The time we spend in dental school is filled with countless hours studying for exams, never-ending practice in the simulation clinic and preparing for procedures once we enter patient clinics. A dental student’s world is already packed full of academic responsibilities, so fitting in meetings that are accommodating to everyone’s schedule is an arduous task for any leader. Luckily, in a society where working from home is becoming common practice, virtual communication can bring together leaders in a manner that’s both convenient academically as well as relaxing for greater productivity.
It is important to note that virtual communication isn’t for every occasion. If face-to-face interaction is possible, I always recommend it. For a close group of friends and leaders, like those relationships that exist within a local chapter executive board, meetings at the school are surely effective. Yet, for even these groups, some meetings can become cumbersome and repetitive. After a long day in clinic dealing with a difficult extraction case, or at the conclusion of a strenuous exam, being in the comfort of your own home (not to mention sweatpants) can provide an increased eagerness for participation. Incorporating virtual communication at the chapter level can be of greatest value in examples such as: there is a large event nearing and multiple meetings need to be held; your chapter is on summer/winter break yet still needs to communicate; the meeting will be short and leaders all have different schedules.
When communication must span geographically outside of your school or state, communication must get creative. This can be especially applicable to district and national leadership for teams of students who must come together from across the country. I have seen state dental associations also utilize various communication portals of which each have their individual purposes. Throughout my experiences with virtual communication, I have found positive aspects with the multitude of options. Here are a few I recommend:
Number of attendees: 50 people
Length: 40 minutes
Great for: Individual chapter leadership meetings; District cabinet meetings; Meetings with other chapter leadership
Advice: Video conferencing works best when someone calls in, rather than utilizes the video software, the responses can come in delayed
Positive aspect: Allows for screen sharing as well as video chatting
Number of attendees: 10 for video conferencing
Great for: Small group meetings (such as your chapter executive board or district cabinet executive board)
Advice: Make sure everyone has a Google account before committing to this method of virtual communication
Positive aspect: If you utilize Google+ you can create “Circles” so that everyone in that circle can easily join a video call once it is started
Cost: $89, $199, or $299
Number of attendees: 100, 500, or 1,000 (respective to pricing above)
Great for: Gathering large crowds; Putting on a professional event (predental webinars, legislative webinars, leadership webinars, etc.)
Advice: Make sure your speaker/presenter knows all eyes are on them—they will want a warning that what they are wearing, everything they are doing, etc. will be seen by all attendees
Positive aspect: You can have multiple presentations and panelists for whom you can offer a practice session before it begins to make sure everything runs smoothly the day of
*The above three options are ones in which I have personal experience with. You can also find websites and companies that allow only conference calling in addition to options for video conferencing.
Virtual communication can be a welcomed change in a world that never slows down. If you haven’t tried it, I recommend you do so. It could prove to increase effectiveness and boost the morale of your leadership team. Additionally, if leadership in organized dentistry is in your future, practice will make perfect in preparation for your future with virtual communication.
-Jennifer Quist, LECOM ’17, 2015-2016 District 5 Trustee