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How to boost engagement at virtual meetings and create a transformational experience

Friday, August 5, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic is making companies reshape the way they do business—a somewhat painful process at times, because lockdown measures were often implemented so fast that leaders and executives merely had days or even hours to effectively transition to remote operations. Working from home has now been the new normal for a few months and online business events are on every professional’s schedule. RealChange is no exception—we quickly pivoted to offer virtual learning expeditions. However, successful remote meetings do require some adjustments. Participant engagement is always a challenge, and so is going beyond a top-down communication structure typically used for many webinars. So, let’s see how to design a transformational experience based on good practices and sound advice for your future virtual meetings.

Gauge Participant Engagement Levels and Take Action as Needed

Problem: Keynote speakers find themselves alone in front of their computer, and reading the room can be challenging because… well, there’s no physical room. In face-to-face meetings, you tend to see when people are paying more attention to their smartphone than to your words. But online, it’s impossible to say if participants are all ears and eyes or if they’re focusing on the latest cat meme.

Solution: Use videoconferencing tools to interact with participants through different channels (instant messaging, shared emojis, GIFs or videos, etc.). Keynote speakers also have to work on the way they communicate with the audience. When you’re remote and facing a webcam, you need to keep sentences short, pay attention to your voice tone to remain engaging, and pause once in a while to give everyone the chance to refocus. You could add videos and visuals to break the pattern during a long speech. Don’t forget that participants can still feel your energy level—try to stay engaged, share fun anecdotes and don’t speak for more than five minutes without offering the group a problem to solve or a question to answer. You must give 100% of yourself during face-to-face meetings but online, 150% is required to keep your audience’s attention.

Engage Your Audience

Problem: Connecting with the audience during an online event can be just as daunting as in a face-to-face meeting, if not more. First, you have to find the right moment to avoid cutting off the speaker or talking at the same time as someone else. Second, you must rely on technology and a good Internet connexion, not to mention this could be the exact moment your spouse, kid or pet barges in.

Solution: Use complementary tools—surveys, quizzes, questionnaires, etc. that can be filled out anonymously or not—to take videoconferencing to the next level. This is actually a great teaching approach because the more participants practice and get involved, the greater knowledge retention is. Basically, design your contribution like a teacher would design an online module in order to set the pace and better control your content. The meeting host may also want to name a moderator or an assistant to manage speaking turns and help participants troubleshoot technical issues. Anything that facilitates communication will ensure a productive virtual meeting focused on the agenda.

Rethink collaborative work

Problem: Collaborating on projects sounds tricky when participants can’t meet in person.  

Use collaborative tools for productive work. Shared access to Google Docs, Evernote notebooks or Word documents with Microsoft 365 are great for collaborative writing. Flipboard let you invite multiple members to curate and share content for value-added online magazines. You can also organize a brainstorming session with Trello or Asana or even set up a virtual whiteboard for online collaboration with MURAL or Miro.

Create Smaller Working Groups

Problem: When a crowd is invited to a virtual meeting, some people may miss their chance to contribute, feel uncomfortable dominating the group discussion or be afraid to speak up. In face-to-face meetings, it’s common to work both in full groups and in smaller groups depending on the agenda—bring this structure online!

Solution: Many platforms like Zoom or Adobe Connect have an option to break into smaller groups. The meeting host can then switch between split sessions, each of one them led by a team member, then bring everyone together for quick recaps. Tools specifically designed for working in small groups are also emerging. For instance, with Remo, users can just pop into an interactive room pictured on a 2-D map. This is a great way to take typical fruitful in-office interactions to the online world in a much more efficient way.

The recipe for a successful remote meeting is simple—a bit of technology and a pinch of soft skill is all you need in order to customize your contribution to the meeting agenda for the digital world. And this is exactly how we proceed to deliver great virtual learning expeditions that widen access to positive disruption and innovation strategies.