Like everyone else, my meetings have gone virtual for the time being, and this week I have made my share of mistakes.
Meetings are bad enough. Harvard Business Review reports on a study conducted by Bain & Company that a regularly scheduled meeting of mid-level managers was costing one organization $15 million a year. (Check out the HBR Meeting Cost Calculator.) Doodle’s 2019 "The State of Meetings Report" calculates the cost of poorly organized meetings at more than $399 billion in the US and $58 billion in the UK for 2019. This is almost half a trillion dollars for these two countries alone.
Virtual meetings can be worse. Raise your chat hand if you have heard someone ask if anyone on the call has questions and all they’ve gotten back is crickets. Sure, you can do your laundry and your email, but that doesn’t make the meeting more productive. If you are leading a virtual meeting, using RACI techniques for meetings can help. Here are three tips to make virtual meetings more effective.
1. Determine the group’s role for each agenda item.
Is the team making a decision, the “A” role? Is the team creating a deliverable together, the “R” role? Are you asking the team to give input and advice, the “C” role? Or is the team receiving information, the “I” role? Code your agenda items in advance to communicate what your team needs to do with each agenda item. (Click here for a whitepaper that defines the RACI roles in more detail.)
2. Use a round-robin technique for equal participation.
If the group is producing work or offering advice, you’ll get the best input if you use a round-robin technique, as if you were going around a table. Tell everyone you’d like everyone’s thoughts, and jot down a list of people who have spoken, then call on the others until you’ve gotten every person on the call. Some people will want to speak more than others; gently ask them to hold off until you’ve heard from everyone. If you do this several times, it will become a group norm for participation, and everyone will come prepared to speak (and pay attention).
3. If the item calls for you to share information, it helps to get people into an active-listening mode.
One way to do this is to begin by saying you want to produce a FAQ on the subject. Then, instead of asking people if they have questions (the CRICKET problem), you can ask them to imagine questions that others might have, to contribute those questions to the FAQ you are building. Then answer those questions. (Then produce the FAQ because communication becomes orders of magnitude harder when people aren’t co-located. You’ll need some extra tools.)
Finally, for a little comic relief, I recommend this YouTube video, “A Conference Call in Real Life.” We could all use a little humor right now!
For more information about the RACI roles and how to use them, download the free RACI whitepaper.