Capitalize on your Virtual Time!
Virtual meetings getting the best of you, are you simply tuned out going through motions? Our new virtual meeting norm is so convenient, but are we really getting the best out of the time we invest in participating? Early into this pandemic an article from the Harvard Business Review warned of the possible pitfalls of virtual conferences.
- Video/Tele Conferencing can be interpreted as a license to multitask
- Hosts/Organizers may not plan as diligently for virtual meetings
- Not everyone may engage
After many weeks and months of meeting and networking virtually I have observed- observing and gauging participant responses and engagement are part of my job as a meeting and event organizer-these very same behaviors. Rather than improving, I see it is more rampant. So why then meet or log in as a participant? Now more than ever when technology is our only means of engaging with others and forging genuine connections, it is more important that we be active participants in all our virtual connections, be it a video networking meeting, a one to one phone conversation with a colleague or simple phone introduction.
Granted, some folks have a gift for public speaking and engagement, but even they plan and rehearse, even if it’s in the shower or in front of a mirror. As a host or meeting organizer one has to plan. It may be a simple one-hour discussion or webinar presentation. Regardless of the size of your audience it serves you well and makes you more credible when you prepare. Here is how:
- Content – If you don’t have a formal agenda, have an outline for yourself. Make sure it flows and be prepared to go through it briefly as part of your opening. If you do have an agenda, share it prior to your meeting. This will help guide participants on what they can expect and can themselves better prepare. If you are composing a slide presentation, talk to the slide-don’t read the slides. As the speaker you are part of the content so ensure lighting, wardrobe and background are appropriate for the content and image you want to portray.
- Technology – Test your technology. Don’t assume that the tech works the same for everyone. Applications may look and work differently depending on the operating system on which it is being hosted. Run through the presentation using the devices and connectivity you plan to use the day of your meeting, ensuring you and any others presenting or facilitating are acquainted with all the functionality necessary to run the meeting effectively.
- Engagement – Running a video conferencing and monitoring audience engagement is very difficult. There are numerous other details organizers must juggle during a video conference than meeting in person. For this reason, I suggest you have a facilitator to co-host with you, especially if you will be taking questions from the audience. Make sure you are clear on what each needs to be responsible for.
A quick note on engagement:
- Come up with a good ice breaker to get everyone engaged right at the start.
- Monitor audience engagement. Are they watching or attentively listening, (this a perfect facilitator task)? If not, ask a question or speak to a practical example.
- As part of your content have one or two opportunities for your audience to engage, such as a quick survey asking for a show of hands or pertinent activity.
Hosts have the bulk of the responsibility in putting together content that we care about, delivering it in a manner that is interesting and engaging. As participants we should
- Prepare to be active listeners.If the content pertains to a topic we want to learn, we should be taking notes.
- Have questions prepared ahead of time. This way we know that our questions have been answered. If not, we have them readily available to ask.
- Prepare for the meeting as you would in person, by going to the restroom and getting a drink beforehand.
- Don’t multi-task while in attendance, especially while on a video conference.
- Be prepared to participate and engage as requested by the host/presenter.
Avoiding other pet peeves:
- Arrive on time.
- Arrive ready to be seen.
- If available, have an appropriate background on your virtual session.
- Don’t change the background mid-meeting.
It’s not quite certain how the future of meetings will evolve. For some, the new norm offers a positive change free of commuting. What will not change is the relevance of fostering relationships in order to be successful.