“Hi, it’s Marija from 2e. “ this is how I answer the question from the title of this post and usually how most of my meetings start…followed by “What’s the weather like over there? “ and soon after that we dig deep into business. You probably picked up on it already – my meetings are conducted remotely and sometimes (if not most of the time) with people from different time zones.
Teleconferencing (via phone or VoIP) might seem impersonal if you are used to working in the same room or at least same location as your colleagues. It might just happen that you end up talking to someone for months without actually meeting them in person. How do you then build a trustworthy business relationship?
Let me try to answer that question with covering some (and there are a few more) aspects of teleconferencing ‘one by one’ followed by group meetings.
First to say is: common problems bring people together. This is true in any relationship. Make your customer’s or colleague’s problem your own. If you are helping your teleconferencing buddies solve their issue, this is a sure way of building trust. When people trust you, then they can relax and tell you a lot more than you might expect. Maybe this happens sooner in person but it is certainly possible in remote meetings as well.
For business analysis (and this is how I earn my bread) trust is crucial. Otherwise I cannot figure out the reasons behind the requirements nor come up with the right solution.
Dealing with a group is different because there is generally less feedback from the other side. This is especially true when you need to present a product or new features over the phone and share screens without seeing any of the participants. When I first started with remote presentations it felt, well let’s be honest – weird! To be in the office and talking to my computer was something like when hands free mobile phone accessories just started. Only now, I was the weirdo talking to myself and waving my hands.
None of my skills to perceive the audience nor animate them were valuable any more. I had no information of body language and how many people were actually asleep with their eyes open or even shut. I was not able to stand up and walk around or make contact with someone’s eyes to engage them with a look. Nothing to fall back on!
Then it hit me – what is my main tool in this situation? My voice!
If I’m leading a meeting sounding like I don’t care or I’m in parallel flicking trough my emails – the group will resonate this and probably start doing the same thing for real. But if I start the meeting with setting my voice to an engaged and enthusiastic tone it might set the right meeting mode.
If you listen to your customer or colleague, if you talk like you care about their every day work, and not just talk like it but actually care about it – magic might just happen. The participants will start asking you questions, expressing comments and feedback, even laughing…all of a sudden no one is on mute and you feel like you are all together in the same room.
Before turning into a radio show host maybe I should look into video conferencing?