Do you really benefit from your virtual meetings?

How often have you experienced a teleconference where the answer to a question is: “Sorry, I couldn’t hear that. Please repeat your question”.  In my experience, this is a sure sign that the colleague was doing something else instead of listening actively to the discussion.

Meetings can be used for many functions including:

  • Sharing information about the progress of your work
  • Problem solving
  • Encouraging team building
  • Confirming understanding
  • Briefing about the work
  • Training
  • Checking the mood of the team

and so on.

The unwritten assumption used to be that all of these functions are best (or even only) achievable using a face to face meeting. Nowadays this assumption is simply not correct. Many or even most of the objectives of meetings can be carried out more simply by other methods.  To answer the question in the title is: “No, we do not always benefit from our virtual meetings”.

Very often, meetings take place to achieve one or other of the objectives already mentioned when it is simply not necessary to hole a meeting.  To give one example in project management: status of work is better communicated by updating a database of actions completed which is shared with management, clients and colleagues.  The meeting need then only review the status, not waste time collecting status information.

Project work requires that those involved and the stakeholders understand each other exactly.  This is not possible if the virtual meetings take place in an atmosphere where the participants focus on something else and treat the meeting like a cinema: I can look when I want to and nobody will notice if I don’t.

In French, the saying is “Ce n’est pas du cinéma” – “it’s not just cinema” is a good motto for virtual meetings.

My tip: look at the information sharing needs of each participant, then decide how to deliver this.  If a virtual meeting is suitable for some of this, that’s fine, but it should not be the default solution.

Thank you.

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