….By Pia Prip Hansen
Virtual one2one mentoring conversations does not have to be the next best thing. However, they require new skills and insight into the virtual opportunities. We give you 10 tips on how to ensure that your mentoring conversations are effective and impactful, even if there’s a screen instead of a table between you.
The good mentoring meeting starts before the actual meeting, and just like physical meetings preparation is the key to when it comes to conducting good and effective mentoring conversations. No later than a few days before the meeting, mentee should send the agenda to mentor. In this way the mentor can prepare for the topics that the mentee wants to work with, make some thoughts about the meeting and maybe take some notes on which questions or topics that the mentor thinks is important for the mentee’s learning. Therefore, both the mentor and the mentee always have some preparation to do before the meetings, but the mentee’s effort will more likely require more time.
2. Make sure your connection works well
Agree on which medium to use. There are a lot of free platforms available on the market, but we always recommend making a profile which is protected by a password. Use a laptop/computer rather than a tablet or smart phone which may result in less functionality available.
Before the meeting it is a good idea to test and make sure that your connection, sound and camera function works. Make sure that your camera captures your picture approximately in the middle of the screen and is on level with your face. Ensure that you have appropriate lighting. It is also important to find an optimal place for the meeting – preferably in an enclosed space where there is as little ambient noise as possible. At the same time, it is important that you sit somewhere where you can talk privately about confidential and sensitive topics.
3. Clarify roles and responsibility
In our definition of mentoring, the role of a mentee is to take the lead because they are accountable for their own learning and success. The role of the mentor is to help create a productive and safe learning process. It is up to mentor and mentee to discuss the expectation they have for each other. In addition, when the mentoring conversation is taking place virtually, it is important to have control over who is calling who, for example, when the meeting starts or if the connection is lost during the meeting.
4. Be punctual
Be prepared to begin on time – and finish on time as well. Mentally prepare yourself 15 minutes before the meeting starts. Open the meeting platform you have agreed on 5 minutes before to check that the technology works. Check your camera and microphone. If you are late to a meeting, make sure you give notice as soon as possible.
5. Visual effects
Virtual meetings are more intense than physical meetings. It is therefore important to vary the meeting, for example by including visual means. Consider using a virtual whiteboard for drawing or taking notes around a specific topic. Present the homework through screen sharing (Word, PowerPoint, Excel etc.).
6. Mind your body language
To communicate effectively in a virtual meeting, body language matters. Many details which normally play an important role in physical meetings may be lost during virtual meetings. One of the most important but also hardest things to show in a virtual meeting is presence. During a virtual meeting you can show that you are presence by looking into the camera. This way the other party feels that you are looking into their eyes, which is an important element in a conversation.
Virtual meetings require us to actively use the part of our body that can be seen – our head and hands. Examples can be a smile, head nodding or a thumps-up.
Sometimes virtual meetings without the use of video can make you listen more focused. It is therefore important to find a good balance between the use of camera, visual aids and sound.
7. Silence is powerful
One of the most difficult things in a virtual mentoring meeting is the silence which naturally arises in conversations.
The silence may seem strange and awkward, but in the silence something great is hidden; creating space for reflection and contemplation. It is an advantage to breathe one more time before you answer. In this way you make sure it doesn’t seem like you are interrupting.
8. Give room for immersion
In continuation of the silence that naturally arises during a mentoring meeting, it is important to give room for reflection. Say aloud that you need a moment of silence and make a 5-minute break where you can grab a new cup of coffee or breathe some air. It can also be a good idea to provide time for both mentor and mentee to write down notes during the meeting. It can be difficult to concentrate on listening while writing. Make it a habit to take small breaks of reflection during the conversation.
9. Consider recording the conversation
It may be valuable for both mentor and mentee to record the mentoring conversation so that they afterwards can use the recording in connection with a self-evaluation as well as to maintain and capture the content and learning of the meeting. Use the recording to consider what could be done differently in the future to ensure even more effective mentoring conversations. Make sure you are both OK with recording the meeting. Together, decide on a clear guideline for how to store and subsequently delete the recordings.
10. Evaluate the mentoring meeting
Follow-up and evaluation are an integrated part of a successful mentoring process. Just as it is important to make room for reflection breaks during the mentoring conversation, it is important to end each session with an evaluation of the conversation’s progress and results.
Remember to schedule a new meeting before ending.
As a follow-up on the mentoring meeting and the evaluation it can be a good idea to send a follow-up email with a short summary of the conversation and what mentee needs to work with until the next meeting.