KEY techniques for PRODUCTIVE video/tele CONFERENCES
As many of you will be working remotely in the months ahead, below are techniques I’ve developed for video/teleconferences.
There are three sections: General techniques, Sample copy to email to participants prior to a conference and Sample words for opening a conference.
- Identify yourself before speaking (if there could be any doubt that it is you who is speaking).
- Use the Open – Middle – Close speaking structure for sharing your ideas and keep in mind that ‘simplicity sells’.
- Regarding gauging whether your message has been received, it really is a judgement call whether you ask for confirmation eg. ‘Does that make sense’ or ‘Am I being clear’. If in any doubt always use these or similar phrases. Tune into the rhythm of the discussion. Sometime a pause that goes on too long will be an indicator of lack of understanding. With people from other countries/cultures be alert and proactive to ask for confirmation of understanding.
- Seek to take the lead in teleconferences. For example: if the chairperson is not including all the people (depending on the number of participants) you could include those people in the discussion by asking for their thoughts.
- Be alert and be ready to ask for clarification of other people’s contributions if they are not clear in delivering their messages, as most likely other participants will be confused too.
- Regarding your own speaking, make sure you speak the final consonants in words, so you communicate your ideas clearly on the first occasion. Make sure to inject energy into your voice to make it easily heard. Voice energy and certainty is paramount if you’re the moderator of the conference. Turn your mobile phone or other devices to silent.
- Don’t have side conversations, or ‘at location asides’ with people at your physical location. State as appropriate what you can see at your site (that other people at other sites can’t see). ‘John at my site is showing some concern through his face at that decision – John is that the case?’. In other words, make the conference as transparent as you can for all participants within the constraints of a non-face to face meeting.
- As the moderator, precisely keep to the conference agenda and end the conference on or before time, with a definite closing and with a thank you to all participants Assign another person in the conference as an ‘on-topic’ moderator. This person’s job is to help the moderator keep the conference on track
- Encourage people to participate in isolation in the conference so that each participant has the same experience. That is, don’t have a group of participants physically present in a room, and other participants listening in by themselves at other locations. These contrasting environments can undermine mutual understanding among participants, as some people will get body language communication signals and others will not.
- As a moderator, have a list of all participants and make sure to ask a question or ask for a comment of every person. For example, you can ask any participant for a comment for the matter at hand. ‘Jasmina, what’s your view on this issue?’
- If you are speaking to PowerPoint slides and they are being driven by someone at a remote location, take the lead and clearly tell them what you want to happen. That is, when you want the next slide to be displayed. You might say ‘Nathan please go back to slide 5, entitled ‘Key Projects’. Before the conference have a pre-conference briefing with the person. Coordinate with how you’d like your presentation to flow and how/when you want the slides to be displayed or when you want video clips to run.
- Have an alternative strategy and backup if there is a technical problem. Take the lead. Rather than have people wait around for 5-10 minutes while the problem is being solved, tell people to take a break for five minutes and have a definite reconvening time.
- Considering canceling/postponing the conference if the technical problem can’t be solved in a short amount of time.
- To improve your speaking, audio record the conference and listen the playback of your contributions and analyse your clarity and projection of energy and certainty
Sample email to send to participants prior to your conference
Prior to your Video-conference (48 hours in advance) email the below Interaction Ground Rules to the participants.
Subject: ‘Zoom conference on 26 August/Please read interaction ground rules
To make the upcoming conference as productive as it can, please read the below ground rules. During the conference please keep the ground rules in mind.
Thank you. I look forward to working with you.
Conference Interaction Ground Rules
As body language and voice are not as clear to read in video conferences, versus face-to-face meetings, please read and implement the following ground rules so we maximise productivity in our time together.
- Please identify yourself before speaking (even if you believe your voice is easy to identify).
- Regarding gauging whether the messages you speak during the conference have been received, it really is a judgement call as to whether you ask for confirmation eg. ‘Does that make sense’ or ‘Am I being clear?’. If you’re in any doubt, always ask for confirmation.
- Seek to take the lead in the teleconferences. For example, if you believe that another person should be involved in the topic at hand, interject and ask the person to respond.
- Be alert and be ready to ask for clarification if you don’t understand someone. If they are not clear in delivering their messages, other participants might be unclear as well.
- Regarding your own speaking, please speak at a notch higher, energy and loudness level to your normal speaking voice, as transmission of voice through technology can interfere with the transmission of your voice.
- Please turn your mobile phone and other devices to silent.
- If possible please participate in isolation in the conference so that each participant has the same experience. That is, don’t have a group of people in one room. Go to a separate work station.”
- Attached is the Agenda with timing for each item. To ensure we finish on or before time and to keep the meeting movement, I’ll stick to those time limits.
Sample moderator greeting
As the moderator below are suggested words and syntax to speak in welcoming participants to the Conference.
Thanks for making time for this conference. To make the conference as productive as possible in the time we have I ask you to keep in mind the following points.
- First, please participate in isolation. If you are in a room with other participants, please go to a sole workstation so that everyone has the same experience.
- Please identify yourself before speaking.
- Speak with energy. Speak at a notch higher, loudness and energy level that your normal voice. With the transmission of voice through technology, it is better to be a bit too loud than to be too soft.
- Within reason, interject if you don’t understand someone or something.
- DBAE. That stands for Don’t Be Anywhere Else. On your meeting agenda please write the letters DBAE in the top right hand corner. This will help you stay focused.
Own the Conversation
Consider how you moderate and participate in video/teleconferences.
From the plethora of techniques listed above, what’s one you could trial in your next conference?
After choosing a technique make a calendar entry to use the technique in an upcoming conference.
p.s. On the weekend a friend Oliver Cunliffe prompted me to write steps for face to face greetings in a COVID-19 world. Oliver suggested in a LinkedIn post that we have fun with the greeting (which I agree with) and he offered several greeting options.
Here is my suggested greeting routine:
– Fully face the person
– Hold eye contact (noting the colour of the person’s eyes can help make a stronger connection)
– Say in a playful voice tone, ‘So, how are we going to do this – can I suggest the back-of-wrist tap or would you prefer Namaste?’
p.p.s. If you want more ideas on communicating in video/tele conferences – with confidence, energy and certainty – I’d love to discuss some with you. Thanks. Here are my contact details: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0418 215 049