The Virtual Meeting Coach

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Archive for the ‘virtual meeting training’ Category

A Senior Couple Practices With Their New Webcam: A Whole World In One Vid!

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

A friend shared this vid with me today because it’s outrageously funny. Take a look…

Look at the Monkey! Is this precious, or what?! The thing is, there’s a lot more to this vid than just the humor.

If you’ll watch it a couple more times after you’ve had your initial laugh, you’ll see that this vid demonstrates a handful of issues that human beings – of all ages, personalities, and persuasions – to encounter and move through on our way to developing webcam “literacy” – i.e., the ability to make good use of webcams for video mail, video conferencing, web conferencing, internet conferencing, and/or virtual meetings.

To be truly effective communicators in the 21st Century, we simply can’t afford to skip webcam literacy. No matter how young or old we are…

A new set of skills are called for when we step away from “publishing papers” online. Whether we’re pairing still webcam images with words or using moving pictures and sound to convey our messages, new kinds of “composition” formats are called for. We can’t just expect to turn our traditional 5-paragraph essays into audio scripts and throw in a few pictures for “visual aides.” That just doesn’t cut it with 21st century audiences. To give you their time and attention, your online audience expects you to acknowledge THEIR concerns and connect with them quickly, effectively, and with candor.

So, what are a few of the questions and issues people need to work through if we’re to make effective use of webcams as communication tools? Let’s make a list here, using the commenting box…

I’ll start.

1) Turning on a webcam is NOT the same thing as watching ourselves in a mirror as we record our pre-written speeches. We simply can’t help being fascinated with the way we look and how we sound as we’re using the camera (as the man was above). We’re human, after all. (Even chimps love looking at themselves in mirrors and on camera.) But, when we turn on a webcam, who or what else do we need to be paying attention to – besides what we look like and whatever it is we want someone else to see and hear?

2) What are some key differences between illustrating our words with still webcam shots (or screen grabs) … and translating our verbal scripts into a video recordings? When, how and why would you choose to use one or the other approach?

3) Your turn…

Ashland Social Media and Virtual Meeting Coaching Groups: It’s Time to Register for Fall ’11 Sessions Now

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

How Can We Stop the Information Economy From Leaching the Value Out of Our Hard-Earned Expertise?

Friday, December 17th, 2010

I’ve been busy the last couple of weeks putting together a new blog site where I’m focusing on the needs of Baby Boomer thought leaders who need help extending their lifetime contributions using easy 21st Century digital communication tools. Both social media and virtual meetings. My hope is to create a robust conversation there around the new rules, new tools, and new “social skills” that Baby Boomers need to practice in order to build an engaging social presence.

The site’s called

Please come check out the new space and participate in the conversation there.  I’d love to hear what you think!

I just posted some resources from a conversation I had yesterday with the Ashland Internet Marketing Group and you may find them interesting, too.

Our topic was: How Can We Stop the Information Economy From Leaching the Value Out of Our Hard-Earned Expertise?

Internet Marketing is a big subject, isn’t it? It’s not just all about selling information products. It’s also about making it easy for people to buy your services – including getting real-time coaching and consulting from you about your areas of expertise – from wherever they happen to be.

People were excited to hear about a new local coaching group I’m starting up in January, 2011. Here’s a link where you can read more about that group, if you’re interested and happen to be local:

I’ll also be starting another online coaching group towards the end of January and will post more information here for people who may be interested in joining that group to practice your virtual meeting chops with a small group of other talented professionals who are also transitioning some of their professional services online.

I’m certainly not going to be abandoning this blog. But I’m excited about expanding my reach at and I hope you’ll join me there, too!

How do you design virtual meetings to enable high-energy collaboration?

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

I’m reading a number of new blogs lately and one, in particular,  really got me thinking this week.

You can read the whole post I’ve been chewing on here on Jeff Lowe’s blog at .

In that post, Jeff’s thoughts are focused on planning for meetings in 3D immersive environments. But the issues he’s raising about the need to design the interactive space for collaboration are hardly limited to meetings in 3D environments. And, in particular, the list of questions Jeff poses for meeting designers seem to me to be crucial to the design of every virtual meeting in which your goal for the meeting is high-energy collaboration.

