Every Productive Virtual Meeting Needs A Communication Plan
By Danuta McCall

Posted September 03, 2014

In my last post, I made the case that facilitators should take a new look at how to make pre-work more valuable and compelling. There are great benefits to be gained from designing engaging pre-work activities (and incentives to complete them) before your virtual or face-to-face event. They range from raising the level of investment and preparedness of the participants to enabling the facilitator to set the tone for the meeting ahead of time. I suggested 6 aspects to consider, the last of which is building a well-thought out communication plan. As this step is most often forgotten, I thought I’d elaborate a little.

There are two reasons why thinking out a communication plan for the meeting, and particularly the pre-work, is very helpful. First, it a way to communicate the value, urgency, incentives and consequences of doing the pre-work. Second (and this is particularly true for those facilitating virtual events), time spent in advance building personal connections is enormously valuable in creating a trustworthy and enlivened environment for true sharing and interaction. In other words, a bit of advance phone and email work will pay huge dividends.

When constructing your communications plan, consider the following:

  1. Who is your audience? Is this a team that has already established norms and a working rapport? Is this a large group of strangers coming together for a one-time “free” webinar or members of a community of interest who are likely to continue interacting with each other? Knowing your audience will help you decide the frequency and type of communication needed.
  2. What are your objectives for this event? Is this a decision-making meeting where you must have everyone’s attendance and attention, or is this a free webinar where you’d just as soon only have participants who are enthusiastic and engaged?
  3. What are your objectives for the pre-work? The more you ask your participants to do ahead of time, the more important it will be communicate with them individually and build a personal connection.
  4. What communication methods are appropriate? Are there already established communication venues for this audience? These might include team wiki, Twitter feed, newsletter or Linked In group. Are you able to contact each participant individually by phone or email?
  5. How much time do people need to complete the pre-work? Let people know how much time they should expect to take on the pre-work activity and give them sufficient notice to fit this in their busy schedules. Balance providing enough time to reasonably complete the tasks with a level of urgency to get it done sooner rather than later and risk forgetting all about it.
  6. What tone should you use? Pre-work communication are often the first way by which a facilitator or instructor establishes his/her role and the tone for the session. Pre-work communications are a way to convey a personal style and connect with participants individually.

I’ve included a specific case example in our latest article in our series “Designing Productive Virtual Meetings”. Read this and more at our library of articles, tips and white papers. Does having a communication plan ring a bell for you?

Posted by Danuta McCall