A lot of technical committees and a lot of teams rely on meeting face to face a number of times each year. The remote sessions build on that, but you’ve already got the rapport.
When you’re facilitating and chairing a pure remote meeting, you can’t read the room as well if there’s no visual contact. People may not be as engaged.
You can’t have a coffee break or sit down for a face to face discussion. It is difficult to structure the meeting in a way that you can deal with certain topics, have a break, take some issues offline and have some further one on one discussions.
When you’re just online, things really change — typically, most online meetings focus on one or two particular areas. But we’re in a situation this year where we don’t have a choice. It’s a case of finding out what does and doesn’t work. Of course, what works for some teams might not work for others.
Technical Committee 106 were due to all meet in Canada in April but we converted the series of Working Group and Project Team meetings to occur the same week, but all online. One of the best parts of it was a virtual coffee break in one of the larger Working Groups, where we stopped for 15 or 20 minutes and we just went around the group.
There were 30-odd people and we were just talking like we were sitting next to each other and sharing not our work, but just sharing our local experiences. You could see the room ‘light up’, you could see the faces get more engaged.
The meeting changed after that because people were actually more engaged in the overall process. As leaders, it’s up to us to read the room and structure the meeting so that we can engage with people.
When there’s a lot of people, you also need to reach out to those that aren’t speaking. Some people with English as a second language might not contribute as much online.
I think we’re all going to learn. One of the groups I like to turn to in these sorts of scenarios are our IEC Young Professionals because they’ve grown up online and do a lot of their work online. We’re going to learn a lot from them too.
But, as chairs, we should also speak to each other and come up with ideas that work and focus on the things that are going to really help us this year.