The Voice: Excel at Blind Auditions

NBC’s The Voice, one of the top rated shows on television, engages celebrity judges and “blind auditions” to build a team of the next great vocal artists. Initial decisions are based solely on the voice of each contestant and judges don’t get to see the contestants before choosing. Typical biases around gender, weight and attraction never enter the equation. Similarly, in the global, virtual business world, others are making “blind” decisions about team members.

What Happens in Virtual Meetings When They Can’t See You

In a matter of seconds, during virtual meetings, just as in face-to-face gatherings, participants make decisions about facilitators, presenters and other participants. An impression made in the first few seconds of a conference call, for example, determines whether or not participants will be attentive or tune out. Especially in virtual meetings, participants have the power to decide when to listen, who might be worth listening to, how to evaluate what a person is saying and whether or not to keep listening.

To make the best impression with those who can’t see you, leaders need to think differently. Whether as facilitator, presenter or meeting organizer, you will want to understand and avoid the following three dangerous assumptions about meetings, especially virtual meetings.

Dangerous Assumption #1 — As the speaker, I control the communication and listeners. In Reality: No matter how skilled, charismatic, or engaging a speaker may be, the listener decides whether or not to listen. Speakers cannot force others to listen, especially over the phone.
Dangerous Assumption #2 – I can listen well when there really is a need. In Reality: Listeners overestimate how much they remember and rarely remember even what is most important to them. When we show leaders a 20-second video clip about an emergency hospital situation and ask ten simple questions, few can answer more than four questions correctly. Even highly trained listeners have trouble with technical and unfamiliar information during meetings.
Dangerous Assumption #3 – When I start talking, others start listening. In Reality: It takes time for us to engage as listeners. Most people need at least a few seconds to get on track when a meeting starts. It’s like shifting gears to the new situation we’re entering.

To increase your likelihood of making good virtual “first impressions”, download and use Innolect’s Virtual Conference Call Best Practices Checklist . Capitalize on this opportunity to replace traditional biases with your ability to engage your listening audience.

“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” Will Rogers

Checkout Becky Ripley and Kittie Watson’s May 2014 article on pg. 34 of Chief Learning Officer magazine — We’re Learning — Are You Listening?

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