By Jill Mueller
I have been spending more time in virtual meeting rooms lately than I ever thought possible. When the lockdown began, they became the lifeline as a way to maintain regular business and also as a way to stay connected with family.
There are now virtual happy hours, virtual baby showers, and virtual therapy sessions. I even meet my five year nephew (and his dinosaurs) for a virtual storytime a few afternoons a week.
We are using video platforms in ways we never would have imagined at the start of the new decade four short months ago. So, why not also apply this creativity to work meetings as well?
Virtual meetings are here to stay
I have my masters in adult learning and my senior seminar research was on virtual learning experiences (yes, really…it’s coming in very handy now!). Businesses have been trending towards virtual experiences for years now, and recent events have hit the fast forward button.
When stay at home policies are lifted, we’ll still be using virtual meeting rooms. Namely because it’s likely that people will continue to be cautious about meeting in person for a while, but also because people are discovering the great benefits of connecting online.
If you are using virtual meeting rooms in the same way as any other conference room you are missing out! As I studied in my masters program, they allow participants to engage in the meeting in ways that are not possible in person.
So instead of trying to jam the square peg of traditional meetings in the round hole of virtual meetings, I want to share a few ways you can think outside of the zoom video box to increase engagement during virtual meetings.
Talk at the same time
One of the benefits of virtual meetings is that more than one person can share at a time. The chat box is a gift in virtual meetings. Have you ever had something to say in a meeting but somebody else started talking before you, and then the moment passed? Or have you wanted to share something that seemed slightly off topic but you didn’t want to take the meeting off track? That doesn’t have to happen in a virtual meeting.
The chat box can be used to collect all the ideas relevant to the meeting as well as a place to share those random thoughts that pop up. I have received some fabulous book suggestions recently thanks to the chat box (that rarely happens during in-person meetings because nobody wants to interrupt the flow).
You can also share a Google Doc with everyone to gather ideas in real time. Simply put a question in the Google Doc and participants can type their ideas at the same time. Brainstorming has never been more efficient! (And bonus, that there is no need to type up flip chart papers later on.)
Once you are ready to move on to action items, you can have everybody type what they are committing to do. Just save the chat and then you have a record to come back to later for accountability.
Get on the same page
In an in-person meeting, everyone can look at the same PowerPoint slide on the screen. In a virtual meeting, participants can engage with the slide. It might take a few minutes to learn, but many video platforms have the ability to “annotate” slides. This allows meeting participants to type or draw on slides or in a virtual white board.
Depending on the task at hand, participants can vote for their preferred ideas, mark what they see as troublespots in data, or give gold stars when they see something they like.
By allowing these types of engagement, not only do you collect more perspectives during the meeting, but you’re less likely to see participants tuning out and checking email.
Now’s the time to experiment
If your virtual meetings are not clicking the way you want them to, now’s the time to try something different. Take the time to Pause and Think about what you and your team could try. And then Act. Try it once and see what happens!
If you have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to have meetings online, don’t fret. Perhaps by the time we are back in offices you’ll be trying to figure out how to bring the benefits of virtual meetings to your in-person meetings. That can be a great way to explore what’s possible for you and your team!
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