Do you groan when you think of having another virtual meeting?
Do you feel burn-out sitting in front of your camera all day?
What if virtual meetings didn’t leave you with “Zoom fatigue” — but instead, you left your meetings feeling energized and excited?
Scott has spent thousands of hours in meetings.
Not only does he know how to make them productive…
…but he knows how to make them essential to a project’s success.
A quick story…
Scott was running a meeting in Washington D.C. It was full of health-care lobbyists who were at each other’s throats all week.
The tension was so high you could cut it with a knife.
So, Scott started off the meeting with this picture:
This is Scott’s son, Finley. Needless to say, he’s a big fan of superheroes.
To get the vulnerability going in this crowd, Scott asked everyone this:
“Turn to your neighbor, and find out their superpower.”
It got everyone to share something personal about themselves.
And at the end of the meeting, someone told Scott…
“Wow! We’ve never had this group interact this well before.”
Because of the strategies you’ll learn in this article.
By the end of this post, you’ll understand how to make your meetings more useful and engaging — leading to better projects and greater results for both you and your clients.
4 Principles for Better Virtual Meetings
To run better online meetings, there are 4 principles you’ll put into practice.
Often, when someone is presenting, they are presenting one linear trail of thought. The problem with this is that it doesn’t leave enough gaps to allow others to think.
You want to create pauses — or “space” — in your meetings to allow for dialogue. Dialogue is where new and exciting ideas come up.
An effective meeting is one where it feels safe to think out loud.
Some people are naturally more quiet than others. They might want to share, but their temperament is holding them back. But it’s often these people who have interesting, useful ideas.
If you can make it safe to think out loud and include everyone, you’ll get a more diverse mixture of thought.
Being direct or frank doesn’t come naturally to all of us. But, if you can speak with candor in a collaborative way, you get the best of both worlds.
You have an agenda with each meeting, and so does everyone else. Collaborative candor is all about finding ways to meet in the middle.
Don’t sacrifice all of your needs for the team, and don’t just be in it for yourself. Strive to make everyone win, and your meetings will be much more effective.
In The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle presents a body of psychological research that shows when you signal vulnerability, the group is more cooperative. Think about Scott sharing the picture of his son, and asking everyone to share their superpower.
Scott has another way of doing this: he always asks “does that make sense?” when he finishes a point.
He doesn’t assume that everyone understood his point. This signals vulnerability, because he’s asking whether or not he was clear enough.
By being vulnerable and letting your guard down, you’ll make others feel at ease — and it helps them become more cooperative.
Two Tactics: Set The Stage For Your Virtual Meeting
Now that you understand the foundation of productive virtual meetings, it’s time to create a context where that can happen.
Instead of expecting everyone in the meeting to keep track of all the words in their head, start taking notes. Turn the dialogue into a structure.
Many people are visual learners, and by giving the meeting a visual structure, you’re making it easier for them to follow along.
This also helps you bounce around between topics. You can easily come back to certain topics if you have them right in front of everybody.
Finally, by taking notes on the dialogue, you can circle back and make plans. If someone suggests a good idea, make it actionable. Ask what are the next steps.
When you’re in a meeting, it’s just as important to listen to what is not being said. That’s often where the underlying tensions lie.
If you can bring those tensions out, you’ll give everyone a collective sigh of relief — and everyone can make more progress.
It might create some short-term conflict. But, it will make everything easier in the long run.
Listen to when people hesitate. That gives you a clue that there is some underlying tension or something they are uncomfortable to say.
And give yourself permission to be that frank person. Encourage the group to make decisions. As long as you do it in a collaborative way, people will appreciate you taking the initiative.
Tool: Ask Better Questions During Your Virtual Meeting
You understand the principles and you’ve created the context. Using these 4 types of questions, you’ll guide your virtual meetings like an elite consultant.
A probing question helps create a space where everyone feels safe to contribute.
Often, a probing question is asked to a quieter, more introverted person so that they can share what they are thinking.
Example: “PERSON, how does this relate to what you’re working on”
A provocative question brings out what’s not being said. It’s used to help foster an environment of collaborative candor.
Example: “We haven’t talked about TOPIC yet. What can we do to move this forward?”
A connecting question makes use of your meeting notes — identifying possible connections between different ideas to create new opportunities.
Example: “Can we combine these two ideas to make something interesting?”
A stupid question isn’t really stupid — it’s just a question that shows vulnerability. And because it does that, it’s the most powerful question you can ask.
Example: “This might sound basic, but can you talk about why this is important?”
Action Step: Make Your Next Online Meeting Your Best One Yet
You don’t have to groan at the thought of another virtual meeting.
Using these principles, tactics, and tools, you’ll make your virtual meetings more engaging, more productive — and even more fun.
Your action step for this article is to ask 4 of these questions during your next virtual meetings — and take notes for it.
Above all else, remember this: executives — your clients — are surrounded by “yes-men” and “yes-women.”
You’ll position yourself as their trusted advisor by taking the opposite approach.
Don’t sugarcoat things and tell them when they’re wrong. They’ll trust you even more because they know they can count on you for more objective advice.
How has COVID-19 affected your virtual meetings?
What have you seen work well for your virtual meetings?
And what’s your superpower?
Leave a comment below and join the discussion!
If you’re interested in collaborating with great minds like Scott’s — and learn from the world’s leading experts across various consulting fields — check out our Clarity Coaching Program.
You’ll learn how to improve every aspect of your consulting business so you can achieve greater levels of success.