Granted, not all virtual meetings are focused on collaborative work.

But when you’re aiming for collaboration between people who aren’t in the same room (much less the same time zone), then creating a sense of shared presence is everything.  When we’re not able to be face-to-face with collaborators, the room, the meeting flow, and the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic elements and interactions need to work together seamlessly for human beings to achieve a sense of shared presence, shared meaning, and shared purpose.

I’ve clipped all of Jeff’s questions and raised a couple of additional points here on my Amplify blog. Please take a look and, if they stimulate you, too,  join in the conversation at Amplify – or right here below.

I’m always curious about what you’re thinking as you’re designing your virtual meetings… These seem like crucial questions to me.

Using Virtual Meetings to Support and Enrich Collaboration

Monday, November 1st, 2010

On his e-learning focused blog, Christopher Pappas just provided a quick, meaty overview of several of the best free virtual meeting, web conferencing, and online meeting and online learning tools. I hope you’ll take a look at it today.

For several years, Christopher and I have been learning and from each other – across the globe. He’s in Greece and I’m in southern Oregon. And we’ve both been participating in online communities focused on e-learning. We haven’t met in person yet, but I look forward to getting a chance to shake Christopher’s physical hand one day soon and thank him for this post and all the rest of the pointers he’s shared with me and other colleagues focused on helping people work and learn from each other at a distance.

People have asked me several times to make a post like this and I’ve simply been too busy to take the time, so I’m grateful to able to point you to Christopher’s blog.

I particularly appreciate this vid he found from the folks at Yugma because it articulates a crucial distinction between intermittent and persistent collaboration.

I love the way this vid highlights the magic of using virtual meetings, web conferences, and online learning tools to enable different people to think about and work on the same thing in different ways – in real-time. Because that’s what’s important: the people working and learning together using whatever tools they find easiest to use when they’re not co-located.

I’ve found Yugma to be a practical tool for what the Yugma team calls “fluid collaboration.” So are all the other apps Christopher highlighted in his post. They all provide simple, practical, browser-based platforms for people to work together – both intermittently and persistently.  There are a couple of dozen other tools that work well, too.

But the issue isn’t really so much about finding the right TOOLS to use. The trick is understanding how to work with others fluidly and collaboratively. The real challenge isn’t so much how to technically access an online whiteboard or do a screen share. It’s learning to think about work and learning as continuous processes of creating and nourishing a sense of shared meaning – and purpose – with others.

Four years ago, I relocated from Austin, TX, a busy major metropolitan area, to a sweet town of 20,000 in rural southern Oregon.  Since I did this, I’ve been using all kinds of free virtual meeting tools on a daily basis to work with old and new clients across the country and continents.

After my move, clients and colleagues (many of whom have since become clients) started telling and showing me that they didn’t understand HOW I thought about work and learning as processes of persistent collaboration.

They didn’t understand how I chunked the work into manageable pieces we could accomplish in 30-90 minutes. They didn’t understand how I set up the tools to make it easy for us to interact in real-time. And they didn’t understand how I made decisions – on the fly – that made it easy for BOTH of us to contribute to the work product at the same time. (Especially useful when people have different ways of thinking and looking at what they need to do together.)

So, I started coaching my clients and friends and colleagues…and now, four years later, I’m “The Virtual Meeting Coach” as well as a health and wellness coach who uses virtual meetings to support my clients’ deliberately reorienting their lives around their natural strengths.

Over the last four years, I’ve field-tested all kinds of helping strategies, from one-on-one coaching to small group meetings. At this point, I’ve discovered that the one-on-one coaching is the fastest and easiest way for people to learn. But it’s also the most expensive. Some people need to speed things up and are ready to go for it, one-on-one. Others can’t focus all their energy on new skills because they’ve got a lot to attend to just to keep their revenue streams flowing. I can help in either situation.

To address the needs of people who can’t do one-on-one work right now, this year I developed what I call the Madhatters’ Tea Party Group Coaching Programs. They provide a 10-week fun, high-energy, and emotionally supportive practice environment where small groups of people can quickly learn “fluid collaboration” processes by doing them weekly – with me and their friends, fans and followers.

