Effective chairing in a virtual world

As the world continues to wrestle with the coronavirus pandemic, businesses face having to create, at least in the short-term, their ‘new normal’. One issue in the spotlight is that of holding effective business meetings. Not surprisingly, there has been an explosion in the use of videoconferencing platforms across the globe. Of course, these platforms were already part and parcel of business life to a degree; now though, they are de facto the prime tool for holding business meetings. Virtual meetings pose many challenges. For those who are prone to disengage at the best of times, the virtual world presents an array of opportunities. Now a participant can happily blank the video and pour themselves a glass of wine, enter the meeting at their preferred point during the overall proceedings or exit the meeting completely; and confidently blame all of this on ‘a technological malfunction’. So, how can chairs step up to the plate and run effective meetings in a virtual world? As a primer, here are a few tips:

Know the technology: The basics are essential such as the protocols for log-in, muting/unmuting and individual participation. But these platforms offer so much more; for example, the use of virtual whiteboards and break-out rooms. Chairs need to understand the full range of options available

Prepare well: Thorough preparation is vital. All agenda items should have clear objectives built around the key decision points. The meeting and the individual items should be time-managed

Address concerns: Chairs should take time to hear and address the concerns of participants. ‘Technophobes’ will need support to build confidence. Practice runs should be considered

Engage: This is essential. Chairs need to speak clearly and at an even pace. All participants need to be involved and commended for their contributions. Frequent, short breaks will help to maintain attention. Above all, appropriate enthusiasm and a healthy dose of humour can work wonders!

Follow-up: post-meeting, critical evaluation should be undertaken. What worked well? What could be improved? What could be enhanced? Everyone should be allowed to express their views

In negotiating new challenges, a little forethought can create the needed comfort zone. If we all get good at this, the post-pandemic world could look very different; maybe face-to-face meetings will become the second choice!

Rob Robson is a management training and development consultant and a member of The Chartered Governance Institute.

Through TMF Training he specialises in the design and delivery of a range of management workshops, seminars and training courses tailored to the needs of both large corporations and small businesses. Together with Phil Davis, Rob has been delivering courses through TMF over several years and to a variety of audiences, both nationally and internationally.

Our Effective Chairing Skills training course teaches the practical skills that every company needs to get things done. To find out more information, including dates and pricing, please visit the course page.

Rob is also the course leader for our Effective Minute Taking training course, which is now available as a virtual one-day course. To find out more information, including dates and pricing, please visit the course page.

The accompanying book can be purchased here.

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