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Does Video Encourage Participation?

In today's world of ADHD-type behavior, perhaps video can help "encourage" better meetings.

The idea of collaboration is to combine ideas from multiple sources so that a final work product is better than what one single individual would have produced. Further, collaborating is intended to build consensus so that in larger organizations, multiple people and multiple groups proceed forward in the same general direction--as opposed to setting off in opposing directions, effectively negating any overall progress.

However, in order to collaborate, the participants need to be engaged. That means they need to be actively listening to and processing what is being said by other participants. Note that dialing into a conference bridge, saying "hello", putting your phone on mute and then proceeding to work through your email inbox does NOT count as effective collaboration. If you ask someone on the conference call a question and they take a long time to respond and then say "I'm sorry, could you please repeat the question", you can be pretty sure they have not been listening; you have no collaboration happening.

One advantage of in-person meetings is that it is harder for people to "multi-task" during meetings. That being said, in many organizations that I work with, it has become commonplace to bring your laptop to all meetings. Meetings are filled with the clickety-clack of typing; and while I would like to believe all my spoken words are inspiring and worthy of recording, I strongly suspect the meeting attendees are not recording notes. Are your meeting participants taking notes or responding to emails or IMs, or are they playing games? It is very hard to tell.

The larger the meeting, the greater the likelihood that one or more participants are not paying any attention.

For 2013, here are some comments and some things I plan to try. I encourage you to try similar things in your organization and share the results with the No Jitter community:

1. Comment: Video quality does not matter. Whether you have a "telepresence" or "real presence" room-based video setup, where you can literally see each pore on the face of your meeting participants; or whether it's a laptop standard definition (SD) camera, I contend that the quality of the video does not make a difference in terms of promoting and ensuring collaboration.

2. Try this: turn on your video: For all your meetings in 2013, make it a resolution to unilaterally share your video feed with meeting participants. See if this encourages some or all of the other participants to also enable their video.

3. Try this: Share your desktop and grant control: Instead of simply sharing your desktop to show participants a document, share your desktop and then pass control over to a meeting participant. Ask them to add to the document/presentation. I suspect it is a lot harder to multi-task when you are expected to provide content.

4. Try this: Incorporate a poll: WebEx, Lync and other UC web conferencing clients allow you to poll the audience. How about adding a number of polls to your meetings? At least while responding to your poll, the remote participants will have a hard time sleeping through your presentation.

5. Try this: Incorporate a roundtable discussion: While this is a "tried and true" mechanism employed by facilitators everywhere, I suspect one reason is because it works. At multiple points in the meeting, go "around" the table, and query each and every meeting participant. To set the stage, try this at the beginning. Ask everyone (individually) if they have anything they would like to add to the meeting agenda--you do have an agenda for your meeting, right?

According to Wikipedia, "Collaboration is working together to achieve a goal It is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together to realize shared goals, (this is more than the intersection of common goals seen in co-operative ventures, but a deep, collective, determination to reach an identical objective)". Increasingly, I believe that adding video, even "stuttery", low resolution video, can increase the "depth" of engagement when meeting participants are dispersed.

Truthfully, I have never been a strong proponent of video (See my article "Is Video the New Voice?"); however, in today's world of ADHD-type behavior, perhaps video can help "encourage" better meetings.

What has your experience been when meeting with distributed participants? How do you ensure focus and engagement of the participants? Do you see desktop video as something that helps? Please comment below or share your insight with me on twitter @kkieller.

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