[00:00:00.970] - Narrator
In this episode of Great Practices. We're talking with Henry Leebling, trainer, consultant, coach and owner of Less driving. Org, and author of the book how to Achieve Virtual Meeting Effectiveness. Because let's face it, virtual meetings are here here to stay, and that's not a bad thing as long as they're done in the right way. So how can we make the best of this useful technology for our PMOs? Well, stay tuned as we discuss steps that can be taken pre during and postmeeting the complementary roles of Facilitator producer and co facilitator and how to convert the real world into digital as well as learn from some mistakes that others have made.
[00:00:41.170] - Chris
So let's get right into this episode of Great Practices.
[00:00:45.130] - Narrator
It's hard to say when something is a best practice, but it's much easier to know when something is a great practice, and that's what this podcast is all about. Interviews with TMO and project management leaders through years of trial and error, have discovered their own great practices and are now sharing their insights with you. Now sit back and enjoy the conversation as Chris Cop uncovers another great practice in this episode.
[00:01:15.010] - Chris
Welcome to this month's episode of Great Practices, and I recently had gone through a three day long, very intensive pro side training and certification for change management, and this was three days on Zoom. This is not your regular 30 to 60 minutes Zoom meeting. This was three days long, rigorous course with 16 other people. And I have to say the facilitator and the co facilitator did a fantastic job. So it made me wonder what are some of the ways that we could take some of those great practices from these day long sessions that keep people engaged and keep people motivated and keep people interested in what the topic is and how can we apply that?
[00:02:04.750] - Chris
Certainly within a PMO because there's going to be longer sessions when it comes to meetings for PMOs right. There's going to be the planning sessions. Usually that's not going to be done in 30 to 60 minutes, can take 4 hours, can take an entire day, may spend multiple days, and the reality is in the environment that we are right now. Virtual meetings and virtual planning sessions, virtual training sessions, things that take much longer than just a regular stand up meeting or just a regular update are going to be important to figure out how to do that.
[00:02:40.930] - Chris
And that's what we're going to be talking about today. So our guest, that's going to help us with some of these great practices as Henry Leeland, and he is going to uncover some of these great practices when it comes to virtual meetings. And Henry's been doing virtual before Virtual was even cool. So he's got a lot of experience in this area. So Henry, we'd like to welcome you to this episode today, and you want to kind of introduce yourself and let us know a little bit about what you do.
[00:03:10.990] - Henry
Thank you, Chris. So a little bit about myself. I'm a consultant, trainer and coach on virtual meetings. I'm branded asleepdriving. Org on the website, and I mostly work with companies and nonprofits, although I've written books and articles that are geared to education, literacy. Even how can we use this in rural areas, urban areas, and health care? I've used this with at and T, IBM Software Group, Nokia Telecommunications, and I'll have a couple of examples of this a little later on.
[00:03:45.790] - Chris
Now, Henry, let me ask you this because you've got a process for the way that you set up your meetings.
[00:03:52.750] - Henry
[00:03:53.050] - Chris
Kind of like a pre meeting checklist during the meeting and then kind of a follow up.
[00:03:58.750] - Henry
[00:04:00.610] - Chris
What are some of the pieces that you use when it comes to the pre meeting? What are some of the thoughts that you have that need to be done to make the meeting successful, regardless whether it's online or in person.
[00:04:10.690] - Henry
So I definitely act on this notion of pre meeting tasks during the meeting tasks and then the after the meeting tasks. So let me address your question, Chris, regarding some of the structure or ways to approach the before. It's interesting. I work with a buddy in North Carolina. We have two person meetings. We never do this because we're talking two or three times a week. We're not doing the free stuff. But then it's interesting. I have a new associate in Kansas City, and we just a two person meeting.
[00:04:47.170] - Henry
And before we start that meeting, either through email or the first few minutes, we got on the same page as the purpose. What is the purpose? Why the heck are we meeting? But as you consider more complex meetings, you mentioned a half day, one day, two day, and your experience with this three day experience. I've come up with a couple of things. First, go back to the purpose and objectives of the meeting. This is the step for planning, organizing, identifying tasks and really identifying responsibilities. How are we going to go from we're going to have a two day conference to actually making it really work well and be truly wonderful.
