If you have ever been in a virtual meeting which you probably have, you’ve probably noticed that there are some dos and some don’ts of virtual meetings. In this video, I’m going to share some dos and don’ts of virtual meetings that will leave your teams feeling like this and not like this at the end of your Zoom call or whatever other platform you’re meeting on.

I’m Chad and I get to work with some of the smartest leaders and educators on the planet and some of the highest performing companies and universities to help them make virtual engagement easy. In this video, I’m not going to hold back, I’m going to share everything that I know. And without further ado, let’s just get into it.  

Design for Contribution

Don’t design for consumption. Often our virtual meetings take a nosedive before they even begin because we design them for people to just passively sit there and consume and take in information. That is really hard to do for an extended period of time while you’re just staring at a screen with this pixelated talking head. One of the easiest ways to design for contribution not consumption is to start off your meeting with a question. Create some connection before content that allows people to connect to purpose and to each other right at the outset of your meeting or at least in the first 5 to 10 minutes of your meeting.

 Set Expectations but Don’t Force People to do Something

Sending out a message that says “Mandatory video on during this meeting” isn’t actually helpful. What I do think is helpful is sending out a either a video or an email communication or a couple communications beforehand setting the expectations for what this meeting is going to be like. If it’s a recurring meeting, you can do this once and set those cultural expectations. But I like to send out a record and send out a video beforehand that says, “Hey, everybody. Come ready to have your video and microphone off. This is going to be interactive. It’s not going to be me just talking at you. There’s going to be multiple times where we’ll take video breaks when we’re listening.” If you want to bring an apple and you want to eat that, etc feel free to do that. But coming ready with your video on and mic on you’ll have a much more fun fueling engaged experience that you’ll actually get more out of. Right? Do you see how that intention is… Or that expectations kind of frame from their benefit rather than, “Hey, can you turn the video on for me so that you’re engaged?” Right? 

Meet for Purpose

As Priya Parker says in her book The Art of Gathering,, Don’t meet for time. More often than not, we design our meetings to go from 9am to 10am. Instead, I would invite you to get really clear about your intention for that meeting and meet for purpose rather than for time. If you want to take this to the next level right at the outset of that meeting and maybe even before, be sure to share out that intention so it’s crystal, crystal clear. If it’s an outcome-focused intention, be crystal clear on what you want to happen in that time. If you finish it 20 minutes early, then you’ve just given yourself the gift of time in a culture where we all have way too much to do in too little time. You may have just created 20 minutes for a whole group of people to go get something done. Meet for purpose, not for time. In order to do that, you have to actually take a minute and get clear on why are we meeting as opposed to halfway through the meeting having everybody wondering why this meeting wasn’t just an email. 

Start Unofficially

This comes from a brilliant guy in Australia named Mark Collard. It is do start unofficially, do not reward people for being late. Typically, we set a meeting time. We start time of 11 am and we wait until everybody shows up and we kind of just hang out until everybody’s there. The idea of an unofficial start is something that starts a few minutes before the official start time of the meeting, goes a few minutes after. It’s designed to immediately purposefully engage people. There are lots of examples of this. I really love to hold up a question right at the beginning even with us either small or a big meeting. Hold up a question to the camera and invite people to respond to that question either in the chat or by unmuting and sharing.  Just start the conversation.

Ideally, it sparks purposeful engagement as well. Choosing a question that also relates or warms people up to the purpose and intention for that meeting. Now, a non-official start also does offer understanding for people being linked. Especially virtually you’ve got the commute from the kitchen to the living room through the pile of kids and the wi-fi is lagging and you need to restart your computer to update to version 2.758, whatever that is. Offers understanding.You know, time is really precious. It’s a non-renewable resource. And so, if you’ve got people together on the call, feel free to not just wait there. Start immediately and create some of that organic connection that does happen in person and usually doesn’t happen virtually. Sometimes we sacrifice efficiency for connection. Unofficial start says, “Oh, we can do both. Let’s be efficient with our time and also have a chance to connect right at the outset.” 

Use Breakouts

Even if you’ve only got a team of 5, use breakouts. Don’t do breakouts just because. Do breakouts. Don’t do breakouts just because. Just because there’s a button on Zoom and on another platform that allows you to split into smaller groups virtually, the breakouts only really work when you do it with intention. If I’m going to split people out and have them talk with each other which is a great way to make use of time, by the way. Because if you split into 3 breakouts, you’re basically having 3 meetings at once. Brains are working more collaboratively and then you can bring people back. I always advise that if you split people out into all these disparate clicks where you can’t hear what’s going on, exactly what’s happening, I recommend doing something to bring people back into one larger community.

