I struggled with this title. I don't want to make light of a stressful time, and yet I do want to make light of just about everything. After all, "Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly."
Business communications today are focused on a key question: How can we perform better on video conferences? Recently I presented for the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan's (ACCJ) "SME Roundtable," a virtual event hosted by the SME CEO Council. This was my second ACCJ event on "virtually" the same topic. People are looking for help. Here's some:
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
If you ask me to describe my feelings re: "Virtual Meetings," I'm torn between "Stressful" and "Mixed." I've enjoyed some good sessions. I've learned new tools (Polling, Breakout Groups, Mentimeter®, Kudobox® to name a few). Good sessions. Entertaining and useful. Sadly, they make up about 20% of those I've attended. The bad include "webinars" that are really advertisements and sessions with major tech troubles.
And then there's the "ugly." Extensions of all the "ugly" we see in physical meetings: Unreadable slides, lack of engagement. Elements summed up as, "Lack of good presentation skills, including: poor vocal quality, filler words ("you know"), zero eye contact, poor posture. You know the list. Add in "failure to mute and unmute properly" and it's an ugly ride.
Raising the Quality of Online Meetings
At the ACCJ session, I had one aim: Raise the quality of online meetings. We're tired of bad and ugly ones!
Perhaps my experiences online during these times intersect with yours. As a facilitator or a participant, they're stressful and take 3X more energy than regular meetings. And yet, some have been super productive, especially when compared with the alternative: No contact.
A participant asked, "How can I increase engagement?" Answer: For small groups, act as a facilitator and directly call on "quieter" people. For medium-sized groups, use polling, chat, Q & A buttons, and physical expressions (thumbs up or down, for example). For small and large groups alike, I use the break-out function, with three caveats: 1) have enough material for a group to use, 2) let groups know they may not have enough time to finish, and that they can come back to the main room or invite me into their breakout; 3) choose when and for how long to join breakout rooms yourself.
Again: Unless you're a podcaster who can keep an audience's attention without a guest, don't speak for more than 10 minutes on a video conference without real interaction. Even 10 minutes may be too long. And take breaks every 30 minutes. Cameras off, stand up and exercise! Push-ups, Jumping Jacks, whatever!
That's most of what I covered. There were lots of questions, and one participant made his own mini-speech, but even that was welcomed because it was another voice (and he offered some good advice).
One leader recently texted me, as we watched over 100 on a call dwindle down to the mid-40s, "That's low, and the ones who are left are dead on the screen," he wrote. The title track of the movie M.A.S.H. is Suicide is Painless. I love the song but hate the lyrics, and I'm glad the TV series used an instrumental version. Let's strive for better performance because "Zoomicide" is anything but painless.