[00:05:30.970] - Henry
Second, look at your objectives. What outcomes are you looking for? Are you looking for ideas? Are you looking for consensus? Are you looking for specific decisions? Some people don't differentiate those outcomes, and that affects your planning process. So even another objective Gr, am I looking for high involvement, high engagement, or G? The meeting really doesn't allow too much time to do that. I'm just going to kind of push information. We'll pick up the engagement in the next meeting. I think we need to get clear as to and we would often do this in a traditional in person meeting.
[00:06:12.550] - Henry
We really need to do this with virtual meeting. It's almost like visualizing in your mind how it's going to unfold. Yeah.
[00:06:20.890] - Chris
And I think to your point there, I think if you've got that purpose objective in mind that will help craft how the virtual meeting will be structured, right? I mean, it's like, are you going to need to have breakout rooms? Are you going to have to have maybe some intro music ahead of time? Are you going to have to provide breaks for people throughout the day? Whatever that ends up looking like a lot of that is going to be based upon what the purpose and objective of the meeting is.
[00:06:47.590] - Chris
So I think that's really key when it comes to even thinking through these virtual meetings.
[00:06:52.570] - Henry
Let me pick up from that, because those are really all good points. But for me, another thing to consider in the pre is really that notion of know your audience, what content do they know before they come in? That's based on your objectives. What do they know about the purpose and objectives and the content, especially the content and what's their experience with video conferencing? Another one you really need to look at. And this is very central to this presentation. Is what technology are you using? And I'm going to be Chris kind of repetitive about this that we really need to crawl into the technology and really understand it's.
[00:07:34.570] - Henry
Full capabilities. So once we understand full capabilities, we can turn loose our creativity. And how do we use that to have a great meeting? And then five, where are the people located? Is everyone at a home office? Are you connecting five or ten people in a conference room with people who are at home? So these are some preliminary questions you would do in terms of setting up the other kinds of things. And I look at some of these questions as the what what are we trying to accomplish?
[00:08:08.350] - Henry
Then we move into the how is knowing some of your objectives and the how is how do we use this wonderful software to achieve our goals?
[00:08:23.630] - Chris
That's an interesting thing there, because even all of that prep work.
[00:08:26.810] - Chris
[00:08:27.710] - Chris
What are your thoughts on doing, like, a dry run or practicing ahead of time? Because I think it always looks good on paper. But the reality is it always ends up very different. So what are your thoughts on doing a dry run ahead of time?
[00:08:39.530] - Henry
I absolutely know that this is vital important and necessary, especially under a couple of conditions. One, it's going to be a four hour meeting, a day long meeting. It could be a four hour meeting over the course of two days. I mean, an eight hour meeting over the course of two days. There's complexity on the content, there's complexity because you have a lot of speakers. It's like there's more moving pieces. Another thing, maybe you have a Smee who comes in for one or 2 hours. We've got to make sure that person doesn't call you at the last minute and say, Where's the link?
[00:09:15.650] - Henry
My audio is not working. I think we can prevent problems. I'm also a believer that when we do this kind of work, we use checklists to keep us on track. Yeah.
[00:09:29.690] - Chris
And I think that checklist is a great idea. Maybe it's a great practice to have that checklist to just make sure that all the T's are crossed and the I's are dotted because it's not something we may do on a regular basis to do, like a larger session. So just kind of making sure that all of these components and everything is just so when we're ready to start this.
[00:09:55.610] - Henry
When I was doing checklist, I would draw from other experiences. Then I hop in consulting a new client and I would hand out this was like in person or more or less my checklist and people would look at it and it would be good. But I've changed that. I want to build a checklist in kind of a collaborative fashion because I think it gives people a bigger buy in. And then, of course, I'm contributing. So if I think there's things that are not being brought up, I can bring them up.
[00:10:27.710] - Henry
But I think it's a different process when the people who kind of own the responsibility are identifying and making the checklist.
[00:10:38.870] - Chris
One thing is the role of maybe a producer or the role of a co facilitator. Let's talk about maybe a producer role when it comes to a virtual session. What does that look like? How would you define what a producer would do?
[00:10:55.430] - Henry
A producer oftentimes is handling the email invitations, they're getting videos and materials. We even use the Harvard Business case one. How do we get these into a learning management system or content management system? We need to test that. Can participants hit it easily? Do they have the right links? Sometimes the producers interfacing with it, or the people who own the video conference software? Perhaps the producer is creating the poll questions. Some organizations may say the producer really needs to get pretty detailed and almost like a smear on the software.
