Corporations increasingly understand that groups tend to innovate faster, recognize mistakes more efficiently and identify better solutions to problems. Tapping into these collaboration benefits requires that we ensure universal participation during business conference calls. So how do we get the level of participation we need? Remember, if your team members don’t participate, they can’t add value.
Strong participation is correlated with a high degree of subject-matter engagement and reflects one’s comfort in contributing to the discussion. So let’s start by the two most critical components of engagement that support participation — and result in the best possible collaboration.
1. Get the Right Tools: A Platform for Success
Successful collaborators don’t just work with each other — they work together. To begin, you’ll need a platform like FreeConferenceCall.com For Business™ that allows you to easily share meeting resources before your conferences. When it’s time for the meeting to start, you should have multiple pathways for real-time participation at your fingertips — such as screen sharing, video conferencing, audio and chat functionalities.
Tip: Don’t underestimate the power of chat. As Jaclyn Kostner, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Bridge the Distance, Inc. related to Forbes Insights, instead of going around the virtual table to present ideas or solutions one-by-one, a moderator can state an issue and “each person in the [virtual] meeting can offer an idea all at the same time by typing it into the group chat.”
Just as Kostner concludes, virtual collaboration can result in better participation than face-to-face meetings. “Participants will be more deeply engaged, since there’s an instantaneous response to their participation – their input matters.”
2. Take the Right Approach: An Attitude to Facilitate Conversations
What about the other side of the participation coin? While tools that are both useful and usable can enable collaboration, a friendly platform isn’t enough to ensure that all your participants get involved. As Kostner explains, “You have to know how to get and keep everyone actively engaged.”
In virtual collaboration, it can be challenging to get teams to bond and facilitate a comfortable give and take. As a leader, your task is to create the kind of healthy emotional climate that will encourage participation.
A survey by Wainhouse Research found that 60% of people would be more willing to speak up on a conference call if their voice was masked. Seize the role of moderator by acknowledging that you can’t count on people to contribute on their own. Leaders need to encourage participation and engagement and dispel any fears, so invite people to share their thoughts, but carefully regulate your tone of voice and language to communicate that it’s acceptable if they do not choose to. Your goal is to have a real conversation and that doesn’t come from strict regulations or the threat of repercussions.
According to Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmonson, building a healthy team climate starts with leaders encouraging team members to be curious, passionate, and empathic: “When leaders ask genuine questions and listen intently to the responses, display deep enthusiasm for achieving team goals and show they’re attuned to everyone’s diverse perspectives no matter their position in the hierarchy, curiosity, passion and empathy start to take root in a culture.”
Improving meeting participation can be pretty straightforward. Step one is to secure a platform like FreeConferenceCall.com For Business that delivers those essential ingredients for participation. And step two: boost your moderator role to model a teaming culture that encourages people to freely contribute. That’s how you’ll optimize participation and grasp the full range of benefits from collaboration.