Make the Most of Your Virtual Meetings

In the last article, I discussed how to make in-person meetings more effective. In this article, I discuss making virtual meetings more effective.

Virtual meetings need to be treated differently from in-person meetings, some aspects of technology make them more challenging for example:

  1. Performing on Camera and Social Pressure

Workplaces that allow staff to work from home (WFH) expect staff to attend virtual meetings and have their camera on. For employers this is a proxy for engagement and focus. It is reasonable to want to see staff and what they are doing. After all, in a face-to-face meeting you can see what everyone is doing and whether they are paying attention.

However, virtual meetings can make staff feel social pressure to perform for the camera and be “on” at all times-which is exhausting.

To get beyond the social pressure issue, some employers allow staff to turn off their cameras during meetings. Other employers ask employees to show up in-person to work and have in-person meetings.

2. Delayed Responses

There is pressure to respond quickly in a virtual meeting. However, technology creates a delay in response time that we don’t experience with in-person meetings. 

Think about the times have you have fumbled to unmute yourself, or started talking in response to a question only to have people tell you that you are on mute, or the host goes on to the next person to get a response to their question because you are seen as too slow in responding.


Think about trying to find documents for your presentation and put them on a shared screen.  If the person takes too long or has technical difficulty they may be labelled as not being prepared or inept

A 2014 study found that delayed responses in a teleconference made others see the responder as less focused, confused, or inattentive, I would add possibly inept. We seem to have lost the ability to tolerate any delay or interruption in a smooth transition and we label the person as less capable.

 What to do?

Count to six. I received the following tip when I took a course on presentations: when you ask a question, count to 6. This is the amount of time people need to hear and process the information they receive. Therefore, in a virtual meeting, counting to six will relieve some of the response time and social pressure. Our natural instinct is to want an instant answer, but with technology expect delays.

Give people time to process and respond, be patient as people navigate their way through the virtual environment

3. Effective Use of Technology

Never assume that everyone knows all the technology available to them, help participants become familiar with what is available to them, like screen share, polls, break out rooms, and chat functions.  Make it interesting by changing up the format.

Use the Chat Feature

Encourage everyone to keep their video meeting chat feature open and ready to use. One of the best features of a virtual meeting is the chat function, this feature can help people be engaged throughout the meeting and it is a great way to get work done.

Use Breakout Rooms for Small Group Work

This feature is similar to real life break out groups, but it is done virtually. The host of the meeting usually has control over the breakout function and can place people into a breakout room. It is a nice way to brainstorm or discuss issues before going back to the bigger group.

Use Polls to Keep Participants Engaged

These are instant surveys that the host will use to gauge the participant knowledge or engagement They are fun because you get to see what others are thinking.

4. Set Virtual Standards 

Most people behave in a professional manner in meetings, but there are occasions when the meeting can get away from the host and rude and unprofessional behaviour happens. It may be more difficult to catch and stop this behaviour in virtual meetings than in-person meetings, but it needs to be stopped. Similar to in-person meetings, when a meeting becomes rude or unprofessional it is time to apply standards for virtual meetings.  Provide participants with examples of acceptable behaviour and standards:

  • “We will not speak over one another in meetings”
  • “We will record team chats so everyone knows what’s going on and who’s responsible for each idea and task,” or,
  • “Team meetings will be smartphone-free zones.”

Some examples of standards:

  • Raise your hand (real or virtual) before speaking.
  • Address colleagues respectfully.
  • Do not yell or use profane language.
  • Maintain a professional tone.
  • Listen to the speaker.
  • Remind participants that rude or unprofessional behaviour will not be tolerated. If necessary, take a break and discuss the disruptive behaviour with the participant(s) or stop the meeting and reschedule. Deal with instigators individually to address the inappropriate behaviour as you would in an in-person meeting.

5. It’s Ok to Socialize Before the Meeting

A common comment about virtual meetings is that it’s not as personal and interactive as in-person meetings. There are no treats in a virtual meeting, there is little socializing in a virtual meeting and people are more wooden. For example, in an in-person meeting people chat about their family, evening/weekend plans, weather, but as soon as people get on a call, the socialization aspect doesn’t seem to happen, people go on mute and off camera until the meeting happens. 

