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Challenges in Virtual Meetings
On dispersed teams, the team members aren't all located in the same building. In fact, they may not even be located in the same country.
This means meetings need to be held with the use of communication technology. These "virtual meetings" bring a new set of challenges for meeting leaders.
Challenges in Virtual Meetings
For teams to thrive and flourish in a virtual setting, team leaders need to develop a new way of thinking about communication.
As a meeting leader, you'll use many of the same skills for planning and leading virtual meetings as you use for regular meetings. You'll need to ensure that meetings are effective, balanced, and productive, and that group members participate and work toward achieving objectives.
But in a virtual meeting you'll also have to manage differences in time, technology, and in cultural connections between team members.
So, what are these challenges in virtual meetings?
• Dispersed teams often include participants from different cultures, as well as different geographical locales. Understanding cultural differences is essential for a team to work together effectively. You should remind participants to avoid using colloquialisms, metaphors, jargon, slang, and culturally specific references and humor.
• Meetings can be disrupted due to limitations of technology – if the technology doesn't function well, or if participants don't know how to use it. Familiarize group members with how to use the communication technology, and make contingency plans for what to do if there are problems with transmission.
• It's not uncommon for meeting participants to become inattentive or to lose focus when they can't see each other. To keep them interested, use interactive and graphical elements to engage and focus participants' attention on the meeting. when they can't see each other.
• It's easier to communicate in person than through technology.
Misunderstandings can occur due to limitations of communication technology. When you're leading a virtual
meeting, make sure everyone can be heard. Speak slowly and clearly and remind others to do so as well. Check frequently to make sure participants understand what's happening.
• Dispersed team members may not know each other as well as those on a regular team.
They may be more reluctant to speak up or interrupt. Make sure to ask if there are questions and comments after every discussion. Give participants a chance to speak.
• Voting is another important consideration in a virtual meeting. In a regular meeting, most decisions are made by verbal acknowledgment or a show of hands. In a virtual meeting, you'll probably need to poll individual members one by one. You can do this verbally or with the use of an instant messenger.
If the group is discussing sensitive or controversial information, you'll need to get assurance from participants that they are the only people privy to the discussion. In these cases, it may be preferable to ask members to send in their votes by fax, e-mail, or regular mail.
As a meeting leader, you need to take measures to mitigate common issues that arise with virtual meetings, including misunderstandings due to cultural differences, lost time or participation due to limitations of technology, inattention and loss of focus by group members, and communication issues and participation problems stemming from the use of technology.