In these times, we are likely to be conducting more business virtually. That presents some unique challenges which will require creativity to resolve. Well, Creative is our middle name at Mobus Creative Negotiating.
Some of the best advice we have seen for how to negotiate virtually comes from a Havard Business Review post about virtual meetings, What It Takes to Run a Great Virtual Meeting.
We would particularly emphasize the importance of making sure that everyone is comfortable with the technology. If you are doing an introductory meeting or if you expect not to speak with this group often, then ask the other parties what technology do they feel most comfortable with, and then you spend the time to get up to speed on the technology they know. If you will be dealing with these people regularly, then take the time to make sure everyone knows how to use a teleconferencing program – there are lots of good ones out there which are free. The gold standard is if you or your assistant can provide hands-on advice to walk each person on a one-by-one basis through how to use the technology. At the very least, send links to an instructional video and schedule a practice session.
We totally agree with the Harvard Business Review team: use video which shows everyone face. You can learn so much from people’s facial expressions – are they really paying attention? Do they look pained? Or puzzled? Or pleased? Of course, there may be some people who just can’t connect through the internet; for one thing, internet traffic is up so much that systems are coming under strain. So always provide a back-up telephone number.
One of the strengths of having meetings virtually is that they can save time – no need for long drives to get together. Build on that by keeping the meeting short, so people come away think that meeting was well worth their time – and they look forward to the next meeting you set up. The way to keep a meeting short is to keep it focused: have clear goals for what needs to be done and stick to it.
Don’t be afraid to bring up tough issues. Particularly in these times when we may not meet face-to-face for some time, it is a bad idea to postpone the difficult questions until we are all in the same room. As the Harvard Business Review team recommends, don’t shy away from controversial topics.
On a lighter note, if you want to see what not to do, watch this video: A Conference Call in Real Life (YouTube)