Getting to know your colleagues in a more personal way makes the interactions more personable, pleasant and can facilitate better working relationships.


Virtual meetings are here to stay. Find different ways to engage participants, change up the format, make sure participants know how to use the technology and practice tolerance.

Make the Most of Your Meetings

The verdict is in! Most meetings are ineffective. This post will share tips on how to make your meetings more effective.

Some interesting meeting stats:

Continue reading “Make the Most of Your Meetings”

Why We Need to Normalize Failure, It’s the Key to Success

We’ve come a long way from the shame of failure over the years:

  • In 800 BC Greece, failed business merchants sat in the marketplace with a basket over their heads. 
  • Between 500 -1500 AD Italy,, failed business owners with debt, were taken naked to the public square. They were required to bang their buttocks against a special stone while a crowd booed at them.
  • In 17th century France, failed business owners were taken to the center of the market and their bankruptcy was announced.  To avoid imprisonment, they had to wear a green bonnet, a sign of failure. 

We don’t publicly shame failure like we did in the past, but we still haven’t normalized it.  

Continue reading “Why We Need to Normalize Failure, It’s the Key to Success”

Christmas Message

Christmas is a time of celebration, spending time with family and friends, renewal, joy, hope, and of gratitude. During this time of year I tend to be more reflective and turn my thoughts to all the big and little things I am thankful for like, family and friends, and all the blessings I have in my life. 

The Christmas season is one of generosity; I’m talking about the generosity of spirit, and not gift giving.  Here’s why I think that:

  • People seem to be more forgiving and agreeable and may be more willing to overlook slights and hurts than normally.
  • People give of their time and money to help those less fortunate than themselves.
  • People may be more inclusive and look for ways to include those without family and friends in activities.
  • People seem to want to make the world a happier place, even for a short time, think of decorated houses and yards, decorated shopping centres, singing, plays…
  • We want to celebrate whether it’s the big things or the little things. This season reminds us of the blessings in our life.

There are those who do not share these sentiments and may find the Christmas season hard to manage. We can be sensitive to what they are feeling or going through. They may not want to share in festivities or activities because they are in a hard place in their life. We can find another way to be a friend.

Let your generosity out during this season. Make it a practice to celebrate the good things in your life. Watch how it changes you and helps those around you.

May you enjoy the very best of this season!


We Are What We Do Repeatedly: How You Do Anything is How You Do Everything

When I first heard, “How You Do Anything is How You Do Everything”, I thought no that’s not true, but then I thought maybe it is true.

What do you think? Is this statement true or false?

Continue reading “We Are What We Do Repeatedly: How You Do Anything is How You Do Everything”

How to be Mentally Strong After a Loss


In the last blog post, I talked about pressure tests. They are the tests that come along in life to challenge us mentally, physically, spiritually, financially, and in our relationships and usually, they involve crises or loss in our lives.

Continue reading “How to be Mentally Strong After a Loss”

Facing Your Pressure Test

I’m a fan of the MasterChef franchise: MasterChef Canada, Australia, and the United States and of the Great British Bake Off. If you haven’t watched any of these shows, the premise is that a small number of home cooks compete against one another in pressure tests to win a grand prize (usually loads of money). I admire them for taking a risk and following their passion.

Continue reading “Facing Your Pressure Test”

Leadership Moments: Get Out of Your Own Way

We have met the enemy and he is us”

Walt Kelly, From the Pogo comic strip

Do you find yourself tugged in two different directions?  One direction is comfortable, safe, and known, but boring, tired, or done. The other direction is new, your next big move and scary! It means that you must make a change. So, you play around with the idea, like a cat plays with a toy. You push it around, throw it in the air, and then abandon it. You want to commit to the new thing, but you can’t just yet, you need to play with it, until you start to feel comfortable… and you never really get comfortable with the idea, so you continue to the play cat games endlessly.

Continue reading “Leadership Moments: Get Out of Your Own Way”

How to Have Your Ideas Heard

You have an idea that you think is great, how do you get buy in?

New ideas mean change and people don’t like change. They want to know what’s in it for them and how affects them, because it moves them out of their comfort zone into anxiety.

