biggest challenges of virtual meetings is that people don’t pay attention. They listen with half an ear while they scroll through their email.
Here are some simple things you can do to keep people’s attention:
- Start the meeting by asking people to remove distractions. Be clear and specific. You might even make a no-multi-tasking rule for the meeting.
- Don’t use more than 10-12 minutes for presentations and encourage people to write their thoughts and comments in the chat box.
- Assign people roles. You might have a moderator, facilitator, note-taker, and time keeper.
- Unmute everyone during the discussion.
- Have the facilitator both respond to the chat box and call on everyone, not just the people who speak up.
Grasp Virtual Opportunities for Your Campaign
Often when new technologies are developed, people resist and complain and hesitate to use them. But months or even years later, everyone comes around. And that’s what happening with virtual meetings. So rather than seeing them as a burden, rather than thinking of the people who attend meetings virtually as less present, do everything possible to make these new ways of meetings work.
- Become a great facilitator.
- Have the courage to ask explicitly that people give their full attention in a virtual meeting.
- Design your meetings so that everyone participates.
- Get good at the tech of virtual meetings, or work with someone who is.
Instead of thinking of virtual meetings as second-best, think of them as amazing opportunities to engage people in your campaign who can’t always be there in person. You may find that your options and possibilities will flower.Virtual Meetings are the New Normal. Grasp the Opportunity! Click To Tweet