[00:11:36.590] - Henry
If that's the case, they can help with poll questions. And then are you going to record the meeting and oftentimes the producers involved with that? Yeah.
[00:11:45.710] - Chris
So it really sounds like the producer just kind of make sure that everything runs smoothly and according to plan and people are showing up where they need to and the technology is working and all the follow up activity is done afterwards. So yeah, just a very important role when it comes to certainly a larger session or a larger meeting. So let's move away from the pre component. So obviously we can see the preparation work. You identified the purpose and the objective and the participants in the audience.
[00:12:16.190] - Chris
And that's all great practices, regardless of what type of meeting let's talk about during the actual session. What are some of your suggestions to make a virtual meeting run smoothly?
[00:12:28.730] - Henry
Well, I think a little bit like architecture and design. So for me, the pre work before the meeting, you created the architecture and design. So now you're into the meeting. Now you need to execute, hopefully not waiver too much, although perhaps you do a time because we need to be flexible. So some of the daring components are the meeting. Facilitator is guiding the meeting. It's based on the agenda. It's based on the experience and the design. Are you showing slides? Are you using screen sharing? Are you launching polls?
[00:13:04.670] - Henry
Are you putting people into breakout rooms? So in a sense, the design and then the practice sets you up as a meeting leader or facilitator to implement to execute. And of course, one issue is that I've seen is the designers can be brilliant at a design. But then there's a gap between the person who's facilitating and even co facilitating where they say, Great, we're doing all this. I don't know how to do it. I haven't done it in six months. So now we get into the notion of practice ahead of time or coaching ahead of time.
[00:13:41.690] - Henry
The key is we want that person, the facilitator to be confident and comfortable to do these things. And sometimes there's a gap between the design and the implementation. Yeah.
[00:13:53.990] - Chris
That's an interesting point, because maybe the architecture built or planned for this phenomenal building or this phenomenal house, but it's physically impossible to build it right. So that could be the same trap or the same danger that could occur. The meeting could be architected to be this, but it physically cannot be done. So I love the idea of just practicing. It almost sounds like a script. You almost need a script, right.
[00:14:22.250] - Henry
We're kind of writing a play you mentioned earlier when you kick this off of that three day wonderful session you went on. I'm thinking they had a great design. They had a great architecture, and the people who facilitated that, they were comfortable, confident. They could almost see it in their mind how it was going to unfold, and they knew how to use what tool, when and there was congruence between the design and implementation. Yeah.
[00:14:48.470] - Chris
No, that's exactly the way it went down and kind of thinking back on that. I guarantee they had that in place.
[00:14:54.890] - Henry
Then do you want to talk a little bit about having a co facilitator in a meeting?
[00:15:03.150] - Chris
[00:15:03.930] - Henry
Grease this all along. If you have more or less, quote, unquote, a lot of people in a meeting, and I don't want to define what a lot is. But if you're using chats a lot, the co facilitator can keep track of those chats, sometimes even assembling them into categories. That's part of the design.
[00:15:24.930] - Chris
I like this.
[00:15:25.590] - Henry
There could be 50 chats, ten chats, so they do a quick and dirty assembling. Those kind of like how we would do an in person meeting on a flip chart. We move things around the co facilitator. If you have busy slides or you want to emphasize keywords or key concepts. The co facilitator can use those Mark up or annotation tools highlighter square circles arrows because we want to draw attention to the visual aspect of the meeting, not just the audio aspect. There's a visual emphasis. Sometimes the coach facilitator teaches some content.
[00:16:08.790] - Henry
Certainly they can participate in debriefing polling questions, but those kinds of things. So.
[00:16:17.790] - Chris
There'S obviously a presenter role. There's a producer role, which will be what we just talked about earlier, and that could almost be the same person, right? Because that's almost like two different work streams there. But then the co facilitator that is in parallel, that's two different people that absolutely will be joined at the hip during the session. So I think that's a great suggestion. I love that idea, too, about just categorizing the chats that come in because themes will develop right when they come in through that flow right there and just being able to just kind of attack them together.
