What makes remote meetings so difficult?

Teaching a bunch of great in-the-room trainers, facilitators and coaches to do their thing remotely recently, it struck me that we can boil it down to three big challenges, the 3 Difficult Ds:

  • Distraction
  • Discomfort
  • Disconnection (both literal and metaphorical)

To make our remote meetings and events brilliant, we need to tackle these.

Distraction

  • Video cameras on!
  • Notifications off!
  • Ensure everyone calls from a quiet place
  • Don’t allow talk-over-Powerpoint. A slide or two is fine: max ten minutes
  • Don’t get too ‘tool-tastic’. Brilliant collaboration gadgets such as fancy online whiteboards can be distracting

Discomfort

  • Invite participants to bring their own beverages and snacks
  • Plan short meetings wherever possible
  • Use asynchronous comms (eg Slack) appropriately
  • Break up periods of group discussion with breakout sessions
  • Schedule stretch breaks in longer calls

Disconnection: Literal

  • Use the best kit that you can
  • Have some kind of backup plan for when your primary comms fail. Because they will!
  • Adopt an antifragile attitude when things do go wrong.

Disconnection: Metaphorical

  • Facilitate human-to-human connections with introductions, check-ins, warm-up activities etc
  • Schedule some informal time before and after ‘the meeting’
  • Ensure participants can connect with each other afterwards (via email, Slack etc)
  • Consider scheduling online social events and mixers, like Happy Melly’s dance party

In comments elsewhere, Howard Esbin has proposed a fourth D – disembodiment. What do you think?

What other ideas do you have? Please comment below.

    3 replies to "Remote Meetings: The 3 Difficult Ds"

    • Nenad Maljković

      How about extending 3 Ds considerations also beyond remote meetings? 🙂

      Having attended lots of great remote meetings with poor follow-up, I realized that what we do and how we do it in between meetings is critical – and that’s where the real work is happening for remote meeting participants anyway. Meetings and workshops are not an end to itself. Good situational awareness and facilitation skills are also needed outside meetings, because we are using modern technology to connect, communicate and collaborate in between meetings too! 🙂

    • Elisabeth

      I use Whole Person Process Facilitation both for in person and online facilitation. And one of the great virtues of this methodology is that it takes care of the person as a whole. We recommend online meetings, training for no more than three hours at a time.
      And I think the 3Ds are great.
      One recommendation you can add… have people prepare before the meeting, send out an exercise or some reading material beforehand and then relax. As a facilitator we tend to expect everything to go smoothly and so when the internet is not working, there are power problems, we get nervous and sometimes, we lose ourselves in the stress mode. So, relax, and be ready to be surprised.

    • Trine

      how we do it in between meetings is critical

      Thats where theres no control, well yes there is. Theres an in control continuum, beyond and before the online meet up, the meeting does continue, as we switch to another attention… Which might be online meeting over grab a coffee, or the car keys, and drive, now were into a new metaphorium and a different performance mode.. It might be a night out.. hence the car… But then, bed, and yet another metaphoium, of inwardly digesting, and contextual re assimilation, with dream states, And day dreamings
      Thats the carried on process which is the control continuum… continues.
      And, thats process were working on with Futurenows, Futurenows its our equivalence to google deep mind. Its an incubator generator think lab for the select few.

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