Last week, a member of the WOL Facebook community posted what turns out to be a common question:
“We are an organization with many remote employees, including myself. Has anyone done WOL using technology like Skype, Zoom or GoToMeeting? Eager to learn from your success.”
The community responded quickly with a resounding “yes.”
“We've done 10+ circles all via Zoom. They've all been successful.”
“Conducted entirely by Zoom and it worked great.”
“I always had remote participants in my few WOL circles. Video calls were made with Skype, Zoom or Hangout.”
“I am currently in my third circle. All have been virtual on Zoom.”
While it was clear that virtual meetings were both possible and popular, were they as good as in-person meetings?
A few tips for your virtual Circle
I’ve been in both in-person and virtual WOL Circles, and they worked equally well. In-person meetings can have a charm all their own. A meeting in a cafe, for example, feels different than a videoconference. But participating in a virtual Circle makes it possible to include people in other cities and countries. That can increase the diversity of your circle and make it more likely to be effective. Virtual Circles can also take less time, since they don’t require extra time to go to and from the meeting.
How do you meet?
Almost all my virtual Circles met via video. Those that used only audio felt less intimate, especially at first, though I still enjoyed it. All the popular video services work well enough. My personal favorite is Zoom as the quality of the sound and picture are remarkably good, and it’s particularly easy to use.
“It was like we were in the same room together. The conversations were just as real and emotional and inspiring as they could be in person.”
Communicating between meetings
It’s common for virtual Circles to maintain some kind of backchannel for communicating between meetings. This is a good practice in any Circle, and may be even more important in virtual groups to reinforce the bonds between members.
“In my current circle we usea private Facebook group for information exchange and communication during the week.”
“We also share and communicate via Slack during the week. (Any non-email platform would work similarly.)”
“We also stayed in touch by email throughout the program and shared lots of links and ideas, and still check in from time to time even though it's been over two months since it ended.”
The most important tip for your Circle
Search the Internet for “how to run a virtual meeting” and you’ll find plenty of tips. There’s also a list of “Tips for a Successful Circle” in the Getting Started section of the guides. The best advice I’ve heard, though, is from a TED talk on “10 rules for a better conversation,” and they apply online as well as in person.
The most important bit of advice? Pay attention.
Your attention is one of the most precious gifts you have to offer. If you don’t pay attention, then none of the other tips matter much. It's when you give your attention freely during your meeting, actively listening and participating, that you can connect and grow.
Do you have something else you would recommend? Or another question you’d like to see answered? Post a comment and I’ll include the best suggestions in version 4.0 of the Circle guides in 2017.