Participants report the outcomes are greater ease and a sense of excitement and facility at creating both intermittent meetings and persistent collaborative practices that nourish – and sustain – a sense of shared meaning and purpose with the people who are most important to them. Even when they’re not able to be physically co-located.

If you’re not sure which tools you’d like to get started with, I hope you’ll take a look at this post in Christopher’s blog.

When you’re ready for some one-on-one coaching, or to build your skills by practicing in a small group – using whichever FREE tools you like the most – I hope you’ll give me a call. I use all of the tools Christopher highlighted in his post and many others. I offer a FREE initial 30-minute consultation and I’d love to hear more about your situation.

As “The Virtual Meeting Coach,” I’m committed to helping smart people learn to use the free tools in ways – and at a price – that’s affordable and sustainable for everyone as well as our fragile Earth.

This is the future we’ve been waiting for, friends. The tools are FREE and they’re available NOW. If you’ve still got a lot more to share with others – and you can’t afford either the time or the money it takes to fly and drive all over the place all the time to share it – I’d love to help you get started collaborating fluidly with the people who are most important to you – in the areas that you’ve got crucial gifts to contribute. We need your gifts. Now.

Southern Oregon authors, coaches and consultants! Here’s a Local Opportunity!

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

Hello Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, Medford, Grants Pass, and Jacksonville, Oregon! I’m looking for one more Rogue Valley author, coach or consultant who’s ready to add virtual meetings to your communication toolbox this year!

At the end of this month, I’m starting up a 6-week small-group coaching program where you will meet in person with others like you and learn-by-doing in a fun face-to-face setting.

Ready to skill yourself up for 2011? We’re going to have some big fun! Read more here. If you’re interested, give me a call right away.

Fall Session Madhatters Tea Parties Starting Monday – 1 Seat Left!

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

I’ve had a last-minute cancellation, so if you’d like to join the Fall session of Hatters, let’s talk before Monday…

I’m a Telecommunications teacher in Ashland, OR.


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Worried about how to increase the reach of your business? Grow your income? Enrich relationships with friends and family?

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

As my friend and colleague, Carolyn Shaffer, knows well, a lot of us tend to worry these days about a lot of things.

Will we have enough income flow to see us through the years ahead?

How can we nourish crucial relationships with family and friends – when everyone’s scattered across the continent, or the globe?

What can we actually do to decrease the demand for fossil fuels – so we don’t have more disasters like we’ve already suffered in the Gulf this year?

A few years ago, Carolyn claimed her heritage in a long line of women who had all been “born worriers,” and decided  to take on the serious job of dispensing lighthearted wisdom for the heavy times in which we live.

Carolyn Shaffer
A long-time educator and, for more than 20 years, a clinical hypnotherapist and life coach (, Carolyn has helped hundreds of clients move from fear and paralysis to joy and effective action. And, in response to the unprecedented global crises we face, Carolyn started to help thousands more learn how to make this shift quickly and affordably.

This week I will be Carolyn’s guest on her monthly Buddy Call. We’ll be talking about how all of us can move from worry to joy to effective action using virtual meeting tools (that are free or highly affordable) to reach more people and increase our income flow.

Strengthen Your Relationships With Family and Friends

Even if you aren’t in business for yourself, you can use the information and resources I’ll be sharing on Wednesday, August 11th, to take action on another front: strengthening your relationships with family and friends, especially those who live far away. In times of great change these relationships can turn out to be even more important than those multiple, flowing income streams.

Carolyn was a Madhatter in the Spring Session of the Madhatters Tea Party Group Coaching Program, so she’s been hard at work this summer applying what she learned to create new programs that will extend her coaching practice – using virtual meetings. She told me this week that she found the program demanding, especially for a computer-technology-challenged person like her, but also a lot of fun. Yes, F-U-N.

On this call, I’ll be sharing tips and resources for how you, too, can enter the world of virtual meetings and have a good time while you’re there.

Using our computers to communicate with each other – using text, still pictures, moving pictures and live drawing, along with our voices -  really does create conversations that are more engaging, more spontaneous, and more creative than just talking on the phone.  It’s true!

