In the past, about 20% of the team building requests we received were from companies with high performing remote teams. Fast forward to spring of 2020 and almost 100% of our clients (and businesses around the U.S.) have been required to operate as a remote team, but without any planning or training on how to do it effectively.
Enter Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and plenty of other video conferencing platforms. While these tools were already well known and used in some workplaces, it certainly wasn’t what the world relied on as the primary means of communication in the way they are now.
Soon, and in slow progression, portions of the workforce will be returning to their offices but truth be known: the world of virtual meetings and remote teams are here to stay. Here are a few simple pointers to help us flatten the virtual meeting learning curve.
#1 Eyeball to eyeball
One of the primary benefits of a video call is the visual connection. Actually seeing your colleagues and being in the same (virtual) room immediately creates a digital sense of community and accountability. We’re all there, on the screen, at the same time – it’s that simple. We recommend that leaders set the expectation for having “cameras on” for all meetings to support this virtual community. Occasionally, however, it will be appropriate to turn OFF your camera – particularly when you need to take care of the “essentials”. You wouldn’t want to end up like the well-intentioned gal who brought her whole team into the restroom with her during a meeting – that’s a little too connected.
Seasoned online meeting leaders prioritize objectives and send out an agenda and pertinent documents to all attendees prior to the meeting. To pre-load engagement, you can ask people to read the materials beforehand and respond back with at least one question/comment to be addressed in the meeting. This way groups know what to expect and plan for and can cue up to be active participants.
#3 Pick me, pick me!
Invite others to help during the meeting. This can be as simple as having folks take notes, track action items, set project timelines, create calendar invites, etc. People love to help and this encourages them to listen closely and stay engaged. And, as the meeting leader, you’re freed up to focus more attention on your presence and that of the attendees.
#4 Who’s turn is it?
When a colleague is speaking, be mindful of their time and voice. Due to technology lags, you may need to take an extra beat (pause) before speaking. While the desktop technology we have is very good it’s not always real-time. Also, have you noticed that when two or more people on the call are speaking at the same time you can understand exactly NONE of what either person is saying? While some of these conversational patterns are tolerable and translatable during an in-person meeting, the shortcomings of talking over or interrupting others is exaggerated by the audio limitations of virtual meetings.
#5 Quality over quantity
Recently, a friend of mine told me about her week long retreat that was converted into a week long virtual training. The leaders were shoveling 5-6 hours of content down the gullets of their team trying to convey the same amount of info that had been designed for the in-person conference which had been cancelled.
When converting to online meeting and training formats, it’s going to be crucial to rewrite materials and design content that suits the medium and the attention span of the online audience. Before the big conference, try out a few different methods and timeframes and survey your team afterwards each try to see what works best for most people. Over time you’ll come to learn the sweet spot between nailing it and nailing your coffin.
#6 Spice it up
In addition to delivering content, strategizing and whiteboarding during your meetings, what about including a live stream team building event? This is different from going around the “room”and saying your name and favorite movie. Virtual team building events are curated by an energetic facilitator and backed by a technical crew giving participants the chance to play, collaborate and compete in things like a 70s style live gameshow, interactive mixology competition or 3D scavenger hunt. Give us a shout so we can tell you more about Spark4’s interactive games and events!