Virtual meetings have, to put it mildly, exploded in popularity this year. Priorly, the primary method of communication was in-person. Meeting rooms were the tried and tested method for collaboration. People knew what to do and what to expect. No longer. Virtual meetings herald an entirely new format to business communication with numerous benefits. For instance, you can converse with anyone, irrespective of location; it cuts down on expensive flights and travel, as well as the associated emissions. These are tremendous benefits.
However, with everyone taking to virtual meetings in a relatively short period, there remains a lack of understanding regarding running compelling meetings. You’ll likely have sat in some of these dull conferences. Hosts ask questions at a wall of silence. Conversations meander into nothingness. In contrast to the real-world, the meetings lack the natural flow of social interaction.
There are, however, several techniques and tips for creating engaging and enjoyable meetings. Here are some of our favourites.
Have an agenda
Typically, being accused of ‘having an agenda’ is an insult. In a virtual meeting, the reverse is true. Previously, meetings could be compiled on the fly. Attendees had a broad understanding of the issues to be resolved. The ease of communication enabled the discussion to flow freely. Body language is an invaluable tool in the communication arsenal.
In contrast, virtual meetings can be stilted and staid. Hosts must work extra hard to keep the meeting on track. That’s where an agenda comes in.
By establishing the goal and points to be raised in a meeting, a roadmap for the conversation is documented. Distribute the agenda before the meeting so that people can consider their contributions. Doing so will keep everyone focused and on the same page, literally.
The 10-minute rule
Even prior to lockdown, meetings weren’t famed for their productivity. All too often a meeting would drone on for an hour-and-a-half, only for nothing to be accomplished. You’d think you had ample time to come to some conclusions. Yet, contrary to logic, more time can often lead to less being achieved. To quote an old bit of wisdom: necessity is the mother of invention.
By concentrating the time available, people become focused on the task at hand. A sense of urgency is induced. Assign each item on the agenda a ten-minute slot. In this time, discuss the topic, brainstorm any solutions, and create a plan of action.
Try to keep the meeting to four or five ten-minute slots. Use these key points as headlines for the discussion. People will only remember 10 percent of what is discussed. Therefore, by restricting the number of agenda items, people won’t become disinterested.
Prevent distraction. Promote engagement
In real life, it isn’t polite to take out your phone or start daydreaming out the window. Your boss is likely to call you out. In a virtual meeting, this is often the norm. Detached from social interaction, distraction is rife. People flick through their messages, do other work, or stare at people’s backgrounds.
If people are more interested in your backdrop than your content, it’s a bad sign. There are two key fixes: use a virtual background and use tools to boost engagement.
Regarding the former: virtual backgrounds offer a fantastic way to maintain privacy and present a professional image. Using a form of green-screen, your home backdrop is transformed into a stylish office or natural vista. Hello Backgrounds has some of the most user-friendly zoom office backgrounds available, with hundreds of HD photos and videos from which to pick. Head on over, and peruse their selection.
Tools of the trade
Boosting engagement can involve developing more exciting content. However, the style of presentation can make a huge difference.
Use a virtual whiteboard when explaining a key concept or to engage the audience in a brainstorm. Having an image to aid understanding, can lead to a stronger memory and adds another element to a presentation. There are also multiple colours available. So, you can colour-code your diagrams and charts.
Some polls and surveys can be sent digitally. Doing so can be a useful way to generate audience feedback or to decide where the meeting should go next.
Furthermore, screen sharing provides a useful way of hosting a presentation. You can use it for PowerPoints. However, think outside the box. Share a video about a specific concept. Or demonstrate the latest piece of work you have produced. Instead of having to imagine the topic, you can showcase it in real-time.
Virtual meetings provide a myriad of options to promote engagement. It can take a little imagination, but by following these simple tips, you can significantly improve people’s attention and interactivity. So, don’t just drone on over a blank screen. Break the meeting up, use a virtual background, and convey ideas in unique and exciting ways.