In the midst of restrictions on travel, decreasing access to HCPs, health risks, working from home and managing family members who may also be at home, the adoption of virtual connections such as meetings, webinars and even social get-togethers, has accelerated beyond our imagination.
Even grandparents are zooming in for a chat from their retirement communities. See The new normal and Seniors video chat.
While virtual meetings may never equal the value of face to face, we must engage customers in a meaningful way using these new tools seamlessly to create a positive experience for our internal and external participants.
The larger the group of participants in a virtual meeting, the higher the risk to productivity. Often people think they are ‘hidden’ and take the opportunity to multitask, such as clearing their emails. If the organiser has been somewhat casual about the objectives, agenda, and expectations, it is even more likely that participants arrive under-prepared and barely engaged.
A few best practices can make virtual group meetings much more productive and enjoyable.
- Meeting basics still apply. If you are the organiser, send out the agenda ahead of time so participants know what will be discussed, why it is important, and how to prepare. Share the meeting rules and expectations before and at the start of the meeting. Be clear on the outcomes expected. Scheduled breaks can provide participants with the time needed to take care of other daily tasks.
- Make sure the technology meets the need. Can all participants access the selected platform? DO they need to be advised to download it in advance of the meeting? Have you and any other facilitator tested the platform including its interactive features? You may wish to Include technology guidance and testing instructions along with the invitation, with a reminder one day before the meeting to download and test access.
- Kick off the meeting with an ice breaker. Especially in the circumstances surrounding us today, people may want to connect a little at the start. Plan for this within the agenda so that you can facilitate the activity and move to the formal agenda items.
- Facilitate the meeting. Virtual meetings are a little more challenging to manage than a face to face meeting because you also need to manage the technology. If you plan to be part of the discussions, you might want to have someone else facilitate the meeting and its technology. Assign a few roles such as:
- note taker; and
- technical support.
- Keep participants involved. Include periodic polling and questions requiring answers going into the ‘chat’ facility. If it is a small group, ask people to discuss and call on individuals to be sure they feel involved.
- Do not make this a virtual presentation. A meeting is a coming together of minds to share and gather input. Passively sitting through an hour or more of presentation is not very engaging in person and even worse virtually. Consider sending presentations out in advance with some thought-provoking questions to help people be prepared to contribute when live.
- Encourage the use of video and audio. Seeing each other breaks down barriers and encourages engagement and has the added benefit of reducing multitasking. Visual cues are an important part of connecting and communicating. Naturally, if there are connection issues, ensure there is an audio-only option, however, a proviso is that this is a back-up for essential attendees who have connection issues, not a recommended common practice which dilutes the quality of the interaction.
- Be aware of virtual meeting overload. If people are working remotely, all-day-every-day virtual meetings will eventually become something to avoid. As with any meeting best practice, ask yourself if this is the most appropriate medium and if it is a necessary meeting.
Ask us about our best practices for remote engagement.
Article Contributor: Melanie Brown, Managing Partner
If you are interested in our immersive learning solutions on remote engagement, contact Actando.
The Actando Consulting Team