The online meetings will not go away, pandemic or not. We found them convenient as we can do more of them in less time. We avoid the travel and waiting time. And we do not have to be in the same country anymore.
However, many are complaining about “Zoom fatigue”. Furthermore, many salespeople say that selling online is much harder compared to face-to-face. Simply said, they are no longer able to connect at a personal level with the client.
Here are a couple of points I have picked up during the past two years of online meetings, with a focus on negotiations online.
When online meetings should not be considered
There are situations where online meetings should not be used:
- Brainstorming sessions
- Complex nature of the problem
- Dispute resolution
Those meetings require individual one-on-one consultations. People will be talking simultaneously. A successful outcome requires the energy of a closed space with all minds focused on one goal only.
Preparing for an Online meeting
Hosting an online meeting is a bit different compared to an ordinary meeting.
First, ensure all are familiar with the software you will use. Some use Zoom, and some Microsoft Teams only, so they may not be aware of how the software you use is working.
Even if screen sharing is possible, Excel and Word files are not easy to read. Especially if you cannot fit the whole document on one screen. Similarly, technical drawings are not fitting well into the shared screen area. Share all relevant documents in advance. If you expect changes in the document as a result of the meeting create a workspace where everyone can work on the document. You can use Google disk, SharePoint, or some of the independent solution providers.
During the meeting
As a host
Make sure all main stakeholders accepted the meeting invite. It is so easy to get dragged into another meeting (since all are in their office). If needed, give them a quick call 10-15 minutes before the start.
Allow the first 5 minutes for resolution of technical difficulties. You cannot jump directly into the main point while attendees still adjust the volume of their headphones.
Insist to have all attendees turn their cameras on. This forces them to look into their computer and pay more attention to the topic. Also, it will prevent others from jumping into the office for a “quick question”.
If possible, ask someone to note the minutes live while sharing the document. It is much easier to get everyone’s agreement during the meeting than to revise the meeting minutes when someone disagrees with the text.
As an attendee
A meeting is a meeting, in-person or online. Be on time, be dressed appropriately, and remove all distractions. If possible, of course.
Unless you have multiple screens, juggling between several documents during the meeting is difficult. I would recommend printing out the ones you may spend the most time discussing.
Try not to participate in a meeting while driving, biking, or similar. First of all, it is dangerous, as your focus is split. Secondly, you will not bring much value to the table.
Online you no longer have eye contact and can’t see the body posture. There are no handshakes, hugs, or other ways to get closer to the other party.
But you have the technology. Put the contract online and circle the point you want to discuss. Change the document while discussing. Use whiteboard options so both of you can put your discussion points. Allow the other side to have a 5 minutes internal meeting if the negotiations are at the breaking point.
Make a parallel internal Teams chat. There your team members can discuss all points and make suggestions.
Put a page like the below one on the screen and then mute your microphone. Trust me, it is worse than the “who speaks first, loses” negotiation game we all did.
Technology sometimes does not play nice. Don’t get frustrated, instead take it with a bit of humor. After all, it removed all your commute. You did not have to wait for your meeting. And the coffee is great 😊.