Tag Archives: Meetings

Resources and Readings for Green Meetings

For the last several days, we’ve been considering green meetings via videoconference. In this final post, let’s review additional resources and readings:

  1. The EPA provides resources for green meetings, however, they are based in an assumption that people will travel to meet together in a physical location.
  2. Another group provides 10 tips for Blue Green Meetings.
  3. 45 Ways to Use Technology to Green Meetings
  4. Recycling Coalition’s Green Meetings Policy
  5. AARnet, Australia, Guide to Videoconference Meeting Protocol
  6. Youtube Video: How to Have a Videoconference Meeting (short & sweet & to the point)
  7. Book: Smart Videoconferencing: New Habits for Virtual Meetings

Your turn: What questions do you still have? What additional tips would you share?

Paperless Meetings

While this is green meeting month for Berrien RESA, we have not tried to make the meetings also paperless this first go around. We thought we’d ease into this by meeting via videoconference first. But the next step is definitely also creating a  paperless meeting. So what are some tools for making the meeting paperless?

  1. Email. At a basic level, the meeting chair could send the agenda and any supporting documents to everyone in one email ahead of time.
  2. GoogleDocs. If the meeting involves collaborative document creation, how about using GoogleDocs to write on the file together? Remember the limitation of 10 people writing at the same time. It is still helpful to have a lead recorder unless you are doing free for all brainstorming.
  3. Moodle. Recently I heard a report of a meeting that used a Moodle site to keep all the documents for a committee that met regularly. Files for each meeting can be added to each section. Shared responsibility can be given to all or some of the committee members to contribute documents.
  4. Wiki. A wiki site could be used the same way – for everyone to contribute and to keep a written record of the committee’s work. It can also be made private.

By the way, these tips would work for face to face meetings also, if everyone already brings a laptop or electronic device to the meeting.

For more inspiration, read this article about paperless school board meetings in Georgia or review this nice two page paperless meeting guide or Paper-free Committee-ment by Doug Johnson.

Your turn: What other resources would you suggest?

Attending Meetings Via Videoconference

So you’re attending your first videoconference meeting? Here are some tips to make your experience more pleasant.

Before the Meeting Starts

  1. Find out what the indicator of the microphone is for muting and notice when your site is muted or unmuted. In a multipoint videoconference (more than 3), you should mute when you are not speaking. Make sure your site is muted until the facilitator or meeting leader calls on your site.
  2. Find the picture in picture (or display of your room) and pay attention to what others are seeing and hearing from your site.

During the Meeting

  1. During roll call and introductions, let people know who’s in the room with you if they are not on camera.
  2. Identify yourself when speaking. (This is John from Berrien Springs, and my question is…..)
  3. Speak up and interrupt if there is a technical problem.
  4. Do not expect perfection.
  5. Be conscious of audio delay but continue your thought even if someone interrupts, and then pass the floor to them.
  6. Necessary side conversations could happen via instant message or email tools. Communicate appropriately!

Ending the Meeting

  1. Say your usual thank you and farewell greetings.
  2. Send follow-up communications via email.

Your Turn: What other tips would you share?

Organizing Meetings via Videoconference

As part of our continued celebration of Berrien RESA’s Green Meeting Month, here are some tips on organizing meetings via videoconference.

Communication Tips

  1. Make sure all sites reserve the room or videoconference system to participate in the meeting.
  2. Facilitate the entrance of people into the meeting; welcome them and make sure they can see and hear ok.
  3. Facilitate the conversation. If the meeting is more than a one-way delivery of information, you may want an experienced videoconference facilitator to assist for the first meeting or two. This facilitation will help everyone learn how to behave in a videoconference. If not available, the meeting leader should not assume that people will just speak up at the beginning. It is helpful to call on people to ask for comment.
  4. Side conversations should occur only when the site is muted and when doing so will not interrupt or detract from the meeting.
  5. Make sure any materials for the meeting are sent beforehand; preferably digitally to all the participants.

