How to lead a virtual meeting

Ruth Wolfish has been leading monthly web-based meetings for SLA chapter leadership, and shared her lessons learned during the Leadership Development Institute at the beginning of SLA 2011.

I lead a bimonthly phone meeting for a group of philatelic librarians, and we’ve been thinking of trying to use the web to include library representatives from outside the U.S. I also lead a bimonthly phone board meeting for my SLA division board. While neither group has moved to web-based meetings yet, much of what Ruth shared can be applied to phone meetings.

Here’s a summary of her advice with a few comments from me:

  • Unlike in face to face meetings, people can leave early without being rude, so engage attendees early. (This is less true for small meetings, but attendees sitting in their offices will probably be checking their email or Facebook during the call if they get bored.)
  • Use a world clock if your audience is in multiple time zones.
  • Take questions in advance so you can be prepared to answer them during the meeting.
  • Practice the web features of the meeting software ahead of time. (Or, make sure you know how to use your teleconferencing system.)
  • Send out a reminder notice the morning of the meeting.
  • Ask attendees why they chose to join the meeting so you know what they want to get out of it.
  • Use the mute and chat box to manage discussion. (On a conference call, make sure attendees know they can mute their line when they are not talking to eliminate background noise.)
  • Set a date and time for the next meeting.
  • Thank people for attending and share your contact information.
  • After the meeting, send out highlight notes for those who didn’t attend. This informs them and encourages them to attend future meetings. (I send out notes to the entire group after each of my calls. It helps keep those who couldn’t attend updated so they can jump in at the next meeting.)