At the beginning of 2020, who would have predicted that we’d become an almost completely remote workforce in the next 90 days?  If you’re like me, one of the things you like most about going to the office is the connection, interaction, and sense of shared purpose that comes from working together in close proximity.  Somehow, Zoom calls just aren’t the same.

But since many industries don’t have a choice right now, you can use this technology to stay connected with your team in a meaningful, productive way.  You just have to be a little more creative!  Think audaciously!

Here are 5 ways to rock virtual meetings so that you can stay connected:

 

  1. Start with a personal check in. Normally, this wouldn’t be something acceptable in a business setting, but this “water cooler” conversation is an essential part of workplace culture.  Let’s face it—we build some pretty deep relationships with the people we work with.  Under normal circumstances, we spend more time with our co-workers in a day than we do with our families.  When we are all working from home, we don’t have a chance to catch up on how our team members’ lives are going.  Starting the meeting with a personal check in gives people a chance to feel connected and therefore, be more available to concentrate on the tasks at hand.
  2. Review virtual manners. It may seem obvious, but if your industry or organization is new to virtual meetings and online technology, not everyone will understand what’s expected.  The larger the group, the more important this is.  Be sure to emphasize the importance of muting when you’re not talking, staying focused on the camera and not multi-tasking, and minimizing background distractions.  For most people, this is common sense, but even the most experienced Zoomer can forget. An upbeat, quick reminder will lessen frustrations later in the meeting.
  3. Make sure to hear from everyone. In all meetings, there are those folks who don’t speak up.  In person, this isn’t a big deal.  You can read their body language, see their facial expressions, and sense if their silence means approval or resistance. This is harder to determine when on Zoom or some other virtual medium—and it’s close to impossible if you’re audio-only!  Since you can’t rely on the traditional non-verbal cues, you have to get verbal responses.  Either go around the screen, go in alphabetical order, or get random responses, but make sure that every person in the meeting comments in some way about the topic.
  4. Keep it light. These are unusual times, fraught with uncertainty and fear.  We need to be compassionate to that, but we can also help to distract our teams from the doom and gloom.  Do something a little audacious!  Wear a fun hat, start with a joke, invite everyone to introduce their pets, or ask people to share their biggest surprises about working remotely.  Your business is serious, but your meetings can include levity.  In public speaking, we are taught that the best way to make an audience remember a point is to make then laugh or make them cry.  Try going for a laugh and see how much more productive your meeting can be.
  5. Set an upbeat pace. Virtual meetings are a great format for bringing a team together, moving a project forward, hearing updates and assigning tasks.  It’s not so great for meetings that are prone to spinning off into side conversations or discussing topics that only involve one or two people on the team.  It’s important that the person leading the meeting keeps things moving and not get bogged down in debates or problems that will flatten the energy of those not involved.  Encourage those who want to have more discussion on a specific topic to set up a separate meeting to hash out the hard stuff, and then bring it back to the group.

 

Although being in the same room is always the best dynamic for large meetings, when that is just not possible, you can stay connected and have killer meetings by following these 5 simple steps.  Remember, the primary purpose here is to help your team stay engaged with the project, the company, and their companion.  Get creative!