If you’ve ever held or attended a virtual meeting, then the latest Tripp and Tyler satire, a Zoom ad entitled Video Conference Call in Real Life, probably made you laugh out loud. As the former COO of a company in which all of our folks worked from home offices, I surely did! I can’t help with bandwidth challenges, but based on my experiences, I can wholeheartedly recommend three best practices for conducting meetings that will at least figuratively connect your highly distributed team.
1. Maintain a professional set-up. Using a video over voice-only platform goes without saying. People should be able to make eye contact with each other and read non-verbal cues just as if they were sitting in the same room. Not only will that minimize the inevitable multi-tasking that occurs when people “hide” behind a computer screen, but also fosters an environment of connection and mutual respect. This means all participants should take care to ensure that:
• Video cameras are at or close to eye level and framing them nicely
• Lighting is conducive to being seen clearly
• Distractions (i.e. kids, pets, devices, background noise) are minimized in advance
• All the materials they need to participate are handy
2. Maximize technology tools. Utilize the features available on your video conferencing platform to focus people’s attention, create visual interest, and boost collaboration. Take full advantage of highlighters, drawing tools, white boards, chat rooms, screen sharing, and other interactive features. For example, when conducting webinars for global clients, we often put up an interactive map of the world and have participants use the drawing tools to designate where they are streaming from. This simple activity always generates connection and banter among the group.
3. Encourage broad participation. With the above technology basics at your disposal, it’s even easier to actively engage team members the way you would in any face-to-face meeting, such as:
• Aligning on a shared goal for the meeting
• Leading ice breakers or teambuilding activities to maintain esprit de corps
• Allowing everyone a chance to contribute
• Asking powerful coaching questions to elicit input and opinions
• Brainstorming solutions to challenges
• Keeping a visible parking lot for subjects that may surface as off-topic for the current meeting but are still important
• Verbalizing commitments, next steps, and timelines
Speaking of commitments, what small steps will you take to foster greater connection at an upcoming meeting with your remote workers?