How to avoid Information Silos in Virtual Meetings

Sharmila Gautama

With so many professionals moving to online platforms to conduct their businesses, it has become mandatory for us to not only become tech savvy but also to learn the niceties of virtual reality. With the number of digital conversations increasing, many are sharing their experiences and sharing suggestions on how our online presence can be made more realistic and meaningful. Here are three tips on giving your virtual meetings a good start.

1. Information Silo – a pitfall of virtual meetings
Most meeting outcomes are not met because information doesn’t flow easily. Meeting attendees who have the information are reluctant to share information because they are not confident or have missed the moment in a virtual environment. This can be detrimental to the organization as silent attendees withhold information that is vital to reaching a decision. I have seen this often during face-to-face meetings too. Imagine then in a virtual meeting the chances of this occurring are more imminent. How does the meeting leader draw out silent attendees?

One thing the leader can do is to allow for some banter during meetings. Keep some time out for casual conversations. This gets people to “breed” familiarity and get comfortable with each other. An article in the HBR says that 26 percent more ideas are generated in brain storming sessions, when attendees are allowed to share embarrassing stories about themselves just before the brain storming session. This is a luxury that is lost in a virtual setting. However, encouraging some conversation before the meeting helps attendees feel more relaxed in the meeting. So, set some time away for virtual ‘coffee breaks’.

2. Humanise your meetings
Robotic meetings can be stressful. And, a meeting leader who doesn’t allow for any errors in the meeting becomes a tyrant. As a meeting leader, don’t penalize your team or the attendees if they make a mistake during the meeting. Take it as an opportunity to learn and become better. I once audited a virtual meeting in a software company where the team leader would not allow his team members to speak to the client unless they had run their queries by the manager, and he had okayed them. Most of the team members were silent in that meeting. They had the information but were reluctant to share it because they found the protocol too much to handle.

3. Be impartial
We like some people more than others. In a meeting, the leader may be tempted to give more talk time to the attendees he likes. He also listens more to those attendees. This could sound the death knell for information flowing easily in the meeting. Leaders need to put aside their preferences and focus on letting everyone in the meeting have their say. This means the leader is impartial and gives equal importance to what all have to say. Don’t shut up attendees if you have had a conflict with them earlier. Avoid carrying grudges into the meeting.

Sometimes a few changes can get you more results than what you had planned.

Sharmila is Founder, EnglishCoach Services. She has over 15 years of experience in the learning & development space.