This is the third of four short articles highlighting the differences from in-person body language and body language when using a virtual platform.
Distractions during a virtual meeting are inevitable, but there are many steps you can take to minimize them.
The first rule is to keep yourself on mute when you are not actually talking. That way, if the phone rings or the dog barks, the other people in the meeting will not be aware, and you will not have caused an interruption.
If you are participating from home, let other people in your house know you are having a meeting or have some kind of signal so other people do not inadvertently cause an interruption. In our home, we shut the door to our office as a signal we are busy and do not want to be disturbed.
Try to anticipate your needs for the meeting time. Go to the bathroom, if possible, before starting a meeting and make sure you have some water or coffee available so you do not need to get up and leave the room.
Have any props you want to use at hand so you don’t have to go off camera to hunt them down during the meeting.
Plan to arrive at the meeting 5-10 minutes early so you can deal with any technical challenges from your end before the meeting starts.
It is unfair to others to arrive 5 minutes late and then have a problem getting your microphone to work properly. Check things out yourself before the meeting starts.
If you have a camera, it is best to use it unless bandwidth is a problem. Some people would rather not show their face because they might be having a bad hair day.
Keep in mind that when people cannot see your face at all, it is rather like a conference call for them. You may have the advantage of being able to see the other faces, but they cannot see you.
Make sure you allow roughly equal air time for all participants if it is a meeting format. Don’t forget to include people who are phoning in. Just because you cannot see their faces does not mean you can ignore them.
A webinar format usually implies that the person or panel in charge will be doing most of the communicating. Just be sensitive to the need for others to have adequate airtime and don’t monopolize the conversation.
A huge distraction for any meeting is a phenomenon called a “Zoom Bomb.” This is where someone who is not part of the meeting breaks into the format and puts up some obscene or hurtful information.
I have experienced this, and it is completely disruptive to the meeting. It literally sickened me.
Zoom has done a good job of providing tools to prevent a meeting from being bombed. They are a little more cumbersome than to operate without the tools, but they are well worth using because of the magnitude of the hurt a bomb can cause.
Here is a list of the tools available at this time.
1. Have people register for the meeting, so you know who to expect. 2. Always use a system generated meeting address and a password. You can select any password you wish. 3. Enable the “waiting room” feature so that people do not enter the meeting without the host giving them access. 4. Disallow screen share for all participants to start out, You can enable all to share the screen once the meeting is locked. 5. Once people have all arrived, lock the meeting. This will prevent anyone else from entering. 6. The host or co-host can dismiss any disruptive person, so be prepared to use that feature if need be. 7. Keep your software up to date.
If you use care, the meeting disruptions will be minimal. The few that do happen will be cause for laughter rather than frustration.
This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”
The Talk Listen Ratio is one interesting measure of the skill of a leader. It is a pretty easy concept to understand, and If we look at the extremes, neither of them is a good place to be. If the ratio is over 80%, then the leader is monopolizing the conversations. Unfortunately many leaders operate in this range for much of the time. They may be able to get compliance out of people, but they are leaving the power of people off the table. On the other extreme, if a leader’s ratio is below 20%, there is going to be a detachment. This leader is too reticent with his or her thoughts. People will begin to wonder if the person is truly engaged in the mission of the group.
Since it is easy to see the extremes do not work well, it is axiomatic that a balance, like perhaps between 40% and 60% might work better. This means the leader is open with his or her thoughts, but also interested in the ideas of others. I recommend every leader ought to have some way to keep track, because most leaders are blind to the actual ratio they achieve on a daily basis.
You could make a recording of a few conversations to get some data, but I would not do that unless everyone involved agrees to being recorded. By getting everyone’s permission to record a conversation, it would alter the phenomenon being measured, so you would have a Heisenberg Uncertainty situation, where you destroy accuracy by trying to measure a phenomenon.
The optimal ratio is situational, of course. For example, if the leader was trying to outline her vision of the future for the organization, a higher ratio would be expected. The purpose of that conversation is to share her views. Ten minutes later, when that same leader is trying to console a worker who has just lost a loved one, the better ratio would be much lower, because the main objective is to let the person grieve.
My observation is that most leaders would be better off if they would take their natural tendency and lower the ratio by about 20%. If I naturally take up 80% of the air time, I might get a much better result by operating at 60%. This rule does not hold for leaders who naturally operate at 40% or lower. They should seek to maintain their current level or increase it.
I have found it to be possible to monitor your own ratio in certain circumstances. It is distracting to keep track, so the quality of communication is compromised. It is especially difficult to keep track yourself when you are emotionally upset or excited. In these cases, it is helpful to ask another person to make a mental note of your ratio and tell you later. The precision will not be to the second decimal place, but that precision is not required. If you can determine your typical ratio doing several kinds of discussions to within 20% accuracy, that is enough to allow you to change your habits through a feedback process.
There is nothing special in this technique, but I believe it is an extremely rare leader who actually cares about his or her ratio or makes any effort to measure or control it. If you are keeping track and working your way down the scale, you are likely one of the elite leaders of our time.