Core facilitation skills apply to both face-to-face and virtual meetings,  To facilitate videopresence meetings, the session leader must speak clearly, provide active listening (especially feedback and confirmation), ask appropriate questions, manage time constraints and personality issues, etc.  Our discussion that follows below and in the previous two FAST Monthlys, focus on what is different with with the conclusion of virtual meetings and differences when you facilitate videopresence meetings.

Purpose of Virtual Participants and Meetings

Same time access across multiple locations require may require distributed or electronic participants, also known as virtual meetings.  With the use of supplemental tools, virtual meetings can also satisfy the dual condition that demands meetings at different times and in different locations.

Virtual and videopresence meetings are used to save travel money or allow for remote participation.  While fine for review and sharing, they should be avoided at kickoffs, phase gate reviews, when consensus is critical, Agile sprints, the issues are contentious, or the situation demands high-quality decision-making.

Method of Virtual Participants and Meetings

The following suggestions summarize and offer up the differences between face-to-face versus distance meetings.  Remember that active listening is always critical to effective facilitation and it is very tough to provide feedback and obtain solid confirmation without eye contact and observations around the room.

Preparing to Wrap a Virtual Meeting

Managing Video Presence Meetings

Managing Video Presence Meetings

Throughout, emphasize reflection and confirmation of content that is offered up. All too frequently, virtual participants are distracted and do not capture as much the first time as they do when meeting face-to-face. Summarize, summarize, summarize . . . a clear group is typically an oxymoron.

  • Offer each participant an opportunity for final/ closing comments. Consider “PASS” or “Just Three Words” for example. “What three words describe your experience with today’s meeting?”
  • Review next steps, assignments, and deadlines as appropriate.
  • Use FAST wrap-up and Guardian of Change as appropriate.
  • Summarize the virtual meeting and end by confirming the 
next meeting appointment or commitment.
  • Use the FAST evaluation form to improve subsequent calls. A “Plus/ Delta” can be completed at the conclusion of each call.
  • Distribute meeting notes within hours after the meeting and emphasize the follow-up steps and responsibilities in your email cover note.

VideoPresence Meetings / Differences

Some of the differences afforded when meeting with visual feedback, frequently called videopresence meetings, especially when higher quality resolution video is made available, suggest the following:

  • Clothing; for example, stripes or patterned shirts are not recommended during a video conference meeting and may not display well at the remote site(s). Plain colored shirts and pants/ skirts are optimal. Also, avoid wearing white, red, and color of the background.
  • Restrict movement as much as possible. Excessive movements are disruptive to viewers at the far site.
  • Have a back up plan for your meeting or class in the event of connection failures or equipment problems.

From Global Work Groups to Global Teams

Here are some tips that may be helpful in creating commitment and facilitating communication among work groups that are widely separated by geography.

Frequent Integration

Very often, a work group is made up of several small teams, each in a separate location. To be successful, the teams must use nested synchronization, integrating their efforts frequently. Regular and frequent integration has many benefits, from establishing mutual commitment to creating a common repository of knowledge.

Exchange People

All too often we find that a team in one country has all of the necessary technical capabilities, but their “requirements” come in large batches of written documents developed many time zones away.  Predictably, when an application is finished several weeks or months after the arrival of the requirements, it isn’t what the customers really wanted. Large separations between customers or analysts and the implementation team—with over-the-wall communication—seldom works very well. One way to deal with this situation is to locate a couple of people from one team on the other team for extended periods of time, preferably on a rotating basis. Either a couple of team members that understand customers should be located with the development team, or alternatively, a couple of people who are part of the development team should be located with those who understand the customers. Rotating people through these positions is effective.

Proxy

Some successful dispersed teams communicate through a single person. Someone from a remote site becomes a member of a core team.  They serve as a proxy for the remainder of the remote team. Every day this person assumes responsibility for a large amount of well-defined work and sends it to the remote team, calling them each day to describe what needs to be done, answer questions, and retrieve completed work. Thus, the remote team maintains rich communication with one person on the core team, and the core team considers the remote team an extension of this proxy, who can take on work for several people.

Traveling Leader

Consider an oobeya or “war room” with big visible charts showing project status and issues. The status charts can be maintained identically in each of multiple rooms around the world. The program leader can travel from one room to another, holding regular status meetings at each location. Other locations may call in to the meetings, and renew the mutual commitment of all teams to their common objective.

Caution

When part of a team must work using a second language while other team members use their first language, or when one group is a subcontractor while the other is part of the contracting company, or when one group clearly has higher pay or status than the other, people can easily get the perception that one group is “better” than the other. Such perceptions will quickly destroy the respect, trust, and commitment that are essential for true teamwork.

Also See:

How to Facilitate Virtual Meetings and Participants (Part 1 of 3)

How to Facilitate Virtual Meetings and Participants (Part 2 of 3)

Meeting Killers: Eight Ways to Kill A Meeting and Your Reputation

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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Monthly Facilitation blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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