[00:16:51.990] - Chris
You got to have somebody behind the scenes doing that and pulling that up.
[00:16:54.390] - Henry
So let me tell you how this can kind of give you some synergy. So, for example, your design says, let's get ideas in the chat, you get the co facilitator that job. But behind the scenes that co facilitator is building some poll questions. They're taking those categories and they're building those poll questions. And it's kind of time maybe it's a little informal now with the facilitator, and they say, Well, let's launch a poll to see how you view the priorities. We got about 20 ideas in the chat.
[00:17:34.470] - Henry
[00:17:36.330] - Henry
You go from gathering information to setting priorities. It's a very cool we would do that in a face to face meeting.
[00:17:42.930] - Chris
You're just diving deeper into the data and getting a little more nuanced about it right about. And it keeps people engaged. I think that's the biggest thing, too, is again going through that three day online training experience. It was polls. It was annotations. It was breakout rooms. It was questions. It was all of these things. It was picking up a piece of paper and writing out that we had on our desk that they had sent ahead of time. So all of these things, I think, really add to the mix there.
[00:18:09.210] - Henry
So you like the variety of the two as part of the process. And I think that's key, Chris, and that's the world we're in now. This is my little pitch here is the software has gotten so good. It kind of behooves us to learn how to take advantage of it. Yeah.
[00:18:30.570] - Chris
And that will take a little bit of discovery on our part and little time. But you are exactly right. It is the variety that keeps people engaged. So that's a real good point right there. So we've got the pre meeting done, all the work done there. We've actually gone through the meeting. We've had a successful meeting. We now come to the after the meeting what are some of the pieces that would be good to wrap this up after the meeting?
[00:18:55.230] - Henry
It could be done by the presenter or facilitator. Some of this could be done by the co facilitator. But, for example, if someone has taken meeting notes, what's the method to distribute that? Is there content that was promised to send out after the meeting? So you have a process to do that after the meeting. During the meeting, there might have been a discussion that we need another session just to review it. There's still some needs for clarification, and oftentimes that's an optional meeting. It's a volunteer. It's not mandatory.
[00:19:30.570] - Henry
So that could be a follow up. So things of that nature.
[00:19:34.950] - Chris
I think the digital tools make it that much easier to do that follow up stuff, right. Because you could just throw it into the chat. You could throw the notes into the chat right after you could set up the meetings right after whatever needs to be in order to get that done.
[00:19:47.370] - Henry
That's a good point. We could be copy pasting the chats into a word Doc, whether you organize it or not, may depend on what you're trying to do, but at least you're sharing the information. And then if you have a meeting a week later or two weeks later, they have a word document. And maybe the pre work is to ask people to spend ten or 15 minutes to review the chats before the next meeting. And now we have continuity of engagement, continuity of learning, continuity of being ready to act in the next meeting.
[00:20:22.710] - Henry
[00:20:22.890] - Chris
And it just gets so much easier because it's real time. It's digital and it's just that much more effective.
[00:20:28.290] - Henry
[00:20:28.650] - Chris
Well, that's good. Well, we rounded up the pre, the during and the post meeting. Now let's maybe talk about some ideas around very specific types of meetings.
[00:20:39.510] - Henry
[00:20:39.870] - Chris
So let's say we have a virtual planning session and that will take four to 8 hours. Maybe it's an all day. Maybe it's an all day thing. What are some of the suggestions to make that work?
[00:20:51.630] - Henry
Well, I have a few and Chris, and this is important. It's a good question. So I would handle it this way. If I was responsible for doing that. I got two or three or four people together and we write out what an in person meeting might look like. Almost like we start with an in person meeting. We do the purpose and objectives, the why those kinds of things, some of the activities. And we say, well, we're really familiar with doing this in the traditional way. Well, now we're converting that to Zoom or Webex or the new tools.
[00:21:29.490] - Henry
So we got used to the people need to know the capabilities. But now we can go into, like, a conversion process. We have a design. And how do we convert it? Certainly at a high level. And so now you get into the process of converting in terms of more or less, you know, the what? So now we do the how and you know, there's another thing people can do. Perhaps there are people in the company or your organization that have been doing virtual planning sessions, and perhaps it would be really good to contact them.
[00:22:07.530] - Henry
What are their insights? What did they learn? Do's and don'ts and some of that. But I think you need to do more than just you doing it alone. I think you need a few people involved in that, especially if it's a four or eight or 16 hours meeting.
