Tips on how to maintain focus during virtual meetings.
Man attempting to multi-task during a web meeting.

By Wayne Turmel

Often, I am asked, “How can I maintain focus during virtual meetings and conference calls?”

The obvious answer, “Stay focused,” isn’t very helpful.

And I can understand the frustration.

We are good people. (You and I are at least…the others who don’t care about the team, or anyone else but themselves, are apparently weasels.)

We want to be focused, productive and contribute to the team. But darn it, email beckons, the IM won’t stop, and that deadline is looming like an oncoming Mack truck.

We want to focus.

We know we should focus…but, wait…


Here are some tips for the next time you’re stuck on a virtual meeting or conference call (most of these you know… but you have to actually do them.)

  • Move your cell phone out of arm’s reach. Seriously. Put it in a drawer, on a shelf, or far enough from you that you can’t get to it while staying in your chair.
  • Make notes the “old-school” way: by using pen and paper, you’ll not only be using other important parts of your brain, but you can listen more effectively. Take notes even concerning the boring stuff. You’ll be amazed at the ideas and potential contributions that occur to you.
  • Volunteer for a task. Be the “time nag”. Keep the minutes. Give your brain a valid reason to stay engaged.
  • Close all other windows on your computer. (It’s too tempting, believe me.)
  • Disengage email notifications and use your status updates for email and IM. If people know not to expect an immediate response, you’ll feel less obliged to provide one.
  • Ask that question you really have, and do it early. If you have a question or a comment, don’t hold it until the end of the call. Our thoughts become distractions at that point. Until we clear that thought or question out of the way, there’s no room for more information. (Bizarre, but true.)
  • Challenge yourself to listen as though there’ll be a quiz. Yes, this is simply a mind game, but whatever helps. (This works for me, even though I have the attention span of an Irish Setter.)

Focusing attention has always been a matter of needing a good reason to listen, removing distractions, and avoiding conflicting information that might seem more important.


Wayne Turmel--The Remote Leadership Institute

Wayne Turmel
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager

Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in

Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.

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