It’s tough to retain engagement during the endless zoom-a-thons. At this point, you’ve probably seen dozens of articles on adjusting to virtual work-life and keeping up productivity while suffering from “zoom fatigue.” As a client-facing, 100% virtual consultancy, we know the drill! Here are three tips to help you lead productive meetings.
1. Say “I don’t know” – or something like it.
No one person in the room is smarter than all the people in the room combined. If there’s a question you don’t know the answer to, don’t act like you do. You would be surprised; saying “I don’t know” can create a more collaborative and constructive conversation with your colleagues. It invites other people to speak and sparks more exploration.
Not to mention, it’s exhausting feeling like you have to have the answer all the time. Let others speak up and share their expertise.
If you really are the only subject matter expert in the room and don’t know the answer, here are some alternative options to keep the conversation moving and positive:
“I have a few ideas but would like to validate them with my team before we decide on next steps.”
“I will do some research and determine the best way forward.”
“There are a couple of different options I would like to test first.”
“I’m not 100% certain but I think [x idea] would work. What do you think? Do you see any pitfalls with this approach?”
No one can argue with those! Take stock and revisit the discussion, or even turn the question on its head and use it as a conversation-starter with your colleagues.
2. Replace “but” with “and”
Language has a huge impact on communication and how others perceive you. By keeping your tone positive and using constructive language, you can use positive reinforcement to achieve your meeting’s goals.
That said, “but” is the nemesis of a good conversation. Of course, there are certain sentences that absolutely require the word “but,” BUT—this word has the tendency to invalidate just about everything that came before it in the context of feedback or difficult conversations. We can even become conditioned to hear the “but” before it happens:
“Great job on this project… but there were a few errors.”
“I know this is a pain point for your team… but it’s not a priority right now.”
“Thanks for your feedback… but we already have a solution in the works”
Instead, consider replacing “but” with its more amicable cousin “and” to validate what the other person just said and create a more constructive conversation. For example:
“Great job on this project, and here are some things we can pay closer attention to next time to improve the process.”
“I know this is a pain point for your team, and we should discuss how to prioritize this project against other requests that are in progress to ensure it gets tackled.”
“Thanks for your feedback, and here are some other solutions we’re discussing with leadership now. What do you think?”
Using “and” instead of “but” will help others feel heard and validate the positive statements instead of detracting from them. Especially in a virtual work environment, being truly heard is more important than ever.
3. Lean into the power of the pause.
Remember to keep your contributions and comments concise and goal oriented to allow others to chime in. Be cognizant not to use meetings as your shining monologue—make space for a pause after questions and let others weigh in. Moving slowly can grow consensus and minimize confusion, enabling you to use this time as a space to get things done. Lean into the power of the pause after you make a statement. Try asking a question and don’t be afraid of silence, it’s usually an indication that people are thinking.
If you’re still struggling through the silence and sense that prolonged pauses are a product of disengagement or confusion, try using one of these phrases to keep the meeting moving along:
“Does that resonate with you?”
“What are your thoughts on next steps?”
“Does that answer your question?”
“Is there anything else you need from me to move the project forward?”
Don’t be afraid to call on people by name or on teams to create space for them to speak up. Even if you think they would say “No, I agree with that,” or “I don’t have anything else to add…” BOOM! You’ve just validated everything that was discussed and can check that item off the list.