[00:22:23.310] - Chris
And that is a really good point. As you take, you take what is going on in the real world.
[00:22:28.170] - Chris
[00:22:28.590] - Chris
And then you just I love that idea. You map it to the virtual world.
[00:22:32.970] - Chris
[00:22:33.990] - Chris
And I'm reflecting back on again the three days that I just went through when you set up a conference or training, you walk in the morning and they've got coffee and they've got whatever. But they've also got music playing in the background, just kind of that type of thing going. It just was very warm and inviting. They did the exact same thing. It was like you could network a little bit, you could hang out. They'd have music going in the very beginning. They'd have a countdown clock.
[00:23:00.030] - Chris
So you kind of knew when everything was going to start and then just ease right in. And then they even engaged with the audience. As far as asking trivia from each person. And then they would sprinkle this trivia out over the next couple of days just to keep people engaged. So it was like all of that kind of stuff would have happened in the real world. But now that it's online, I love the idea that you convert.
[00:23:22.530] - Henry
[00:23:22.770] - Chris
We would have done that here in the real world. And now we do it over here in this virtual world. And most of the stuff will translate. Maybe you won't get the doughnuts or something like that. But I would say most of the stuff will translate over. So again, I love the idea of just having to plan and orchestrate what that's going to look like ahead of time.
[00:23:41.910] - Henry
Sometimes again, traditional meeting. Not everybody knows each other. Either. People volunteer, they go around and it's like tell something about us. Some do the where you were born or things like that. Some people do hobbies. What are your hobbies? That's a good way to engage people and begin socialization? Well, I did a meeting with a company out of Australia, and I asked people before the meeting and through the contact there to send a picture of their hobby. So people were sending in pictures of climbing mountains, swimming with their family in a park, roller skating, all those things, playing a sport.
[00:24:25.950] - Henry
And then I as the facilitator. I had grabbed those images and put them into a PowerPoint, and I was presenting them out and the other people had not seen the pictures. So it was like this big. Hey, this is fun. How long you've been doing that? It was more than an ice breaker. It was that socialization. Absolutely.
[00:24:46.350] - Chris
And I think you're right, especially when it's a group of strangers, right. Or people that don't know each other very well. So that works very well. So, Henry, let me kind of ask you this question. We're going to go a little bit negative here. I guess you would say, what mistakes have you seen people make over the years when it comes to these virtual meetings? What problems have people run into? What can we learn from that?
[00:25:12.510] - Henry
One mistake that I see is that the meeting hosts, they really limit them to just one or two or three video conferencing tools. And as you just said before, the more variety of tools, the better. And what I said before, is there's more tools to uncover that maybe we don't even know exists? So if we put that together, we can overcome that mistake. Another mistake is that meeting hosts oftentimes do not get out of their comfort zone. They really do not expand their skills. Which kind of goes back to they're limiting themselves to just one or two or three.
[00:25:53.490] - Henry
Another area is I'd like to see more imagination. What would be a great meeting? What would be so cool? Not from your point of view or from corporate's point of view, but from the people who come in. Let's take apart that word engage and make it interesting and really let that guide us. And I think there's another way to approach this. There could be a process with a host cohost co facilitator, et cetera. There could be a process where they actually speak to participants well before the meeting, or maybe actually over time, consistently.
[00:26:29.170] - Henry
What ideas do you have that would make meetings better for you? What holds you back? What could be better for our team? So now we're involving in kind of like that employee involvement thing.
[00:26:42.250] - Chris
So what I'm hearing you say is, don't limit yourself to tools. Don't limit yourself to features within certain tools and use your imagination. Get ideas from people. I love that idea. We always use the word engage. Well, what makes people engage? Is it's interesting? So make it interesting, right? And ask people what they think. Is that's going to be interesting? I love that you could definitely see you could get stuck down that one path and not realize that there's a bunch of other stuff out there. So real good insight there.
[00:27:19.870] - Henry
I've worked in environments where the content holder is really great, giving their lecture rats and explaining things, but they're weak and asking questions. So sometimes they determine the questions. And sometimes the co facilitator has the role of asking the questions whether it's verbal or through the system. And so now they're working in tandem. So now there can be questions listening. Are we really listening?
