Telecommuting, virtual teams, outsourcing, and globalization have all contributed to increased incidence of virtual meetings between people who never meet face to face, or at least, haven't met face to face yet. For these meetings, a simple agenda isn't enough, because people need to know more about each other to work effectively together. To make the meeting more productive, distribute a program — not just an agenda.
Pattern your meeting program after the programs of sporting events, plays, the opera or ballet. Playbill is an example. Since the program is replacing the agenda, it must, at a minimum, serve the function of the agenda. But you can also include background enrichment material of all kinds. Here are some ideas for your programs.
- Links to exhibits
- If the meeting includes discussions or reviews of exhibits — contracts, reports, diagrams, audios, videos, and so on — attendees have to review them beforehand. Include links to these items. Or for the convenience of attendees, combine all exhibits into a zip archive to make downloading easy.
- Links to MP3s or MPEGs of attendees talking
- In telephone conferences, being able to recognize each other's voices is a big advantage. But since recognizing the voice of someone you've never met is difficult, have everyone make recordings introducing themselves. Video is great, but audio helps too. Give everyone an opportunity to see and listen to each other before the meeting.
- Bios and contact information
- Bios of all attendees help them establish relationships before the meeting begins, especially if some haven't attended this particular meeting before. Let people write their own bios. Professional bios help everyone understand each other's area of expertise. But personal details help too, because they give everyone little insights about each other as people.
- In telephone conferences,
being able to recognize
each other's voices
is a big advantage
- If a team or team member made an outstanding contribution recently, or received recognition for any reason, play it up. Most of us like to see our names in lights.
- Project successes, vision, and history
- Include a little summary of past successes and what the future holds. This helps keep people fixed on the goal. It's an opportunity not to be missed.
- Site imagery and videos
- Familiarity with the sites where people work helps people "place" each other in a context. It gives them a setting in which to imagine the other people attending the meeting, which is especially important for telephone meetings. If you're holding the meeting as an off-site, provide history and information about local attractions.
Your meeting program, like all documents, is subject to your organization's document retention and destruction policies. Since it's a compound document (it might not reside in a single place), and since it might consist of a mixture of media, check with your document retention specialist to make sure that you understand the policy before you create the program. If you can conform to requirements, using a program instead of an agenda can make a real difference in your meetings. Top Next Issue
Is your organization a participant in one or more global teams? Are you the owner/sponsor of a global team? Are you managing a global team? Is everything going well, or at least as well as any project goes? Probably not. Many of the troubles people encounter are traceable to the obstacles global teams face when building working professional relationships from afar. Read 303 Tips for Virtual and Global Teams to learn how to make your global and distributed teams sing. Order Now!
For more on agendas, see "An Agenda for Agendas," Point Lookout for May 25, 2005; and "First Aid for Painful Meetings," Point Lookout for October 24, 2001.
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