Laptop and coffeeWith team members spread across the country and even across the world, it’s not practical to meet face-to-face consistently–teams need to collaborate virtually.

How do we transform our typical mind-numbing and ineffective conference calls to engaging, collaborative, maybe even fun, virtual meetings? We need to overcome virtual meeting obstacles and add a few tools to our facilitation toolbox.

Why are virtual meetings difficult to facilitate? (Blog: Are Virtual Meetings Painful or Practical?)

  • Difficult to get input/consensus from all attendees.
  • Can’t watch body language.
  • Harder to build relationships, rapport.
  • People multitask.

 

How can we overcome these challenges?

  • Consider your current facilitation skills. How do you manage these challenges in a face-to-face meeting? How can you adapt your techniques to fit in a virtual environment?
  • Try a few virtual collaboration tools like stormboard or innovation games. Use them for virtual brainstorming or prioritization.
  • Experiment with your current corporate conference call tools/desktop sharing tools to see if they offer sticky notes, whiteboards or breakout rooms.

 

A great facilitator, with a diverse set of tools and techniques, can make virtual meetings just as engaging, interactive and collaborative as the best face-to-face sessions.

Three virtual collaboration tools worth trying

There are hundreds of virtual collaboration tools on the market ranging from no cost to extreme cost. BA-Squared can help you take full advantage of your existing tools or can help you find the perfect virtual collaboration tool for your organization. Check out the three tools below and contact us to learn more.

Stormboard
Realtime, virtual whiteboard with sticky notes. Allows users to “virtualize” most face-to-face facilitation techniques like brainstorming, swim lanes, dot voting, SWOT, speedboat, etc. Free for up to 5 users.

Innovation Games
25 free instant play games that promote collaboration, creativity and innovation through play. The virtual games help teams visualize the ideal future state, prioritize ideas, gather constructive feedback, and identify strengths and weaknesses of products or organizations.

Powernoodle
A decision-making tool that allows stakeholders to prioritize projects/programs, gather input on new ideas, evaluate the health of projects/programs, assess compliance, gather lessons learned, and manage requirements. Powernoodle offers a free 30-day trial for up to 25 participants.

Virtual Templates

Many face to face facilitation techniques include simple visual diagrams on flip charts or whiteboards. You might use a matrix, swim lanes, venn diagram, onion diagram or others. All of these simple diagrams can be transferred to pdf or Microsoft Word and uploaded to a virtual document annotation tool.

Virtual Document Annotation Tools

  • Conference call meeting platforms: Most virtual meeting platforms have document annotation features. If your organization already subscribes to a tool like WebEx or GoToMeeting or Lync for conference calls, determine if your tool includes document annotation. Explore all of the menu options or contact your support team to activate the feature.
  • Other tools to explore include: Evernote, Goodreader, Notability and Googledocs.

 

Caution: Use of cloud-based document annotation and storage tools may violate data privacy policies at your organization.

Template Sample
Virtual templates can be quite simple and extremely effective for gathering a large amount of information in a short amount of time. Try this Pros and Cons Template during your next virtual meeting.

Virtual Collaboration Training

BA-Squared offers virtual collaboration training to help organizations maximize the effectiveness of their conference calls. Contact us for more information about our public workshops and private classes.