Here are five simple tips on how to make your virtual meeting a lot more effective
Just a few months ago, whenever we encountered a deadlock in a decision, discussion or problem, the natural refrain was “let’s call for a meeting”.
That little luxury of huddling in a room to hash things out has become a distant memory, and almost a forbidden evil.
Then there are the customary committee meetings, with far more people than required for good decision making. You may be familiar with them: Steering committee and project committees - with reams of minutes and action items.
With the troubling advance of Covid-19, governments globally are rapidly putting in measures to minimise social contact. Closer to home, the Singapore government has elevated social distancing measures by moving to full home-based learning for schools and closing most physical work premises, save for those providing essential services.
So how has all this affected the corporate meeting culture?
Voice and video conferences, as well as webinars, are now de rigueur for teams and business meetings across split locations and homes.
After initial teething problems, these virtual meetings have become widely accepted and even welcomed for the time saved in commuting to work. The “always on” nature of the web-based interactions, and the efficiency that e-meeting formats present, are also being appreciated.
Yet others worry that teamwork and dynamics could be compromised in the process. Would social distancing result in emotional distance among colleagues, teams within organisations, or between us and our clients?
Work culture across time zones and distance is not new for many who work in multinational corporations. In a previous organization, I sat as a node in a matrix structure with a functional reporting line to a San Francisco (SF)-based head of research, criss-crossing a regional line to a Hong Kong-based chief investment officer. Time and space did not prevent my SF colleagues and I to build lifelong friendships that outlasted our careers at the firm. We knew each other’s quirks, shared private jokes and genuinely enjoyed our interactions. Work was fun. Our camaraderie extended beyond the workspace. When my child was born, my SF colleagues couriered the most thoughtful mom-and-daughter care package that I received.
That was in the early 2000s during the years of the tech boom and bust. We had fairly basic voice and video conference functionalities available then, certainly not the sophisticated bells and whistles in communication technology today. What we had going for us went beyond the advances in technology, and focused on the basics of mutual trust, respect and tight rapport built on our commitment to deliver an excellent outcome.
Two decades have since passed. Communication has become principally online, technology is sophisticated, the use of smart phones has become a ubiquitous part of our social and professional lives.
To adapt this technological prowess to the Covid-19 situation, good meeting culture should be a breeze, except that it does not always pan out the way we expect it to.
With the human factor being the pulse of an effective meeting – both online and offline – it will take a concerted effort by all participants to ensure success.
Here are five simple tips I share with my team to make our virtual meetings a lot more effective.
1. Short, sharp and sweet
Keep the meeting brief and to the point. Meeting organisers ought to define, lead and housekeep the agenda; Ensure meeting materials are sent a day ahead, with deliverables and timing.
2. Be prepared
Meeting participants ought to get familiar with the agenda; with materials sent ahead of time with talking points prepared in advance, in order to make meaningful contributions.
3. Be present
Do not be distracted with other matters while attending the meeting, even while on mute. It is disrespectful and a waste of everyone else’s time and effort.
4. Get to the point
When held over e-channels, attention spans are short, so speakers, moderators and participants should keep their messages succinct, meaningful and engaging.
5. Less is best
Minimise meetings (or the number of participants) as the power of one-to-one calls in front of a document to co-author can be more effective. Ask yourself if that large meeting is necessary in the first place.
Business focus need not be compromised while we work from home during the “circuit breaker” season. Major corporate decisions need to be made and innovative strategies need to be devised to confront the challenging business environment. There is real work to be done.
More than ever, employees want to be actively involved in decision making. Not being in the same office necessitates a special effort to reach out to individuals to brainstorm and discuss key topics. Socially, keep engaging colleagues via virtual catch ups; or “bring-your-own-glass” drinks sessions. Maintain mentorship relationships as sounding boards are valued more than ever during challenging times.
With clients and business partners, offer solutions that are pertinent for the new normal. Within the financial sector, wealth management and business clients are looking for navigators who offer prescient analysis, sound business and investment advice and solutions.
When all this dust settles and normality as we knew it resumes, our work environment and corporate culture might have changed forever. What would endure, however, would be the interactions that we instinctually crave as human beings – eye-contact over coffee chats, the a-ha moments during brainstorms, the camaraderie over team lunches and the after-work celebration.
And for that, we wish that this too shall pass, and we may hopefully soon drink to that. Till then, may our social distance not get in the way of emotional and true engagement with the ones whom we care about – be they friends, family, colleagues or clients.
OCBC NISP Private Banking provides a suite of products for wealth creation, preservation and transmission including holistic wealth management services, independent research, customized solutions for all investor preferences, and genuine open architecture, with expertise in Indonesia and Asia Pacific markets. OCBC NISP Private Banking is a part of OCBC Group.
This article was first published by Bank Of Singapore on April 27, 2020. The Opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Bank OCBC NISP Private Banking Tbk. or its affiliates