Remote finance business partnering – how to run interactive meetings

As a finance business partner, are you running interactive virtual meetings with your business colleagues or just using Skype or Zoom as a video-conference facility?

With most finance teams working from home, video-conference meetings have become the norm for many finance businesses partners.

But are you making the most of this technology for remote finance business partnering?

I thought I’d share with you my top 10 tips for remote finance business partnering using virtual technologies such as Teams, Zoom or Skype. I’ll refer to Zoom as an example, but most of these tips apply to other tools.

People find it much harder to concentrate in video meetings rather than in face-to-face meetings. It’s harder to read body language or generate energy.

This is especially true at the moment in trying to grab the attention of business colleagues who are stressed with many operational issues and will be easily distracted onto other things.

If you want to remotely partner with your business colleagues, you need to be able to:

  • Run interactive virtual meetings where people discuss options, contribute to ideas and not just sit listening passively.
  • Make your sessions as decision-focused or action-focussed as possible to promote an active conversation.
  • Minimise the amount of information you present into a meeting, so it doesn’t feel overwhelming or a one-way presentation.

Over the last few weeks we’ve switched to remote training and consulting with our clients. My top 10 tips are based on this experience and I’ve organised them into Basic, Intermediate and Advanced Interaction:

Basic Interaction

  1. No more than 3 issues or messages – it’s the optimum number of points for people to digest.
  2. Build up your slides one point at a time in a live virtual meeting. If you show all the points on a slide upfront, people will read ahead, not listen to what you’re saying, and be impatient to move on.
  3. Present the message or issue first with a minimal amount of data to support your argument; don’t overwhelm your business colleagues with data – send it beforehand if necessary.
  4. Intermediate Interaction

  5. Declare at the outset what the decision or action is that you need your business colleagues to take at the end of your session.
  6. Grab the attention of your business colleagues in the first 30 seconds with an ‘eye-catching’ issue, amount of money or customer risk that needs to be tackled. Make them sit-up and listen.
  7. Liven up your presentation by using the Annotate features in Zoom (or equivalent) by highlighting messages, drawing boxes around key numbers, using the arrow feature to highlight which point you’re referring to on a slide etc. Take your business colleagues with you in the conversation.
  8. Re-visit at the end of your session whether you made the decision that you declared at the start of the meeting and what the specific actions and next steps are.
  9. Advanced Interaction

  10. Run interactive sessions with your business colleagues, but manage them strictly. Everyone speaking at the same time can be disruptive and unproductive.
    How do you want people to react? Tell them upfront.  Interrupt verbally as you go?  Hold back questions until the end?  Type text comments onto slides?  Ask questions via Chat and then hold a Q&A session at the end?  Do encourage interaction but be disciplined and strict about how you want your business colleagues to interact.
  11. Call out people by name from time to time to answer a question or provide a comment, especially if you think they are distracted elsewhere. This keeps people attentive and involved in the discussion.  This a technique that good schoolteachers are currently using a lot with virtual classrooms!
  12.   Use breakout rooms on Zoom (or equivalent) to involve your colleagues in the content or generate new ideas by sending small groups of people into different virtual break-out rooms.  Get them to discuss specific topics such as what are the barriers to implementing this, what are the options, who should be involved etc, as if you were holding a physical working session in the office.   Get the groups to come back to the virtual meeting and share their output content with the full group by using a whiteboard they created in their breakout room.

It takes confidence to successfully run interactive remote business partnering meetings. And quite a bit of multi-tasking too!

We teach our kids they have to practice if they want to get good at playing their favourite sport or musical instrument.

Unfortunately, it’s the same in finance if you want to become proficient at running interactive remote business partnering meetings.

Practice, practice, practice!

It’s likely we’ll be using these virtual meeting tools for quite some time yet.  If you want to be successful at remote finance business partnering these are invaluable skills to master right now.

So, Ask Yourself:

  1. Are you running interactive remote meetings with your business colleagues to drive actions and decisions?
  2. Do you know which techniques to use to engage and interact more effectively with your business colleagues?
  3. What level of remote meeting are you capable of running and have you practised how to run your next session to make it interactive and successful?

I hope this is useful. 

What tips or questions do you have for remote finance business partnering? 

I’d love to hear from you.
Adrian Willmott,
Managing Director, Arcus Consulting
t: +44 (0) 207 608 5096

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