Say yes to interactive features within your video platform.
With roughly half of the U.S. workforce working remotely, companies are rushing to identify tools and tech that keep teams productive and connected. As CEO of an accelerated learning company, I can relate to the inherent challenges and opportunities they’re encountering. From skill-building to improving culture, my team and I have been teaching companies how to engage employees in remote settings for more than a decade.
One of the real-world considerations in our engagement approach is the average human’s attention span. According to John Medina, a biologist and lecturer at the University of Washington, the adult brain gets bored in as little as 10 minutes. When combined with the constant distractions and demands of working from home, it’s increasingly tough to engage employees for a typical one-hour meeting.
Keeping participants focused requires the host to make things interactive whenever possible and to constantly micro-frame the discussion. Whether you’ve led a thousand virtual meetings or none, the pro tips below are designed for adoption at every level of experience.
The job of moderating should begin before the meeting does — with an agenda. Ideally, limit the goals of your meeting to three bullet points and if presentations or demos are scheduled, assign time slots to those team members. The night before or the morning of, share your meeting agenda with invitees.
During the meeting, consider your role as that of a tour guide. As in, sum up points of interest, articulate next steps and then keep everyone moving to the next topic. If the conversation veers off-topic or becomes unproductive, redirect people’s attention with a gentle but firm statement like “it’s time to dive into our next discussion point/goal/presentation.” Likewise, view long pauses as your cue to ask if anyone has a question — or just lean into the awkwardness with your best Ben Stein impression (“Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?”)
Use interactive features
To increase engagement in virtual settings, I’m a big fan of Zoom’s anonymous polling, chats, screensharing and other interactive features. Whether you’re sharing a PowerPoint slide by slide or a viral video of mountain goats on the town, screensharing provides a mutual focal point for the entire group.
Similarly, if you or another team member has been monologuing for a few minutes, reconnect with the group by asking everyone to press the Raise Hand button to indicate agreement with a key point in the monologue. Or prepare in advance a few multiple-choice Q&As through which you can collect anonymous answers from the group. Interactions like these help to keep people present and focused instead of multi-tasking.
If you haven’t yet experimented with the bells and whistles on your own video platform, persuade a trusted colleague or friend to do a mock meeting with you ahead of time. Getting familiar with these features in a no-pressure situation will build confidence for your actual meeting.
Meet and eat…or drink
Like in-person encounters, virtual interactions involving food, family and drinks can provide opportunities for connection across an organization. If your office played host to weekly or monthly social events, consider resuming the practice in a virtual environment like thousands of companies across the country are doing.
A PR firm in New York is maintaining its tradition of weekly team lunches by delivering individual meals to employees’ homes. During the last few minutes of meetings, Gitlab employees have been handing things over to their kids so youngsters can connect with the children of colleagues (and parents can take a bathroom break). At Zappos, virtual happy hours have included a guest appearance from an artist-in-residence who showed attendees how to make shadow puppets while everyone sipped adult beverages.
From hand-raising to drink raising, the current work-from-home experiment that we’re living through offers opportunities for virtually engaging and connecting with each other. And whenever we do go back to our offices, I’m hopeful that our newfound skills of agility and hosting-with-the-mosting will enable us to meet together with greater efficiency.