How to Improve Virtual Meetings with Design Thinking

Nishmita D'Souza  •  Feb 6, 2020  •  12 min read

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How to Improve Virtual Meetings with Design Thinking

Meetings are an integral part of human interaction, particularly at the workplace. With virtual meetings becoming increasingly popular, meetings don’t require all attendees to be co-located. Many coaches work remotely either in teams or with clients. This practical session with Meenakshi Iyer, founder of NorthStar addressed tech tools, best practices and tips for success for working across physical boundaries.

Although virtual meetings allow for communication across the globe, they have their fair share of challenges. These challenges range between technical issues to ensuring that the entire team is mentally present given the opportunity to multi-task.

It is exactly these challenges that brings Meenakshi to question how might we make meetings boundaryless, effective and engaging for everyone. Meenaksi has approached this problem using the concept of Design Thinking.

Concepts and Associated Practices of Effective Virtual Meetings (Boundaryless Meetings)

  1. Inclusive Design: In order for this to happen, we must be anticipatory of the needs of our team members/the person we will be passing the buck to. This means that our work must be accessible and usuable to as many people as possible without it having to be specially adapted or designed. This concept specially reminds me of the importance of clear communication via email. Especially when timezones come into play, it’s important that things don’t get delayed due to lack of clarification and going back and forth on email. Aspects to consider while making virtual meetings inclusive are accessibility, usability, user friendly for all.
  2. Dealing with Dysfunction: Teams are bound to face some amount of dysfuntion. Dysfunction can be much harder to detect in virtual meetings because we tend to miss out of body language and other non-verbal cues. To tackle this, Meenakshi recommends that we must function with authenticity, consistency, discipline and most importantly, be intentional. (See also Feedback & Radical Candor)
  3. Understanding Flow: Sometimes we witness people behaving besides themselves. It’s important that we seek to understand where they are coming from. While setting up virtual meetings, it’s important to think through the before, during and after aspects of the meeting. What do we do as preparation before virtual meetings? What do we want to achieve during it? What are we going to after virtual meetings?

The ABC (Actions & Behavior Checklist) of Productive Virtual Meetings

  1. Lead with purpose- constantly question the ‘why’ of anything you to do and if there is even a need.
  2. Plan with outcome in mind- distinguish between the output and outcome.
  3. Respect everyone and their time- remember the context of the other person attending the meeting is different from yours, even when it comes to the time of day for them.
  4. Create and maintain psychological safety- create a space where people can speak their mind without fear of retribution. Simple things like provoding relevant information prior to the meeting, setting clear expectations of the meeting, clear communication of the level of confidentiality, etc are ways to ensure psychological safety.
  5. Close with a clear call to action- prompt follow ups and email check-ins help ensure accountability.

Tips and Techniques

  1. SBAR (Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation) – useful in decision making
  2. Radar charts – helpful to compare current performance to expected level of performance
  3. Six Thinking Hats – helps making decisions dispassionately
  4. Retrospectives – looking back in retrospect to take learnings
  5. Start – Stop – Continue – a variation of retrospectives

Meenakshi also shared some useful technology tools that could help team management and answered questions from the audience.

In conclusion, Meenakshi highlighted the power of perspective in relation to boundaryless meetings. Are you mentally distinguishing between physical and virtual meetings? Or are we recognising the fact that they are, essentially, all meetings.

Watch / Listen to the Webinar

Listen as podcast

Join the Discussion:

What are some of the challenges and hacks to boundaryless meetings?

About the Speaker:

Meenakshi Iyer is a servant leader with a 20+ year-interdisciplinary career in international healthcare, HR, Training, IT and business process transformation, Meenakshi Iyer is a cross-cultural and cross-functional leader. She founded NorthStar in 2019 to advocate for inclusion as the key driver for business agility and successful organizational transformation. Meenakshi has successfully collaborated with several global, multicultural and virtual teams in India, Greece and the US; she is fluent in four languages, and has lived and worked in 10+ cities in India and the US.

Slides Used During the Webinar

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Nishmita D'Souza

Marketing Coordinator

Nishmita D'Souza is Marketing Coordinator at Coacharya. She is a firm believer that the key to development is education and awareness. She is also an illustrator by hobby. Follow her on Instagram using the handle: @damsel.in.a.doodle

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