This week’s Effective Virtual Conversation tip, along with next week’s EVC tip focuses on some of the more commonly held assumptions about virtual conversations including webinars, virtual coaching and/or virtual meetings. Consider if these are any of the assumptions you’ve made and/or what your beliefs are:
· It’s just like working in person.
· It’s going to be easy.
· Everyone is going to have the same needs.
· Everyone understands what I am saying.
· They will follow up.
Let’s take a look at each one of these in turn:
It’s just like working in person: While streaming technology has made the virtual space much more like the in person context, there are still many differences when leading virtual sessions including:
- Lack of visual cues
- Things taking more time
- The threat of multi-tasking on the part of participants
It’s going to be easy – This is a big assumption which can get us into trouble. It’s often said that virtual calls require more planning than in person. “winging it” is not usually an option. Key items to make the conversation “easy” for all is to:
Co-create the agenda/focus or Create a Shared Agenda. This could involve firming up the focus of the call before you get on the line. As you start off you’ll want to check in by asking each person to input around the questions “what do you want to get out of the conversation today” This works well for smaller sized calls but may be more challenging for larger calls.
Everyone is going to have the same needs: Just as in the in-person context, groups and teams we work with will usually be diverse – with different preferences around communication, engagement and approaches. Whether it’s generational, cultural or due to styles, working first from the mindset of “everyone is going to be a unique individual” opens the space for more customized learning. One area you will want to make decisions in early on is what is the optimum group size for an engaging virtual conversation. While some platforms do allow for breakouts and other capabilities, it is important to utilize as many engagement strategies as possible (breakout, annotation, small group discussion, breakouts, individual reflection etc).
Everyone understands what I am saying – even if your group all shares the same working language be sure to bust the assumption early on that what you are saying is being interpreted in the way you intend it to be. When we have fewer visual cues, it is impossible to check for understanding by looking at people’s faces. We need to ask questions, invite comments by chat, have people breakout and speak with each other. Providing support to what’s being said through visual channels (think workbook or slide share) helps to reinforce key messages. Creating an environment where people can ask questions (big and small) is also important to ensure that messages are being received as intended. Finally consider any post-session follow-up to reinforce key messages.
They will follow up: Keeping things visible after the training is of critical importance for any facilitated conversation. As discussed in other posts and my writing, the benefit of virtual training can be that people can apply things real-time during the call, or immediately thereafter. Consider how you will create more of a focus on follow-through or accountability.
Next week, I'll take a look at more of the assumptions we can be making.
Enjoy the start to your week,