Proper Planning Delivers Success

In the past few weeks, organizations around the world have faced the challenge of converting their in-person meetings to virtual ones. Our organization, the International Budget Partnership (IBP) is no exception.

Every month, IBP holds an all-staff meeting via Zoom, a virtual meeting platform that has recently seen its popularity soar; half of our staff are based in our Washington, DC office and the other half are spread out across the globe. We use these meetings to have “deep-dives” on program topics or to provide updates on operational issues. However, in a COVID-19 world this changed and a number of weeks ago IBP held its first “all remote” staff meeting. We knew that this meeting would be unique as it would provide staff the opportunity to come together, at a time when everything else seemed to be falling apart.

The meeting received rave reviews from staff, who requested that we keep all future meetings in the same format, even when normal operations resume.

How did we achieve this success?

  1. Be natural. We provided the agenda to staff prior to the meeting and made it clear that we expected all staff to have their video on (hats, hoodies, pets and children allowed). This was key to helping everyone feel connected and comfortable.
  1. Start with personal sharing. We used a short warm-up to share our new work arrangements (and this tied into one of our agenda topics later). We asked all staff to use one word to describe their new workspace, which they could do either in the chat box or draw/write it on a piece of paper and hold it up to the camera. We were impressed with all those who knew to write backwards (!). Once we were all done, staff could look through the gallery view with the chat box and see what everyone has shared.
  1. Invite voices in. We highlighted the fact that for some of us remote working is the standard practice, so we asked those staff members to share some of their work-from-home (WFH) tips for everyone’s benefit. This was helpful for everyone.
  1. Stick to the timeline. We wanted to keep the meeting moving in order to stay within the one-hour time allotted. We were fully aware that for many of our colleagues it was already past working hours and they had stayed up late to join (IBP is an international organization.)
  1. Acknowledge the limitations. We anticipated that many colleagues would have questions, but we knew that having a Q&A session with a group of seventy would put us over the time limit. We also felt that the Executive Team might need additional time/resources to answer these questions given the fast changing environment, so we provided time at the end of our agenda for staff to think of their questions individually and then share them in the chat box.

After our agenda topics were completed, the meeting was over. However, our time together didn’t end there. We kept the Zoom space open for a few minutes, allowing those who needed to jump off to do so, while giving others the opportunity to continue to connect with their colleagues. Many laughs were shared, dogs admired, and warm greetings exchanged. There was an organic conclusion to the meeting, which felt personal and important.

I think we are on to something here!

What have you learned over the past few weeks about meeting virtually?

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Trisha Viecco Carrillo is the Events Coordinator at the International Budget Partnership. Over her nine years in this role she has coordinated countless meetings around the world for IBP and its partners. Trisha is based in Washington, DC where she lives with her husband and two adorable kids. Presently, she is working toward becoming a Certified Dialogue Education Teacher with GLP.

Check out the GLP toolkit for more tips and resources for moving your work and meetings online.

*Image = the IBP meeting referenced in this blog. Thanks for keeping your webcam on!