For any meeting to be both productive and pleasant, there are many aspects to manage, ranging from keeping the discussion on track to elevating the engagement of all attendants. We tend to assume all or most of these aspects are for the teamleader or chairperson to manage. But it seems unrealistic that one person can keep track of all of them. Especially in virtual meetings, where there are even more things to juggle, including the technical aspects of the videoconferencing software.
A solution seems to lie in recognising that ‘meeting-leadership’ should not be tied to one single person, even if she is the official leader of the team or the meeting. When we make leadership roles for our meeting explicit and distribute them amongst the participants, we create better meetings for all. So which roles can we divide? Here are some possibilities.
- Goal-watcher: keeping the meeting on-target for its overall purpose. The person taking this on can alert others when the discussion becomes off-topic or too long. In order for this to be possible, a clear purpose for the meeting as a whole, as well as for various agenda items is needed, meaning that everyone has clarity on what the intended outcome of the discussion is (to reach a decision on something, to gather ideas for a solution to a problem we face, to evaluate how we are doing on a project).
- Clear agreements forger: making sure that every discussion leads to a clear outcome and agreements as to who does what, by when.
- Engagement checker: checking periodically that participants seem actively involved with the meeting. When the engagement checker notices for example that people are yawning or spacing-out, it helps to (gently and in a non-accusing way) check how engaged everyone feels. One way to do this is to ask people to gauge their own level of engagement on a scale from 1 to 10 and ask them to post that in the chat, along with a concrete suggestion for what can be done by themselves or by all to raise their level of engagement. Sometimes a short break is needed.
- Airtime monitor: inviting everyone present in the meeting to contribute. This one watches for a (roughly) equal distribution of ‘airtime’, over the course of the meeting as a whole. Gentle ways to fulfil this role are to invite participants ‘we haven’t heard from yet’, to speak on an issue. Or to let everyone know that all views are needed. Sometimes it helps to ask specific participants to add their point of view, taking care not to make them feel put on-the-spot.
Try these out with your virtual team and get creative to come up with the leadership roles that your team needs to share. Have fun, write your role on your virtual name tag (some video conferencing apps let you change your name for the duration of the meeting) or literally put on a different hat, like these guys did.
Wishing you good health and spirits!