So, please join us on Wednesday, August 11th, at 6pm PDT for an hour of fun conversation. The call is FREE. So, bring your questions. Bring your sense of humor. Hell, you can even bring your worries! Between the two of us, Carolyn and I will do our best to help you with those, too.

There’s no cost to participate, but you do need to register at Carolyn’s site. Use the link below to sign up and Carolyn will send you the call number, conference code, and give you access to the call recording – in case you’d like to listen, but can’t participate Wednesday at 6pm PDT:

The Why Worry Guide Registration Page:

See you there! I mean hear you there…or hear you then…  It’ll be fun!

Geometry, Morale, Virtual Meeting Mastery and Oreos

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

It’s storytime, friends. I’ve slowed down a bit this summer and as I begin gearing back up for the Fall, I’ve got a little story to share. If you’ve got a few minutes, please grab a cool drink…

Last weekend my dear friend, Diana Fairbanks, helped me gather up and move a bunch of things I’ve been storing at another friend’s property since I moved from Austin to Ashland almost four years ago. It was hot, heavy, dirty work in 105 degree heat and we were filthy, thirsty, and bone-tired when we got back to my place late in the afternoon with a car, a truck and a trailer piled high with stuff.

Fortunately, two cheerful, strong-backed, willing-to-work high school boys, Austin Huerta and Nick Geiger, were waiting to help us unload everything and fit it – somehow – into two small storage spaces under the building where I live.

As we began unloading, Austin and Nick noticed the flat file drawers stacked in the back of my car and asked me about being an artist. This opened a conversation about how much the boys loved Tetris and making art but hated geometry. We bonded immediately – across three generations – and the conversation about art and geometry kept us all from worrying too hard about the decision-making and stacking work as we hoisted stuff out of the vehicles and started tucking it into two pretty tight spaces.

As Austin quickly and skillfully transferred containers of different shapes and sizes from one place to another, he talked about how much he loved playing Tetris – and how irrelevant the kinds of problems he was being asked to solve in geometry seemed to him. And, as Nick helped Austin shoulder the heavy stuff, he chimed in about how much he loved drawing – but how painful geometry was for him because the formulas just made no sense to him.

As the boys demonstrated, moment by moment, how much geometry they had clearly mastered, I told them how happy I was that two smart young guys were having so much trouble with the damn theorems and postulates because I’ve been an artist my entire life and geometry was the only class I ever got a “D” in.

We agreed that theorems, axioms, postulates and corollarys weren’t the only way to work with shapes and that making art – and moving stuff around in space – were much better routes for people like us. Before we knew it, the work was done and we were high-fiving with a cheer for “Screw the postulates!” I thanked them for their cheerful company and quick creative thinking and we took off to get drinks and clean up. Despite the hard work and the heat, morale was high all around. What a day!

So, what’s this got to do with virtual meetings?

Well, three days later, as I’m recovering, I’m starting to wonder how I’m going to integrate everything into my life and my work now that all my stuff’s back under one roof. It’s a big deal to have all my books, tools, and supplies in one place four years after moving across the country! I went downstairs to survey the storage spaces and smiled immediately remembering the way the cheerful conversation with the boys lifted everyone’s morale.

And I’m also realizing that maybe it’s not quite true that theorems and postulates don’t work for me when I’m designing new solutions.

What might be truer is that, when I’m working as a coach, I’m always working with some theorem, axiom or postulate, assembling new corollaries, and searching for neat, provable little “systems” I can share with clients. Especially now that I’m helping coaches and consultants transition their face-to-face services into virtual meeting rooms.

But the thing is, instead of working with precise lines, protractors, and little letter-and-number-labels, I use words and phrases, together with photographs and video and cartoons and sometimes even little interactive games. There’s still a lot of rigor in the work and the systems have to “prove out” — or they’re not useful to anyone. And I notice that’s a liberating insight…

Advanced Coaching for Virtual Meeting Mastery

Throughout the Spring Session of the Madhatters Tea Party Group Coaching Program, Tom Carroll and I debriefed the Hatters about their action-learning experiences and I posted the videos here in the Virtual Meeting Coach blog. In those video interviews – and the written posts – Tom and I were actually fishing for axioms to share with the whole Virtual Meeting Camp.