The Problem

Women and minorities have trouble when it comes to having their ideas heard. Men may underestimate or dismiss women and minorities if they are quiet or introverted. However, they are labelled as aggressive if they speak up.

Timing and the audience you are pitching your idea to, may affect whether your idea is heard or not.

Ways to Present Your Idea

These are suggestions as to how to have your voice and idea heard:

  • Present your idea clearly and rationally to the decision maker.
  • Ask questions, this will help people see things from another perspective.
  • Speak up during discussions or meetings.
  • Encourage others to speak up (especially if they are quiet or introverted).
  • Make helpful suggestions to improve a process, which doesn’t add to the cost.
  • Volunteer to participate on a committee or special project.
  • Find a champion to help you present your idea.
  • Build on a point someone else made as a springboard to present your idea. For example, Jane made an excellent point about XXX, I’d like to build on it.
  • Caution: Defend your point or position-this tactic can alienate people because it puts them on the defensive, so use this one with care.

Know Your Audience

No matter what your idea is, you need to raise awareness.

I used to feel discouraged when I presented my idea to a decision maker, and they didn’t love it like I did. Their rejection made me think that it was a bad idea. I would go away, analyze the idea, and test my assumptions. Only after I did this, and I was convinced that it was a good idea, I reframed my thinking. I realized that the timing wasn’t right and there were pressing issues that took priority over my idea, so I tried again when I felt the timing was better.

Not all ideas are good, so be ready for a no. Be open to suggestions. The idea may need a revamp, a rethink, or a trash can dump.

Sometimes you may have to walk away from your idea if the decision makers are not ready for it, even when you are convinced it is sound, doable, important, and would make things better. Use it as an opportunity to learn from the situation.

Another Way

“Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.”

― Ovid

It can be hard to get attention or buy-in for an idea. I stumbled across this method-the dripping water method by accident. This way isn’t for everyone, but I found it an effective way to influence thinking.

The idea is presented subtly and repeatedly over time to raise awareness. Once others are aware, familiar, and understand it, the idea gains momentum and it becomes easier to accept.


I was involved with a project that had the potential to improve processes and outcomes on a national level. Unfortunately, poor leadership, lack of direction, missing information, and a compressed timeline put us at risk.

Luckily, I was also a member of a sub-committee that was tasked with looking at the impacts and risks of proceeding.

I repeatedly raised my concerns (dripping water) along with a solution to the decision makers in my organization. I enlisted champions to help raise the level of awareness and urgency. As a result, we used external subject matter experts to provide the missing information to members of the project team. This helped the project team make the necessary adjustments for a successful project.

Was this a lot of work? Yes! Our goal was to get the best outcome and we did.  


So, what does being heard have to do with a leadership mindset?

Being able to communicate your ideas successfully is what separates leaders from followers.

Obviously, there are a lot of ways to get your idea across. Keys to being heard are raising awareness and knowing your audience.

  • If the audience is willing to listen, your persistence will pay off.
  • If the audience is unwilling or unable to listen to your idea, you need to let it go and move on. “Ask yourself is this a hill to die on?”

I found great success with the dripping water method for long term and strategic issues, but it is more work and takes more time.  

People will pitch their idea in a way that is comfortable for them. Don’t be afraid to find your voice and use it.

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Leadership Moments

Leadership is a series of moments in life that defines our character and the impact we have on others in our corner of the world. A leadership moment is when we are intentional about what we say or do and that decision either builds or destroys. A moment like when:  

  • You told someone that they made your life better.
  • Someone told you that you made a difference in their life. 
  • You told or showed your staff or family how much you appreciated them.
  • You gave money to a stranger down on his luck, bought him lunch, or paid for his groceries, and…
    • didn’t tell everyone you knew what you did.

If you have given freely to others, then you know that you were both changed by the transaction-in that instant your caring made a difference, you showed that person that they mattered. Who knows, it could have changed their life or yours!

It is the little things we do in an instant, that add up over time that shape the decisions we make and the leaders we become.

I challenge you to build your legacy by taking and acknowledging leadership moments in yourself and others.

If you like this please share with others.

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