[00:27:50.350] - Chris
Well, we have covered a lot of ground here today. Henry, I definitely appreciate your time. And joining us today, do you have any closing thoughts? Anything you'd like to wrap it up with that we could reflect on.
[00:28:03.430] - Henry
Thanks. I'll just be kind of brief here and we all know that achievement of great things takes many factors. Right. So when I think about great virtual meetings and virtual training classes, here's six items on my closing thoughts. First, this is a bit of a review. First, know your purpose, objectives and your audience. Second, know the capabilities of the software and technology you will be using so you can really optimize its power. Three, design your virtual meeting based on the objectives and knowing the full capabilities. So now we're back to architecture and design based on the tools you have.
[00:28:45.250] - Henry
Four, Chris, we've spoken before. You know my emphasis on practice. It's practice, practice, practice, practice using that iron nine iron. Practice shooting your file shops. Practice using the new polling techniques. And at least for me, sometimes I talk too much when I should be listening more as a facilitator or this me and then six. I'm a believer that because meetings are here with us. Virtual meetings are here with us. There's so much. Why aren't we setting up centers of influence in our organizations, either in a Department or throughout an enterprise where people can come together with some level of focus or informal to begin sharing great practices, what works, what doesn't work, and you build in your own company a body of knowledge who's really expert at this.
[00:29:47.290] - Henry
We can harness the talent throughout an organization through a center of influence.
[00:29:52.210] - Chris
Great recap of our conversation today. Now, Henry, if people wanted to find out more information about you, maybe download your book, that type of thing. Where can they get more information about you?
[00:30:06.850] - Henry
Thanks. I've got a website. It's lesdriving. Org and you can leave a message for me there. You'll see some information on the latest book, which is at Amazon as an ebook.
[00:30:20.530] - Chris
And what is the name of the book.
[00:30:22.090] - Henry
How to Achieve Virtual Meeting Effectiveness? Skills Training for Online virtual meetings?
[00:30:28.990] - Chris
Fantastic. So that is right up the Lee what we talked about today. So we encourage people to check that out. And you're saying your website is lestriving.
[00:30:38.950] - Henry
Org? Yes, it is.
[00:30:40.870] - Chris
Lestdriving. Org very appropriate name as well.
[00:30:45.370] - Henry
Thank you very much for having me.
[00:30:46.990] - Chris
Thanks, Henry. Well, you can certainly tell that Henry knows his stuff and has definitely conducted one or two virtual meetings in his day. So what are some of the great practices that we can glean from this episode? Well, if we find that we're going to have a long session, maybe it's a virtual training session or a virtual planning session that'll take hours or maybe even up to a day, sit down and map out what that in person experience would be like and then convert that to as many virtual counterparts as possible.
[00:31:26.330] - Chris
You may not be able to translate everything that you would do in person to being virtual, but you'll probably get 80% to 90% of the way there. Map out how the whole event will flow and be sure to leverage the roles of the producer, making sure that everything is set up and running smoothly. The facilitator really that's kind of the face of the meeting that keeps people engaged, also known as interested and the co facilitator partnering with the facilitator behind the scenes to make sure that nothing is getting dropped between the cracks.
[00:32:02.090] - Chris
People's questions are getting answered and needs are being taken care of. I love that idea of not overarchitecting your meeting or designing it into something that couldn't possibly be delivered without some full blown Hollywood production company. So that's a great lesson to learn there as well and learn from the mistake of others. Don't limit ourselves just to one or two technologies. There's many different virtual tools that are out there and they do slightly different things for slightly different audiences. Someone recently it's kind of like set up like tables and you can choose which table you want to sit at and have conversations there, so don't limit yourself to just Zoom or teams see what else is out there, dig deep into the features of each tool, not just being on the surface of starting up a video, but really get into the annotation and what other options do they have that we could really make the meetings a little more interesting and use our imagination to make these virtual meetings engaging.
[00:33:07.010] - Chris
Also known as fun and interesting. Again, we appreciate Henry being on today and sharing some of those great practices with us. Now, do you have a great practice you want to share? Jump onto the PMOLeader.Com click on community, then great practices and scroll down to the bottom. Submit your name and idea and someone will get back to you shortly. So thanks again for listening to this episode and keep putting great practices into practice.