Technical Tips

  1. Arrange for bridging the sites into one meeting
  2. Make sure all the sites test ahead of time (particularly test H.239 / sharing the computer)
  3. Plan to connect 30 minutes in advance of the meeting to work out any issues
  4. MUTE! The easiest way to make sure all sites are muted as they join the meeting is to set each endpoint to mute on autoanswer.
  5. Prepare visuals appropriately for videoconferencing

More Resources

For more tips, check out these resources:

Reducing CO2 Emissions with VC Meetings

Not everyone finds CO2 emissions a top priority. In comparison to the savings by avoiding air travel, it seems that skipping a few 2 hour trips to Lansing is minimal. Still, every little bit makes a difference. So let’s build on the calculations of the past couple days to see what difference we could make in CO2 emissions by switching meetings to videoconferencing.

Let’s start with Polycom’s ROI Calculator, which suggests that one 5 hour round trip to Lansing uses 114 KG CO2.

Next, let’s try Tandberg’s See Green site, which suggests 118 KG CO2 (260 lbs).

So what?

So what does that really mean? Let’s try to get some perspective:

Of course, all these variables are hard to calculate; and none of this takes into consideration the electricity it takes to run the videoconference system. Still, it’s interesting to think about; don’t you think?

Green Meetings Save Money: Part 2

District Meetings at Berrien RESA

Another type of meeting is the type of meeting we are focusing on for Green Meeting Month: our districts coming to our location for meetings.

Let’s see how much time and mileage it costs for all fourteen districts to send someone to a meeting at Berrien RESA. These calculations are for one direction and are rough estimates.

District Time Miles
Benton Harbor 30 min 15
Berrien Springs 2 min 2
Brandywine 20 min 11
Bridgman 25 min 12
Buchanan 20 min 10
Coloma 30 min 21
Eau Claire 10 min 4
Galien 30 min 22
Lakeshore 22 min 11
New Buffalo 45 min 28
Niles 20 min 11
River Valley 40 min 25
St. Joseph 25 min 15
Watervliet 35 min 24
Totals about 6 hours 211 miles; $116 / one way

If everyone got comfortable with videoconferencing at their own site, we could save 12 hours and over $200 for each meeting that met over videoconferencing! Multiple that by the number of meetings and 10 months in the school year and it adds up quickly!

What about you?

Green Meetings Save Money: Part 1

So, why would someone want to have a videoconference meeting instead of traveling? One reason is to save money. So, I thought it would be interesting to calculate the costs of some of our meetings – to be contrasted with meeting via videoconference.

Trips to Lansing

At least 10-20 people at Berrien RESA, plus several levels of staff from our local districts, often drive to Lansing for meetings.

A typical trip to Lansing from our county takes roughly two and a half hours one way. So any Lansing meeting takes 5 hours plus the time of the meeting. While not as extreme a trip as some corners of Michigan, it is still a significant cost of time.

The mileage is about 150 miles one way; or 300 miles total trip. At the current government mileage reimbursement rate, $0.55, each trip costs about $165.

If we avoided 20 trips to Lansing a month, that would save somewhere around $3000 a month. With current tight budgets, every little bit counts!

Many staff at Berrien RESA are starting to request attendance at their Lansing meetings via videoconference instead of in person. This increase will certainly continue to save time and money.

What about you? Do you save any money doing your meetings via videoconferencing? Do you know how much?

It's Green Meeting Month!

Our superintendent has proclaimed February Green Meeting Month. We have several regularly scheduled monthly meetings that will happen via videoconference this month. Instead of everyone driving here, participants will attend at one of three locations: here, one in south county and one in north county. The responsibility of hosting the additional locations is spread across the districts we serve.

Scheduled Meetings

  • Academic Coordinating Officials Meeting
  • Superintendents Advisory Committee Meeting
  • Parents Advisory Committee Meeting
  • High School Principals Meeting
  • Special Education Directors Committee Meeting
  • Counselor Academy Meeting
  • Business Managers Meeting

In addition, several regular videoconference meetings will happen as usual.

This is the first time we have tried this with almost all of our meetings. A few have unusual circumstances, and those meetings will be scheduled via videoconference at another time. It’s a great way to expose all these leaders to videoconferencing meetings. One hope is that they will want to meet via videoconference again in the future.

