Session theme: Mastering presence in virtual meetings

The beginning of our session was particularly interesting, as for some visitors it was rather unusual to have the webcam on. Hence, we started talking about when the use of webcams is appropriate and when it would actually get in the way of achieving the purpose of a specific meeting. There is great research which suggests two main parameters to consider when choosing technology to allow virtual interaction.
One is related to the information richness needed in the meeting and the second to the level of social presence required. For high information richness and low social presence (e.g. consolidate a document or proposal) the interaction may actually be best done via a simple digital platform for sharing information in teams. For a meeting where relationship building is part of the main objective social presence should be high, hence, the use of a webcam is highly recommended. One Café-visitor connected her limited use of a webcam to her FIRO-B affection-score being fairly low. Very interesting thought! This may be worth further exploration … and/or another Café-session.

cartoon_virtual_officeWe also dived into the question what to consider to create the effect of having the meeting IN a (virtual) room.
Here, the visibility of your real room/office in the background might be a distraction, for example. Aspects about backlight and how well your face is lit and visible are also relevant considerations. Apart from the physical elements we then touched on the psychological aspects, like the attitude one has with regard to a virtual meeting. Priming your mind with the thought that you are entering a virtual room or joining a meeting rather than log-in or dial into a meeting can make a significant difference in how present you appear in the meeting.

Another aspect we discussed was the importance of the quality of your voice in virtual interactions, even more so when you are only connected via audio. Though important in face to face as well, the virtual context amplifies the impact such aspects have in the interaction dramatically! There is a great TED talk from Julian Treasure about this. Check it out.

Towards the end we came across ‘guidelines’ for virtual meetings. A lot has been published on this subject for face to face meetings. Virtual ones have not had that much coverage in literature (yet). In recent times, however, even the Wall Street Journal published an article about virtual meeting etiquette. It is surprising that very much on top they listed not to eat in a virtual meeting. And indeed some of us had exactly the experience that participants were munching away in a virtual meeting and sometimes even tried to talk while doing it. Amazing. The emerging hypothesis was that this behaviour might be triggered by the “home office” environment as a very informal place.
Overall, we all enjoyed the conversation.

Last, but not least, we received some very encouraging comments about the background-picture of our Café triggering the wish to sit down, the informal and relaxed as well as interactive nature of the Café session. That is exactly what we intend and we’re glad it works.

icon-vld-cafe-lgWe shall have a summer break in August and look forward to seeing you on 7th September for our next session about Emotional Intelligence. Check the session calendar and sign-up soon to reserve one of the 12 available places.