Facilitating effective virtual meetings can be accomplished even while traveling. This is a necessity for my wife and I who are full-time RVers that operate our business as we roll across America. Here are 10 tips I have learned.
During the past 35-years, I have served my clients as a facilitator, trainer, speaker and coach. Pre-Covid I did so 80 percent in-person and 20 percent virtual. During Covid the balance shifted entirely to 100 percent virtual. This has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It has enabled me to serve my clients more efficiently while simultaneously enjoying our nomadic RV lifestyle.
For instance, this past month, I facilitated a client’s eight focus group type meetings from the comfort of our RV home/office in the Phoenix Area and then rolled up to the beautiful, cool pine forest in northern Arizona to write the summary report which I emailed to the client last week. Yes, we found a forest with a strong Verizon signal! We are now in Aztec, New Mexico where I will soon begin facilitating another client’s similar project. I also have coaching clients that I serve by phone or Zoom from anywhere we are in the nation.
Here are 10 tips that I have learned that will help you to facilitate more effective virtual meetings while traveling (or planted).
10 Tips for Facilitating Effective Virtual Meetings while Travelling
- Stay current with what’s new and trending with different platforms. Learn the capabilities and complexities of different virtual meeting platforms (i.e., Teams, Zoom, GoTo Meetings, Webex, etc.). There are plenty of training gurus with online videos to learn from.
- Invest in state-of-the-art technology. A fast computer with ample memory. A high-quality headset with a boom mike or headphones/microphone. A high-quality internet WiFi Jetpack Hotspot device with a strong connection signal and good bandwidth (wherever we go we check for a strong Verizon signal). I even installed a cell phone booster to optimize whatever signal we encounter in our travels.
- Master web-based meeting platforms. Select the best virtual meeting platform for the objectives you are desiring to accomplish and the comfort level of your team, clients, or customers. I learn how to effectively use the appropriate bells and whistles (i.e., annotation tools) of whatever platform my clients are most comfortable and familiar with.
- Overcome your apprehension of staring into a camera instead of the eyes of physically present human beings. I learned to stop staring at my own video tile and being distracted by my own appearance. My first half-dozen video conferencing experiences stressed me out and always ended with a lingering Zoom fatigue headache. Greater comfort has come with practice.
- Plan… Plan… Plan. Think through how to get from point A to point B in your meeting. Administer a pre-meeting survey to gather information and prepare the participants. Create and email a meeting agenda/objectives and link for the meeting. Do a dry run to make sure your technology works as intended. Test all the tools you are planning to use. Have the participants download (or have available digitally) any handouts they may need to refer to.
- Assign a call producer. He or she will handle any technical challenges that may arise so you can focus your attention on facilitating the group. Prior to the meeting, discuss the expectations, roles, and agenda/objectives with the producer.
- Have a backup plan. As you are aware, technology sometimes misbehaves. Be ready to shift to a phone conference call if you need to (have the number as ready reference to email or text to participants).
- Make your virtual meetings engaging, energizing, and fun. Make sure your meeting leaves a lasting positive impression. Ask yourself, “How am I going to recapture the same level of excitement and energy as an in-person experience?” For instance, I have learned how to replace flipcharts, markers, and PostIt Notes with virtual whiteboards, text boxes, and other annotation tools for gathering, organizing and prioritizing participant input.
- Follow-up with meeting participants. Summarize the meeting highlights including action items and assignments. Distribute the meeting summary to participants as soon as possible after the meeting.
- Perform a self-assessment of went well and what can be improved next time. Remember, there’s always the meeting you planned to have, the meeting you had, and the meeting you wish you had. Keep learning and improving.
Virtual meetings will never replace the dynamic, sensory rich experience of being at a well facilitated in-person meeting but they are here to stay so let’s learn to make them productive and energizing.
Much success and fulfillment,