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10 Tips for Running Online Meetings

March 1, 2012 | Hogan Keyser
team_videoconference.jpgFebruary 29, 2012 by Diane Jermyn via TheGlobeandMail.com -- Good manners can smooth the way to a sweet business deal on the Web just as well as they do in the boardroom. With Skype and other video-conferencing systems growing in popularity, here are tips from the experts for making your next online meeting a more civilized affair.

1. Be punctual

Schedule a start and an end to your virtual meeting the same way you would a physical one, says Jon Wagner, co-founder of VirtualeTeams, a Brechin, Ont.-based consulting firm. Mr. Wagner signs on 10 minutes early to ensure the technology is functioning. When working globally, he suggests rotating time zones as well as agreeing on a standard time zone for publishing meeting times, such as EST (Eastern Standard Time) or GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). "If you have a virtual team in different time zones, don't always make it your favourite time," Mr. Wagner says.

2. Cross-cultural courtesy

Participants working in a second or third language should be given more time to think and speak, Mr. Wagner says. "When I'm working cross-culturally, I love to get things on the table and then have a 20-second quiet period to look at the information," he says. "Then I ask to hear from our overseas people first."

Avoid forming fault lines, cautions Andrew Gaudes, an associate professor of business at the University of New Brunswick. This can happen when people from the same city or facility collaborate more freely and easily than someone who is much farther away. "Sometimes there are inside jokes, or may be differences of opinion or cultural issues created along those fault lines," Dr. Gaudes says. "You want to make sure that the language and norms being applied are universal and inclusive so that someone doesn't feel disenfranchised or excluded."

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