FranklinCovey Consultant Blogs | Todd Wangsgard | May, 2010
Many of us are spending more and more time in meetings – and not just any meetings. We are both active participants in and meeting organizers of the ubiquitous webinar – an online gathering of geographically dispersed people. Meetings we attend in person have their own challenges – sidebar conversations, tardy attendees, lack of direction – just to name a few. Yet the virtual version of meetings brings new and familiar issues. I’d like to address two: unprepared attendees and multi-tasking. Here are a few quick tips to help you overcome these challenges:
Be more judicious about sending and expecting prework. Many meeting organizers assign prework to get people more connected to the subject they’ll be discussing. Don’t let the prework feel like – well – work. Keep questions to a minimum. Then, communicate in your invitation that you will be discussing their answers in the webinar – this to help people take their prework more seriously. Consider asking them to send their answers to the prework to you in advance. You might also have the assignment come from attendees’ immediate manager, giving the prework a bit more gravitas.
This temptation is no different than the temptation to multitask during an in-person meeting, except it’s easier to get away with. Meeting organizers must be even more thoughtful about three things: 1) Invite the right people. If someone begins to feel the meeting doesn’t apply to him/her that is a virtual invitation to start doing something else. Be more careful and deliberate about who you invite; then communicate to invitees why they were invited. 2) Have a clear agenda. Participants are much more likely to stay engaged during the meeting, if they can see where you’re going and approximately how much time remains. This will also help them to prepare thoughts on specific topics you’ll be covering. 3) Engage attendees in creative ways. Write down the names of those who are on the call. Consider drawing a square or circle representing a conference room table; write participants’ names around the “table.” Then, keep track of who is participating in the conversation. Call on those who are less vocal. Make use of polls during longer calls, giving people a prompt to ‘vote’ and share their opinions with others, without having to identify themselves. Well-timed polls can reveal interesting and useful data about the group and give everyone a friendly nudge to remain attentive.
Aside from the risk of attendees being less engaged than they could be, webinar organizers must also be confident in the basic navigation of this technological mine field. Get comfortable with the various screens and features. Become fluent with explaining to attendees how best to interact. Increase your confidence with managing shared files. It goes without saying that the best way to prepare for your first webinar is practice, practice, practice.
You might also consider attending FranklinCovey’s newest 2-hour LiveClicks webinar, Presenting Great Webinars, to ramp up your online facilitation skills!
It’s always good to check in from time to time and see how well you’re living The 7 Habits. Plus, I just discovered this nifty little self assessment that anyone can take! It’s a PDF document. Feel free to share it with friends, family, and colleagues. Then, dig back into Dr. Covey’s book (now in its 21st year!) to find out what tips might help you boost your scores. Or, better yet, find an opportunity to participate in The 7 Habits Signature two- or three-day course.
Be Proactive and Sharpen the Saw were my high scores. Seek First to Understand and Synergize were weak points.
Next, I’m going to ask others to rate me on a separate copy of the assessment. It will be interesting to see how their perspective matches or differs from mine.
Take the assessment and then come back and tell me what you learned!