Difficult People in the Virtual World: Part 2 of The Virtual Team Facilitator

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 Difficult people can disrupt any meeting, and we all know their frequent styles and behaviors from face-to-face meetings.  These are people such as the Heavy Talker, the Technical Expert, and the Know It All.  Below are some more difficult people that apply in the virtual meeting.  (Of course many of these roles apply in the face-to-face meeting as well.) 

The Late Comer.  You need to have the virtual tool set up at least 15 minutes ahead for a long meeting (over 2 hours) and 10 minutes before for a shorter meeting.  Welcome people as they come on.  Then at the start time, tell everyone you will start now or wait for 2 more minutes, and then start.  When new people come in, welcome them and move along.

The Multi-tasker.  Online this person is doing all kinds of tasks that are not what the meeting is about—writing emails, surfing on line, texting, maybe working on another project.  To counteract this, keep the meeting participants engaged in the meeting.  For example, ask all the participants to comment on a question in chat that everyone can read.  Then make comments about different chat statements. For someone who doesn’t write anything in chat, say, "Roy, could you add something in chat?"

The Heavy Talker.  This person is a subject matter expert (SME) of some nature, but she may speak for all the SME’s.  She talks beyond the topic and runs the topic into the ground.  I might handle this in a few ways; (1) use time reminders (One facilitator told me he used a rule of five minutes—any comment had to be finished in five minutes.  Good idea, but five minutes can be long!)  (2) reset the focus back to the agenda; (3) use a structured conversation, where the facilitator calls on a few people to hear their thoughts and moves off of the heavy talker.

The Drop Out. I ask people to note with the icon that they are leaving and I call on them soon after they come back to the room.  Don’t do this to be mean, do it to get them involved again and to indicate you know they left and they are back.

Asking Questions you don’t know the answer to. I might throw the question back to the group and let them write in chat or call on someone.  Or I say, I don’t know and ask the group who might know.

Off Topic.  You may have a person who asks questions that are not on topic.  I usually say I will answer that later off-line, and then do that right after the meeting.  Or, sometimes the question will be answered later in the session, and I hold off the question until that time.

The Doubting Thomas.  This role is always negative, saying, “It won’t work.”  Let him vent (a bit) and then ask, “If you could fix it what would it be?”  Comment after he says something with, “That’s a possible idea.  Do others have other suggestions?”

Is Anyone Out There? No one has any questions-

  • Get some people ahead to have some questions ready.  About 3 questions planned ahead are good, and have them have their questions typed out so there won’t be much of a pause.
  • Get people involved by using polls, and then look at the names of people who responded to different items and call on them.
  • Keep a list of people on the call and make a check mark next to their name if they speak or ask a question.  Call on the ones who don’t contribute.

Send me some more Difficult People in the Virtual BPM world.  Tell us what you did that worked or didn’t’ work or anticipate what you might try based on your experience. 

BPMInstitute.org has two Advanced Facilitation classes coming up soon:  (1) in Chicago on April 29 and (2) live online June 9 and 10, 2014.   

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