This informal CPD article on Inviting success for online meetings was provided by Hannah O’Sullivan of Host Media Consultants. Hannah is a specialist personal impact and presentation skills coach, media trainer, and communication specialist for leading organisations including The Bank of England, John Lewis & Partners, Tesco, P&G, Nestlé, and the Department for International Trade.
As our lockdown existence eases, many of us will be looking forward to getting back to the office to experience our colleagues and some semblance of our pre-Covid working ways. However, some organisations are planning a hybrid of work and home going forward which means we need to ensure that we use virtual platforms well to help us communicate effectively for some time to come.
Most of us will have experienced frustration with dodgy connections, and home-schooling distractions; we have borne witness to a colleague’s egregious home décor, and even the occasional snigger at an outrageous indiscretion as home became our offices and someone’s husband walked into the room in their birthday suit. So, the first challenge was to try to create a boundary between domestic and corporate, and few of us got it right all the time.
What we do know is that virtual communication is here to stay. You will probably have honed your own individual techniques and coping strategies one year on, but if you are curious to improve your skills and gain greater impact and influence, then read on.
In creating the following advice, I have drawn on over 20 years as a media consultant. During that time, I have had the privilege of working with some of the most dynamic teams and individuals in retail, banking, sporting, transport, and political sectors. I can probably count them in the thousands. Before starting my own consultancy, I spent 18 years as a TV news anchor at CNBC Europe, Sky News, and Meridian Broadcasting. It was this experience and many years before as a TV and radio reporter, interviewing politicians, pop stars, rogues, and heroes that I grew to understand ‘what good looks like’: I learned to deconstruct why someone can affect an audience as a ‘statesperson’ who is credible, authentic, and capable of inspiring trust. I use these insights every working day since.
There are characteristics that distinguish ‘great’ from ‘good’: Some define it as ‘charisma’, ‘gravitas’ or ‘authentic’. Why we find one person more inspiring, motivating and trustworthy than another is nuanced, but there are tools and techniques that can shape this impact: All Host Media Consultants’ coaching and training services speak to this goal.
We are dedicated to specialist advice on the many facets of communication for influence; creating spokespeople, leaders, influencers who can connect with others and inspire. So, the following is a curation of the insights I use with my clients:
We have had to get used to new working situations, but my clients are telling me that being ‘isolated’ is opening a new dimension to relationships with their colleagues, suppliers, and associates.
We have been experiencing colleagues and clients outside our usual contexts, and aside from having a cheeky peek at each other’s wallpaper and domestic arrangements, I believe this can often deepen our understanding of each other and allow us to behave more authentically when we do meet again.
However, our homes are often unstructured environments, with many distractions, making clear and compelling communication more challenging in virtual meetings. Beyond that, many feel self-conscious and stilted when using online platforms.
So how to begin? Let’s think about bringing structure and boundaries from the start: A considered invitation to a virtual meeting, especially ones with multiple invitees with a spectrum of agendas and perspectives, can not only ensure ‘business as usual’, but you may even enhance your engagement with your ‘work family’ and strengthen those bonds further.
Meetings are good for morale. For some, these connections with familiar faces will be a welcome interlude; a reminder of normal life ‘BC’. For others, the virtual meeting can provide subtle clues as to who in their team is not coping as well with isolation. To this end, I believe senior colleagues should diarise regular individual catchups with their team members outside of the standard team meeting. The tips below relate to a meeting where there is a specific goal or outcome required. You might need to change the physical format of your invitation template to create new categories such as ‘inform’, ‘decision required’:
So, here are my top tips relating to the invitation to a meeting to help you prepare for success. Remember, clarity of purpose is crucial when there are many people or departments working on a project:
- Firstly, show discretion around who is invited to the meeting: Be clear in the invitation, to the point of formatting the various aspects below into the invitation template if they are not there already. For example, it is useful to explicitly state who is there in an informative role: Who is the decision-maker? When this is not defined, everyone thinks they are the decision-maker, and we all know where that ends.
- Be clear in the invitation on the projected outcome of the meeting. Without this clarity of focus, it is a free-for-all. Setting boundaries around the scope of the meeting in advance will define what is and crucially, what is not, in the remit. Each stakeholder should have their role defined. This makes the job of facilitating the group less confrontational.
- It can be useful to question the default timings for a meeting. If a half-hour or hour is the standard, why not schedule the meeting for 45mins with 15mins to action ‘next steps’ and follow up? Too often we spend the day lurching between consecutive virtual meetings with no time to action next steps.
- Finally, the consequences of non-attendance need to be made clear, for example the project will be delayed.
As virtual communication looks here to stay in most sectors, let’s make it work for us. If you found this article useful, I am sharing more insights in further articles featuring tips on body language, facilitation, vocal skills, impactful language, asking questions, and setting boundaries; all within the context of virtual platforms.
We hope this article was helpful. For more information from Host Media Consultants, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.