But there was little time for me to reflect on my own learning, as the program director. So, I decided to chill a bit during the first part of the summer, have some fun turning 60, and take time to mull over the feedback the Hatters and Partiers shared so generously at the close of the session before attempting to design any followup coaching programs.

As August 1st looms on the horizon, I’m starting to dream again about some fast, fun, effective ways I could meet clients’ requests for advanced coaching this Fall. And, as I reflect on the geometry conversation, I’m realizing that the Virtual Tea Party Group actually handed me some powerful axioms in their post-session feedback surveys.

From both sides of the action-learning experience, Madhatter Hostesses and Virtual Tea Partiers agreed they want more

  1. Learning community – to help them sustain morale while they take the time necessary to develop consistent virtual meeting skills
  2. Real-time feedback – so they can design and deliver superior services – at a distance
  3. Resources and support – for building excellent project team(s) that can help each other migrate successfully from 3D rooms to virtual meeting rooms
  4. Practice – being exactly who they are in virtual relationships

And, as I’ve been reflecting on my own experience, it’s clear to me that running successful service businesses – businesses that deliver both face-to-face and virtual servicesdepends on our successful application of a couple of crucial corollaries as we design new service products.

I wish I could take credit for authoring all these – but this is actually an Oreo. I can only claim credit for the creamy center. The top and bottom cookies come from leaders at Pixar Studios.

(1) For imagination-based companies to succeed in the long run, making money can’t be the focus.
- Steve Jobs (CEO, Pixar Studios)

(2) Morale is the life-blood of imagination and without trust and respect, morale fails. Without exception.
- Meri Aaron Walker (co-author, “Teamwork is an Individual Skill“)

(3) With low morale, for every $1 your spend, you get $.25 value. With high morale, for every $1 you spend, you get $3 in value.
- Brad Bird (Director/Screenwriter, Pixar Studios)

I know, I know…

I can hear some of you muttering… “Tell me again, Meri, what’s all this GEOMETRY and OREO stuff got to do with me getting the results I need in this tough economy using virtual meetings?”

Hey, it’s summertime. And I just slid over the falls into my sixth decade… Rambling a little is just part of the territory.

What all this has to do with YOU, YOUR BUSINESS, and YOUR VIRTUAL MEETING MASTERY is this:

If you aren’t literally living and working within easy walking distance of all your coworkers, clients, and suppliers… (Not “A”)

… and if you are a service company that isn’t growing your profits fast enough to keep pace with this persistently volatile economy… (Not “B”)

… and if what you actually sell your clients, suppliers, and coworkers is your attention, intelligence and help applying new strategies to improve other people’s productivity and profits… (PLU$)


… taking time to learn to use interactive virtual meetings in ways that build trust and respect and sustain morale around you would be a great investment to make in yourself this year. (C)

So, are you needing

  • a smart learning community,
  • honest real-time feedback,
  • proven resources and support for making your migration into virtual meetings, and
  • a place to do real-world practice FREE tools with live, supportive audiences?

If you’d like to explore options with me, you can use this link to request a FREE 30-minute private consultation.

I’m always curious about what smart women business owners are dreaming and I’ll be happy to share some pointers about tools and strategies that could speed up your transition – without breaking the bank. And, I promise we won’t talk about geometry – not even for a moment!

Until next time, I hope you’re enjoying your summer! We’ve only got one life to live. I hope you’re taking time to enjoy yours because high morale really is the most reliable generator of new value in this tough economy!


Reality Trumps – Only Always!

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010


When you’ve become a successful face-to-face facilitator, coach, trainer, or consultant, learning to use virtual meeting tools can be a totally absorbing process. It’s true. Everything’s different than when we’re meeting face-to-face. We have to learn to translate some skills and find ways to live without some things we’ve learned to believe are essential for good relationship and high productivity.

It’s quite a dance. And to be successful virtual meeting leaders, requires practice. Actually quite a lot of practice. Like learning to dance – or riding a bike – no amount of time spent “thinking about it” substitutes for time spent just getting down the new moves.

Then, when we enter the virtual meeting room, we must let go of the “meeting” we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.

When you can do that, you’re on your way…

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