Many of us spend our days on one call after another. It's almost the default to how works get done. Meet during the day then squeeze "actual" work in before and after hours.
Some of these meetings are fine, some are terrible-- few are actually good and member. I read a stat recently on post-meeting recall. It's something abysmal. Few of us can remember even 20 minutes after a meeting what the main points where and any key decisions made. Actually, maybe I heard the stat in a meeting and now I can't remember. Anyway... Keith Ferrazzi shared this helpful piece on How to Run a Great Virtual Meeting on Harvard Business Review.
Why I love it
It's practical and takes the tried and true advice shared in most articles a step further. He makes an unmissable point about doing anything you can to stop multitasking. This is so important and so difficult to enforce-- even on ourselves. The temptations are too great. I participated in an all-day meeting last week where everyone was in the room but one person who called in from Arizona. There are about 1 million things I'd personally rather do but she was game. She actually sat on her couch all day-- away from her computer-- so that she would force herself to listen and participate. It seemed to work pretty well because she was chiming at appropriate points during the day.
How you might use it
I took some of his points and added a few of my own to create this little printable reminder that you can keep near your desk phone. So, print this.
Then, without telling anyone, just start using these techniques in advance of your next meeting. There are a couple of things that (to me) make the difference between a good and totally awful virtual meeting experience. If you do nothing else, I'd recommend banning the "around the horn" brief-outs. It's an invitation for people to disengage. Prereads and an agenda focused on gathering feedback and brainstorming is the other way to go. The other thing is to reserve a little bit of time at the end for people (while they're still technically together on the call) to break the multitasking rule and ask them to take one step towards the actions agreed-upon during the meeting. I find that there is this energy spike that happens right near the end that should be seized to propel the group forward. Even 10 minutes after, the action seems harder and is more likely to be put off or go undone.