A re-post from:
Overcoming one of the biggest issues plaguing virtual get togethers is as simple as counting to five, according to one expert.
 In theory online meetings are great. They save on expensive and time-consuming travel and hold out the tantalizing promise of location independence. The only problem? In practice they can be excruciatingly awkward.

Talking to you computer screen offers none of the helpful feedback of looking out on an audience for speakers and none of the visual stimulation of watching someone up on stage for listeners. And the experience is almost worse if you try to make things interactive as a lack of visual cues means people either talk over each other or hold back out of uncertainty, leaving gaping chasms of silence.

So is the only solution getting in a car or on a plane? Sometimes. But according to online meetings expert Wayne Turmel there’s at least one simple trick that can radically improve your online meetings with essentially no effort.

One Mississippi….

On Management Issues recently Turmel, who has written books on better web meetings and coaches teams on how to improve theirs, asserts that he constantly runs into the same issue when troubleshooting for clients. “They often bemoan thelack of engagement and responsiveness from meeting or class participants,” he reports. Fixing this issue, according to Turmel is as simple as counting to five.

Leaders of online meetings often fear silent lulls excessively, according to Turmel. The inherent awkwardness of not being face to face makes normal pauses where others are absorbing information and formulating their thoughts feel like an age. Plus, potential question askers, for instance, may be simply waiting to see if someone else chimes in first. The result is speakers who barely pause and inadvertently squelch opportunities for interactive exchange.

Luckily, the solution is dead simple. Just “ask for questions or comments and wait five full seconds. It’s longer than you think, and your instinct will be to move things along. Don’t submit to the panic,” instructs Turmel. “Ask, ‘What questions do you have?’ and then silently count ‘one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Mississippi, five Mississippi’… Only then will you have given people a real chance to process the information, form a response, and step up to speak.”

“I have seen this simple technique radically change the dynamic in meetings,” he concludes.

Could it have similarly great effects for your online interactions? Give it a test and tell us how it goes.

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