In celebration of our Green Meeting Month, I’ll be sharing some tips and resources for videoconference meetings in the next few posts.

Happy Green Meeting Month!

Pauses Revisited… Meeting Best Practices

JazzToday the lead facilitators for the Jazz workshop had a 2+ hour planning meeting. As usual, our videoconference meeting was supported by other technologies:

  • a Skype chat to share URLs
  • GoogleDocs – a schedule file and a notes and todo file
  • Twitter to share interesting tidbits, side comments or resources with our peeps
  • Phones to cause the vc buzz and take a pic (ok that didn’t really support the meeting!)

What I really noticed today though, was our pauses. After a particularly confusing topic with varied viewpoints, when everyone’s voice had been heard, we paused. We thought about it. We processed. No one told us to, we just did it. And after a sufficient time, we moved on.

Think time is really important! Having a way to visually see the discussion topics/issues in GoogleDocs also was critical to our thinking.

What about you? What strategies work well in your VC meetings?

Lit Review: Virtual Team Leadership

Lit Review: This is a post in a series focusing on the research studies on videoconferencing.

Hambley, L. A. (2005). Virtual team leadership: The effects of leadership style and communication medium on team interaction styles and outcomes. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertation. (AAT NR05638)


This dissertation has a mixed-methods design. The quantitative study compared transformational and transactional leadership against teams meeting face to face, videoconference and via chat. No significant difference was found on leadership styles. Constructive interaction score was higher in face to face than VC and chat teams, but not significantly higher in VC than chat teams. In addition, team cohesion scoares were higher in face that face and videoconference than chat, but not significantly higher in VC than chat.

The quantitative study was done with 228 undergraduate students who had a mean of 4 years of full time work experience and 4 years of part time experience. The Meeting Effectiveness Situation was the simulation used to measure task performance.

The qualitative part of the study consisted of interviews with nine virtual team leaders and members in the actual workplace.


A virtual team is not a learning network, community of practice, or web-based interest group. It is a group with specific tasks, shared outcomes and interdependency. Jazz facilitator teams certainly fit this definition.

Semi-virtual teams may have a local subgroup as well as remote team members. These groups can have the increased challenge of in-group and out-group issues. I wonder if some Jazz facilitators sometimes are an in-group as we’ve all seen each other face to face, whereas others may feel more out-group because they haven’t been with us as long or we’ve never seen them face to face?

Virtual teams differ on four dimensions (Bell & Kozlowski, 2002):

  • temporal distribution – the degree to which the team coversw boundaries of space and time
  • boundary spanning – the degree to which the team spans varies organizational and cultural boundaries
  • lifecycle – short term to long term
  • member roles – keeping the same role or members holding multiple roles

Virtual teams tend to focus less on relationship building, which can lead to less effective teams (p. 10).

Other Theories

Media Synchronicity Theory: Asynchronous communication is better for less complex tasks which require reflection and minimal collaboration. Synchronous is better for tasks that are more complex and require interdependence and feedback.

Media Richness Theory:  Explains how different communication media affect task performance. Videoconferencing is a richer medium than text chat.

Qualitative Results

The interviewees felt that a face to face kick-off is important for a virtual team. “Face to face meetings have important impacts such as facilitating the development of trust, comfort level, and rapport” (p. 87). They thought that virtual teams should meet face to face once in a while if at all possible.

Virtual team leaders need to be able to build a virtual team – facilitate trust building, establishing the vision etc. The team leader should have training in leading a virtual team and should make sure everyone feels a part. They should have very good facilitation skills. They should invest time in getting to know the followers. They should have good project management skills. They should be able to know what to do if the technology fails. I’m thinking that the best modeling of this that I have seen has been by Roxanne.

The qualitative section is rich with tips for effective leadership in virtual teams, including addressing challenges, the use of the phone and email, and tips for the videoconference.

Question for you…

Are you on any virtual teams? How do they work? Do you see good leadership or not-so-much? What makes it work well? Do you use VC? Does it work well? Feel free to comment….