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Virtual Meeting Tip #4: What are the rules? GROUND RULES To Enhance the Process of Your Virtual Meeting

Before formally starting your virtual meeting, you want to review the ground rules so that everyone knows what to expect and how to benefit the most from the time you have. Here are some examples of Ground Rules:

  • Review required reading in advance so we can launch right into the productive work of the meeting. (As facilitator, let participants know where they can find the pre-work, if applicable, and consequences of failing to do it, such as no catch-up on the call out of respect for those who invested the time to do the pre-work. Don't spend time in the meeting presenting information that could be read ahead of time; save meeting time for conversations, not a data dump.
  • Consider using an indicator to those in your work area that you are in a virtual meeting, not just working at your desk, and should not be interrupted.
  • State your name when you speak.(If the moderator does this, others will see it works well and take the cue. Depending on who's on the call, you obviously may not need to this or may need to do it just a few times, but with a larger, unfamiliar group it's imperative to do so consistently.)
  • Stay off cells phones, PDAs, email. Close other computer applications and websites to remain focused on the meeting. (Take the generational make-up of your group into account. Younger generations may chafe at a "no multi-tasking" ground rule.)
  • Press MUTE to reduce background noise and improve sound quality if in open environments. (It's surprising how many people don't know this simple etiquette. Tip: For teleconferencing, on most phones * 6 turns mute off and on.)
  • If you need to exit the call, let everyone know when you need to jump off and whether you plan to come back on.
  • As meeting participants you have responsibilities, too. You need to be prepared, involved, provide input, listen to and consider the ideas of others, and be ready to take responsibility for next steps and implementation. (This ground rule is a great reminder for participants!)

Finally, to stay current on what ground rules may need to be changed or added (and in general how you can improve your virtual meetings), be sure to frequently solicit feedback from participants about what went well in the meeting and what could have been done better (sometimes called "plus/delta"). Give people a chance to air issues and make suggestions during or after a meeting. Afterward you can use a variety of methods from one-on-one phone calls to on-line questionnaires. Use an anonymous polling tool if you think it will get you a better response.

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