I was reminded the other day of a science fiction movie called "Soylent Green". The punchline to the whole movie is (SPOILER ALERT BUT YOU'VE HAD 40 YEARS TO WATCH IT) "You've gotta tell them! Soylent Green is people!" Not to strain a metaphor, but the same is true of all the communication tools and cool software people are always foisting onto us.
No matter how cool the user interface, no matter how earth-shattering the algorithm or search voodoo it has, none of it is worth a darn unless people are motivated to use it, and capable when they need to. It's that simple.
This all came up because I was introduced to Jeff and the good folks at LessMeeting. They have a very cool set of tools for running meetings . As we talked he told me his biggest frustration: despite all the online tutorials, training and good old customer service the biggest barrier they face is getting people to use it.
LessMeeting (and, to be fair, a lot of perfectly good tools in the same space) are great for planning, running, documenting and following-up meetings of all kinds. The problem, of course, is that people have to want to plan, run, document and follow-up on meetings. If they don't take the time and effort to do things well, how they do it is rather irrelevant.
On the surface, we all want our virtual meetings to be relevant, efficient and effective. We also probably want a million dollars in the bank. The problem with both dreams is that it takes conscious thought, a little help and a little (occasionally more than a little) effort.
Just having the tools to run a meeting or connect team members doesn't guarantee good communication any more than having an open bank account guarantees your checks won't bounce.
When managing remote teams or running virtual meetings or webinars there are two groups of people involved. The planner/leader and the participants. Both need to be involved and, while tech can certainly make it easier, there are some human components that can't be ignored:
First, they need to be motivated - that means they need a compelling reason to attend, know how they'll contribute to the meeting's success and what they're supposed to do when they get there
They also need to know how and when to contribute. That means the meeting leader needs to direct traffic, offer clear directions and facilitate the flow of information
Finally, they need to understand what's been accomplished, what they've done that's been worth their time, and what's next. A reasonable assurance that what's been discussed will actually occur is really, really helpful.
Any of those three things is made easier by the right tools. However, like Soylent Green, the key ingredient is people.