W.C. Schutz and Virtual Meetings

2 Sep

In the next couple of months I will be presenting at my organization’s “Management Conference.” The topic of my presentation is virtual meetings. As managers at my organization have to regularly travel to numerous sites over significant distances, the topic is high on the “needs” agenda.

Although, my main focus is technology, my presentation won’t be on technical skills. Instead, it will be based on the soft skills around running virtual meetings. While these managers have years of experience in running face-to-face meetings, I would argue that running a virtual meeting is somewhat different.

But what exactly is different? Recently I’ve been reading about W.C. Schutz’ three basic needs to collaborate: inclusion, control, and openness. All three can be applied to running meetings, but for virtual meetings their significance is heightened. For example, inclusion in a virtual meeting is difficult because of the lack of physical presence. Not “being there” could lead to participants feeling ignored or marginalized. The same problem applies to control or influence. The lack of eye-contact in a virtual setting could lead to participants feeling frustrated by being unable to get the attention of the meeting leader. And of course openness is compromised in an environment that participants feel uneasy communicating within.

So how can we overcome these problems? First, we need a process that embraces Schutz’ three requirements. For inclusion, at the start of meeting participants need to introduce themselves and their location. For control or influence, polls should be set-up to engage participants. And at the end of the meeting, time should be allowed for participants to ask any further questions.

If you have any other soft skills tips or best practices, please add a comment.

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