Look Who's Talking
We Asked the Project Management Community: What Steps Do You Take to Ensure Strong Engagement During Videoconference Meetings?
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We asked the project management community: What step do you take to ensure strong engagement during videoconference meetings?
“The first and most important thing we did was reduce the number of meetings that staff need to attend. This helped ensure that meeting attendees are the right attendees and therefore engaged with the meeting’s content. Like many organizations, we request that everyone turn on their cameras at the start of each videoconference meeting. At the same time, we appreciate how tiring videoconferencing can be, so we also tell our staff that they’re free to turn off their cameras after the meeting’s start and then turn them on again when they’re talking or being asked a question.”
—Ben Caulfield, CEO, Eedi, London
NARROW THE FOCUS
“My top tip is to plan the agenda in advance, so the meeting is compelling and relevant for everyone attending. During the meetings, I find it works better to direct specific questions to named individuals, rather than asking general questions to everyone on the call. I also encourage everyone to have their cameras on and to stay engaged by using the chat function.”
—Mark Enzer, director and head of the National Digital Twin Programme at the Centre for Digital Built Britain, Cambridge, England
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“I avoid inviting too many people to any one meeting. I make sure the topics stay relevant to the people present so that I keep their attention. And I share images as much as I can. I also have meetings with people who speak different languages, and since I know some of them might not understand each project’s primary language very well, I speak slowly and allow them time to translate to make sure they’re all following the discussion.”
—Jerome Huet, PMP, project manager, Sandvik Rock Processing Plant Solutions, Paris
“To keep everyone engaged, I ensure each person gets a turn to speak. I ask for participants’ input or questions on the discussion topics, and I encourage them to present their ideas and questions in the chat window. I also make sure every participant turns on their video camera, which, among other things, reduces the multitasking that typically takes place in an audio-only meeting.”
—Kris Sprague, PMP, PgMP, PfMP, head of clinical project planning and scheduling, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Tarrytown, New York, USA
“I use the principle of agile retrospectives to ensure no one person dominates the whole discussion. I want people to feel comfortable turning their cameras and audio on, so I explain it’s okay if their kids show up on screen or if they’re not dressed in business attire. I create space for team members to contribute by pausing the meetings and encouraging them to speak, whether in an open forum or round-robin format. I remind them that we’re working with other humans, not talking to computers. Lastly, it helps to establish working agreements for remote meetings that, for example, define the amount of time spent on meetings to reduce communication overhead.”
—Rahul Sudame, PMI-ACP, PMP, senior engineering partner, Persistent Systems, Pune, India
“During meetings, I timebox tasks and I use breakout rooms whenever possible or needed, with just five to six people per room. And I do my best to visualize, visualize, visualize: I invite other participants to create content and summaries for my videoconference meetings that we can present using digital whiteboards.”
—Michal Raczka, PMI-ACP, PMP, IT director, mBank S.A., Warsaw, Poland
CLEAR AND DIRECT
“I greet each participant on the call and use icebreakers, like telling a joke or a little story. It helps draw people into the discussion from the start. To sustain that engagement, I call on any silent participants by name and ask them for their opinions.”
—Rathidevi Vijayaraghavan, PMP, senior project manager, Emeritus, Mumbai, India