That could be as easy as everybody coming back from breakouts and saying,”What is something really valuable that you heard in those conversations that you’d love that just kick out or popcorn out to the group?”Simple question like that can take this intimate  conversation and harvest the knowledge and share it with the collective. It’s a great way to distribute information very quickly a great way to invite and design for contribution rather  than consumption. Use breakouts but don’t do them just because you can. Make sure the intention of that breakout is really, really clear before you hit that button to split people up.

Before we go to the next one, I just want to practice something that I always invite folks to do which is check in with your group. If you’ve gotten to x point in the meeting and you haven’t said, “Hey, on a scale of”, “This meeting is going really well it’s exactly what I had hoped it would be” to “Oh, my gosh! This is terrible. We should all leave right now.” Where are you at?”* And just get that little thumb-o-meter or if you don’t have video in the chat, on a scale of 10 is the best meeting I’ve ever been in to a one, this is easily the worst meeting I’ve ever been in, where are you at? As the leader or facilitator in that moment, if you’ve got a bunch of 4s, 5s, 6s; pause. Take a full pause with the content and just check in with the group and say in the chat or verbally, “Can you just let me know what can we do to bump that number up? What can we do to turn that dial so this meeting is really valuable?” Because if you’re continuing to meet and people are like… You’re actually wasting their time and your own in that meeting. It’s a great opportunity to check-in and make some adjustments. Kind of correct, course correct so that you can be having the conversations that the group collectively needs to have.

Use Analog Visuals

Do use analog visuals not just because they’re cool but because they actually help people connect with you. Don’t screen share the whole time. Please don’t screen share the whole time. When you screen share on any virtual platform, it maximizes content and minimizes connection and engagement. Even if you do have a deck to share, screen share for a bit but design breaks where you’re going to unscreen share and invite some contribution. Design a moment where you stop screen sharing and then hold up a quote to the group and invite their reactions and response. Hold up that quote and just invite people to unmute and share their immediate response, thought reaction when they see that, right? Take a pause for that contribution. By the way, our brain is designed to encode visuals and experiential data into long-term memory and language and numbers into short-term. If you’re able to use a visual whether it’s a very small visual to just spark some joy or a very big visual to spark some joy, using that analog visual adds this element and actually makes us more human, right? Because we’re used to in zoom just having this little box of pixels. When we bring things from outside that box and share them with the group, it’s like we’re introducing people to parts of ourselves and parts of our humanity. It’s a really really useful tool not only educationally but from an engagement and connection perspective as well. 

Close Intentionally

Do close intentionally. Don’t rush the end. Often we meet for time we get to a few minutes before the top of the hour we’re like, “Oh, shoot! We didn’t finish. Let’s quickly get to the calendars and try to find another time to meet.” I met a woman who was about half my height all white hair had a couple years on me. She introduced herself as a professional storyteller. I asked her what her number one tip for telling really great stories is or was. She said, “I got it easy. All you have to do is know the first sentence that you’re going to say and the last sentence that you’re going to say.” It’s like, “Oh, that is so brilliant.” I think the virtual meeting variation or adaptation of that is know the first experience you’re going to start with. May there perhaps be an unofficial start or connection before content.

Know the last experience that you’re going to close with. So inviting people to end with the group’s words and contribution rather than their own inspirational motivational message. That could be just saying think about one word that describes and encapsulate encapsulates… One thing you’re still thinking about after this meeting and just unmute. and  everybody popcorn it out or in the chat, in all caps, type one takeaway that you absolutely don’t want to forget one month from now. Some closing exercises, doesn’t have to take a long time. Some closing to really deliberately end on a high. You can check out one of our other videos that describes an exercise called group anthem that unpacks this idea of really purposeful closings. Now, if you liked any of the visuals or the questions that I was holding up, they came from this lovely little connection toolkit which we’ve designed to amplify connection belonging trust. If you want to do that in your meetings, we created a free downloadable digital version of the toolkit where there’s printable and digital versions of the cards along with an excerpt from our book Ask Powerful questions which went off and became a number one Amazon bestseller.

Along with a whole bunch of other resources to help make connection and engagement easy in your own meetings. I hope this list of seven do’s and don’ts makes a huge difference in your meeting. If there’s a way that I can help contribute to more impactful meetings at your organization drop me a line in at the link below. Hope to see you in cyberspace sometime soon.

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