Let’s be honest, we’ve all zoned out during virtual meetings. Even if you are at a desk, it’s hard to stay focused after an hour-long sales conference, and eventually, everything starts going in one ear and out the other.
It’s just plain hard to get into work mode for (at least) 8 hours a day, five days a week when you are working from home.
As a manager, it’s hard to hear this because your team needs to be just that: a team! You need to be a cohesive unit of sorts, one focused on a common goal while motivated enough to work both independently and with one another. For many coworkers, meetings (virtual or otherwise) can be difficult to sit through if the presenter is under-or over-prepared.
The former is self-explanatory, but many times presenters have just simply too much information for a single meeting, and at times a lot of info will then go over the listener’s head. But these seven steps will help make sure this never happens again by engaging your coworkers and helping them feel involved in your meetings.
Making it Interactive
A team might be led by a leader but it still needs the contribution of everyone else, too. The more engaged your audience is the better the meeting will be. They will not only pay attention but they will feel involved in the process as part of the team.
As a manager, this takes a bit of the stress off of your back. Rather than the onus being all on you (the presenter), it will become more of a dialogue between you and your audience.
If you have a presentation, break the mold – make it feel more like a conversation by talking through each slide. If you are simply presenting information to your team for a solid 30 minutes while they watch on in silence, at least one person is going to lose interest in the meeting. There are a few other ways to make it interactive:
- Use reactions (on Zoom some examples are thumbs up or clapping)
- Have the audience use the raise hand feature whenever they have a question (creates a sense of interactivity and breaks the monotony of a 30-minute presentation)
- Make sure to encourage discussions in the group chat while the meeting is going on.
- Use the whiteboard or annotations, another tool to give your audience a visual that isn’t another chart or graph
In order to have an engaging and compelling meeting, you need to break away from the monotony of a lecture-style meeting where only one person is talking.
When using charts and infographics, make sure they are 100% necessary. If you aren’t able to properly convey data by using just your voice, then and only then should you can utilize visuals. Everything needs to have a proper place. If not, it will only appear to your audience as superfluous. High levels of organization start with you as the presenter.
An excessive amount of slides can be the death of a productive meeting. Nothing can make your team check out of a meeting mentally more than excessive information.
When it comes to slides, each one must be measured out. If you have too many slides with too much information, your audience is going to forget what info they should prioritize and what information is secondary.
Along with minimizing slides, make sure your presentation style is not repetitive. Instead of reading off the text on the slides, add something to the text.
As the presenter, you are supposed to be an expert on your topic. This means that you don’t simply follow a script, but are able to comfortably improvise and still educate when things don’t go according to your slides.
Yes, this goes for meetings done in person as well, but the tedium of setting up a meeting is felt even more so when it’s done virtually. You already are micromanaging so many things with your computer at once, and the annoyance of a poorly designed schedule maker will only help to sour the meeting before it even began.
Fortunately for you and your team, there are plenty of schedule makers (many of them free) out there to make your lives easier. These schedule makers can make your professional life easy to manage, allowing you to coordinate with your team, clients, and employees all at once.
Not only will a schedule maker help you plot out your meetings for the upcoming quarter but it will also help give your team clear directions ahead of the meetings.
Adding notes to your appointments is a great way to clarify what the purpose of the meeting is and what everybody’s roles will be during the meeting. Having an agenda is a type of psychological interactivity.
If people know their roles before the meeting even begins, they will feel as though they have a specific reason to be there. In other words, they feel appreciated and acknowledged as an essential member of a team, rather than just a simple cog in a machine.
Be Prepared with Small Talk
During the days of quarantine, we all had to learn how to combat the loneliness of being isolated in our apartments. The small talk became something important and precious. Office talk has turned into something to be appreciated. Before you start the meeting, make sure to use small talk in different ways to stimulate a comfortable environment.
- Greet everybody individually as they enter the virtual meeting. It will help to acknowledge your coworkers as though you are all in a physical space together.
- Ask how they are doing. It might seem insignificant, but it’s these little things go a long way when it comes to feeling like a team.
- Maybe tell a little anecdote about something that happened in your life recently.
It’s important for there to be a sense of community with your coworkers, especially now when so many people feel alienated from their jobs and there is a general sense of existential frustration going on. Take interest in your co-workers’ lives and really listen.
Anecdotes aren’t just for the introduction of a meeting or for virtual happy hour, they can be used in any meeting without sacrificing a degree of professionalism. Storytelling is a proven way to help people retain information, and using them as real-life examples can help you.
They are especially helpful when preparing your meeting. If you feel as though a part of your lecture is particularly longwinded, try to see if you can connect your thoughts to something that has happened in real life.
Sometimes, the vocabulary in your presentation is just too ambiguous, and your audience will lose interest fast. If you are presenting on what the social media team is doing, and simply saying, “They are thinking about new ideas,” you’ve lost your audience.
This is simply not enough to keep them focused. Talk about what you like about these new ideas, how it catches your eye, and how you think it’ll help your team’s common objective.
If the social media team doesn’t even have concrete ideas yet, talk about why you think the ideas are going in the right place, and why they have the potential to help your team.
It’s important to wrap up these examples by bringing them back to your own meeting. Make sure they are not only relevant but are educational as well.
Make Sure Everyone Knows the Technology
Nothing can slow down a meeting more than when somebody doesn’t understand how to operate the chat or unmute their microphone.
And while it might be funny for the first 30 seconds when one of your coworkers doesn’t know that everyone else can hear them munch on Hot Cheetos at a sound decibel far too loud, it will cut away from the meeting and will distract everyone.
With this in mind, at times you can embrace the chaos of everyday life in your coworkers’ homes. If somebody’s cat is jumping in front of the camera, maybe have a short laugh and people can have the opportunity to chime in about their pets. This is a great way to build engagement with the whole team.
But before you ever start using any type of online chat in a professional setting, make sure your team is fully prepared and educated on how to use the technology. If possible, it might be good to even do one on one virtual meetings with everybody on your team to help guide them through all the features you will be using during your meetings.
This will help to prioritize communications and make sure the first real virtual meeting you have doesn’t feature an awkward adjustment period.
Give Others the Chance to Present
When it comes to having a strong dynamic with your coworkers, you can go a step forward past having people interact in the group chat or asking questions. If one of your coworkers has some type of expertise pertaining to the presentation, ask them to chime in if they have any thoughts.
To go back to the group chat, this is another place to ask your audience questions and encourage them to present their ideas in the meeting. If your coworker has some intriguing ideas, please go ahead and ask them to unpack their thoughts.
Great ideas come out of a combination of collaboration and spontaneity, and you never know when brilliance might strike. Ask away! This will help your coworkers to feel appreciated and acknowledged as part of your team. It will also encourage them to be prepared.
As mentioned before, the biggest thing you can do is stay organized as a team. When you are leading a meeting, imagine it less like a lecture, and more like a discussion.
You are there to present thoughts and have your coworkers contribute their own idea. Working together helps to create companies and good business practices, with no boring business meetings to be seen.