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Keeping Teams Engaged in a Virtual Setting

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Author - Peter Beaumont - May 2020

Virtual meetings are nothing new. In fact, they’ve been around for some time. Do you remember the start of teleconference calls? It wasn’t that long ago! At the time, it seemed a novel concept to connect people without travel barriers.

However, many of the same issues that arise during in-person meetings such as no clear agenda, people arriving late or not speaking clearly and interrupting each other are magnified in this setting. Now, add in some background noises such as traffic, wind or dogs barking, attendees talking at the same time because they can’t see others to know when to start and stop and dropped connections made these calls frustrating and inefficient.

Today’s virtual meetings have a major advantage over these early teleconferencing meetings in that we can now see each other. But it doesn’t matter what meeting you hold or how you hold it, the key to it being successful is ensuring everyone is engaged.

So, how do we keep teams engaged when we’re apart?

1. Make sure everyone can be seen

To get maximum engagement, you must have eye contact, even in a virtual setting. Make sure everyone has their video on and has a clear picture. If they don’t, ask them to join in!

2. Set expectations and responsibilities

Clear objectives and agendas are even more important in a virtual setting. There needs to be a sense of responsibility from all attendees to reach a common and successful outcome. Start by setting the agenda and assigning people to each point.

3. Ask questions

Make sure to ask questions of the group. Typically, the same 1-2 people always answer. If that’s the case, ask the same question and seek responses from each of the participants. Example, “Tim, what design do you prefer?”

4. Create polls

Zoom has an interactive poll feature which works really well. One of the nice things about this feature is it shows if everyone has answered but doesn’t call anyone out. It’s an easy way to get a level of consensus in a less confrontational way.

5. Call “Tangent Alerts” to stay focused

Use the term “Tangent Alert!” when the subject being discussed has gone down a rabbit trail and away from the main subject. Calling “Tangent Alert!” can help get everyone back on track.

6. Have an issues list

Issue solving is a big component of the Entrepreneurial Operating System. Throwing all the things that are brought up but are not part of the meeting agenda onto a list helps keep the meeting on track. Then, return to the list during specified time at the end of the meeting. Any issues that are not discussed can be put into actions or kept on a long-term issues list.

7. Use breakout rooms

If you have an important subject that needs real focus, divide everyone into small teams, set a limit for discussion time and send into separate breakout rooms. Then, have one person report back on the findings. Zoom is one of the conferencing tools that offers breakout rooms. It is so easy to organize and implement that it can be a better setup than physical meetings.

8. Start and end on time

People will naturally fill any space provided. Most of us do it in our homes! Make sure to communicate that everyone should be online and ready 10 minutes before the meeting is scheduled to start. Then, leave 10 minutes at the end for a summary and action review so as to finish on time.

9. Take breaks

If a meeting is scheduled for longer than an hour, build in breaks. Just because we meet virtually doesn’t mean we still don’t need nature breaks, time to check e-mails or make a quick call and refill coffee or water. Quick 10-minute breaks help to keep everyone’s attention, engagement and sanity!

10. Hide self-view

Some of us become self-conscious about how we look when we see our own videos in virtual meetings. In non-virtual meetings, we never hold a mirror up to look at ourselves. So, if you start to feel self-conscious and nervous, it will prevent you from truly engaging. Find a way to hide or move your video.

As things return to normal, and they will, we will see more virtual meetings as we all discover the great advantages of them. But, to ensure they are a great tool for your team and not just a novelty, we need to ensure every attendee is engaged.

What other great ways have you found to engage your team in a virtual setting?

Author, Peter Beaumont, is a Business Advisor with The Resultants. To learn more about Peter, visit our Team Page or connect with him on Linkedin.

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