Why? Because we needed to be face-to-face. Right?
Skype had been invented and released, but it was not in widespread use in the business world yet. I recall talking my in-laws into downloading it so that my young children could have more engaging conversations with them. Skype was a toy.
I don’t recall the first professional web-based videoconference I had. More than likely, it was with my friend and colleague, Julie Bestry.
Today, most of my client coaching sessions are conducted virtually. I have wonderful business relationships with people whose hands I have never shaken. I also meet virtually with clients who live in my region. It’s much more convenient for both of us.
But, it took a mindset and tactical shift to make this transition.
Looking back over it, I can summarize how I went from a must-meet-face-to-face coach into a virtual coach in the following three steps:
- I opened my mind to the possibility that I could have engaging, in-depth, conversations with people who are not in the room with me.
- I found the right tools to facilitate discussions held online. I tried different programs, free and subscription-based, and persisted until I had rebuilt my coaching toolkit.
- I persuaded others to let me coach them remotely. I was receptive to an online meeting, but clients were sometimes skeptical.
One of those clients I persuaded was Jennie Hobbs, Vice President of HR at her company. Here are her comments:
I had a great coaching experience with Melissa. I was a little concerned at first about having a “virtual coach” since I am such a face-to-face person. I found out quickly I had nothing to worry about. Melissa was awesome to work with. She provided great ideas and very practical tips during our conversations. She always followed up with notes, action items and “cheat sheets”. I would highly recommend Melissa as a coach to get you organized.
Where do you stand on the virtual meeting spectrum? Do you only have meetings virtually when you must? Or, are you a virtual meeting maestro?
The efficiency of virtual meetings is likely obvious. Neither you nor the person(s) with whom you are meeting must get themselves to and from the gathering.
Plus, I believe people are more willing to end a virtual meeting early. When we’re done, we’re done. There is no feeling of “making the trip worth it” because we moved physically into the meeting space.
But, maybe you are still concerned. You may have been in virtual meetings where it felt like nobody was paying attention, or it just felt impersonal.
There are things that you and all virtual meeting participants can do to maximize the effectiveness of your time together. Here are some suggestions.
Tips for virtual meeting success:
- Minimize distractions. Turn off all email and social media notifications. Turn off phone notifications, even the buzzer, or put your phone away completely. Shut down your email program unless you need it for the meeting.
- Use video. Not only is the conversation richer for the non-verbal communication opportunities, but it’s harder to play Candy Crush if people are staring at you.
- Take electronic notes. Use OneNote or EverNote for your meeting notes. I personally use Word docs because I share my notes with my coaching client after the meeting.
- Share screens. Skype, Zoom, and WebEx (my three preferred virtual meeting tools) have bidirectional screen sharing capabilities. Use them. Just make sure that every open window (and your desktop wallpaper) are appropriate for public consumption.
- Try different online collaboration tools. I like to open a Mindmeister window and do some mind mapping exercises with clients. If your company has SharePoint, use the Wiki boards for collaboration. Make use of the tools available – there are plenty.
Implementing these tips makes an enormous difference in your virtual meetings. One of my clients is a coach and prefers the face-to-face approach. See what Robin Hensley, owner of Raising the Bar, says about remote coaching:
Since I coach the top 1% of CPAs and attorneys nationally, I am opinionated on how the coaching process works or does not, remotely or otherwise. Melissa and I have met via Skype for almost two years now. Melissa is much more knowledgeable and efficient than I am as a coach in using various remote tools, split screens and other tricks to make the remote experience seem “up close and personal.” She is a pro at this.
I wasn’t always a pro at this. Recall that my original business plan only included local coaching clients. If I can develop virtual meeting skills, so can you. And, believe me, it is well worth your time to learn.
Virtual meetings will not completely replace the need for face-to-face conversation. I worked in corporate human resources for ten years prior to opening my productivity coaching firm. Some of those sensitive, employee-related conversations ideally occur face-to-face.
But the world is a big place, and getting bigger. Virtual meetings open you and your business up to the opportunities.
Want a proof of concept? Email me to schedule a no-cost-to-you initial assessment. Find out if virtual coaching is as great as Jennie and Robin say it is.
Are you ready to feel balanced and effective at work and in life?
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Dr. Melissa Gratias (pronounced "Gracious") is a work psychologist who helps overwhelmed and underappreciated businesspeople be more focused and effective. Since 2007, thousands of people have graduated with honors from her onsite sessions, distance coaching, productivity seminars, and corporate consulting projects. Based in Savannah, Georgia, Melissa is available for nationwide consulting and speaking engagements. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 912-417-2505. Sign up for her free monthly e-newsletter or visit her website, melissagratias.com.