We cannot anticipate every problem facilitators might encounter in synchronous distributed meetings, but some are fairly predictable. And we can manage some of these problems more easily either by limiting their incidence, or by establishing protocols for them in advance. Here are three examples.
- Identifying the speaker
- In face-to-face (F2F) meetings, identifying the speaker is usually easy. We can either see the speaker, or we can recognize the voice, or tell which direction it's coming from, even if the facilitator recognizes the speaker by inaudible means such as a slight gesture.
- In the distributed context, especially audio-only, identification can be problematic. To address the difficulty, the facilitator can recognize the speaker by name, and the speaker can begin by stating his or her name. And before the meeting starts, we can make available a podcast with attendees introducing themselves in their own voices.
- Managing complex technologies
- To support their telemeetings, some groups use complex technologies that go beyond telephone or videoconferencing. Tools for sharing drawing spaces, displaying slide presentations, and even manipulating physical objects all require special skills.
- Although these technologies are at the frontier of remote facilitation, some useful practices have emerged. First, ensure in advance that all sites have operative installations. Pushing ahead when it's known that some sites don't have functioning installations risks corrupting meeting deliverables. Second, ensure that any participants who must use the technology have had adequate training. Third, have technical support staff standing by during the meeting for advice or repair if necessary. Finally, be prepared to halt the meeting and reschedule it if essential technology doesn't function correctly.
- Dealing with interrupters
- In F2F meetings, participants
who interrupt others create
problems, but facilitators
can handle them
- In F2F meetings, participants who interrupt others create problems, but facilitators can handle them fairly easily. And when interruptions do occur, everyone can usually sort out what was said. In distributed meetings, especially over the telephone, we can't always identify the interrupter and we often can't sort out what was said.
- "Zero tolerance" for interruptions is probably an impossible goal, but you can adopt practices that reduce their incidence. In advance of the meeting, establish a norm that prohibits routine interruptions, and establish a protocol for emergency interruptions. Circulate news flashes before the meeting or as a first agenda item to reduce the need for people to inject news during discussions. Interruptions that come about during heated debate are another matter; deal with repeat offenders privately.
Often, meeting size itself is a difficult challenge, because we don't want to risk offending people by excluding them. Making available a podcast of the meeting, and offering "podcast attendance" as an option for some people in advance, might tempt a few to attend by podcast. Unfortunately, as the facilitator, podcast attendance is not an option for you. First in this series 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 an examination of some issues that arise in synchronous distributed meetings, see "Remote Facilitation in Synchronous Contexts: I," Point Lookout for March 26, 2008. For suggestions for facilitating highly charged distributed meetings, see "Remote Facilitation in Synchronous Contexts: II," Point Lookout for April 2, 2008.
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Let Me Finish, Please
- We use meetings to exchange information and to explore complex issues. In open discussion, we tend to
interrupt each other. Interruptions can be disruptive, distracting, funny, essential, and frustratingly
common. What can we do to limit interruptions without depriving ourselves of their benefits?
- When we steer the discussion away from issues to attack the credibility, motives, or character of our
debate partners, we often resort to a technique known as the ad hominem attack. It's unfair, it's unethical,
and it leads to bad, expensive decisions that we'll probably regret.
- Take Any Seat: I
- When you attend a meeting, how do you choose your seat? Whether you chair or not, where you sit helps
to determine your effectiveness and your stature during the meeting. Here are some tips for choosing
your seat strategically.
- It's a Wonderful Day!
- Most knowledge workers are problem solvers. We work towards goals. We anticipate problems as best we
can, and when problems appear, we solve them. But our focus on anticipating problems can become a problem
in itself — at work and in Life.
- Brain Clutter
- The capacity of the human mind is astonishing. Our ability to accomplish great things while simultaneously
fretting about mountains of trivia is perhaps among the best evidence of that capacity. Just imagine
what we could accomplish if we could control the fretting…
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 23: Power Distance and Teams
- One of the attributes of team cultures is something called power distance, which is a measure of the overall comfort people have with inequality in the distribution of power. Power distance can determine how well a team performs when executing high-risk projects. Available here and by RSS on October 23.
- And on October 30: Power Distance and Risk
- Managing or responding to project risks is much easier when team culture encourages people to report problems and question any plans they have reason to doubt. Here are five examples that show how such encouragement helps to manage risk. Available here and by RSS on October 30.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, )
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, )
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, )
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, )
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, )
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, )
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Leadership
On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. But to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. We'll use the history of this event to explore lessons in leadership and its application to organizational efforts. A fascinating and refreshing look at leadership from the vantage point of history. Read more about this program.
Here's a date for this program:
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio
44017: November 7,
Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute.
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio 44017: November 7, Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.