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Take your virtual meetings to the next level

By now, you’ve mastered virtual meetings. Right? The technology is humming, and everyone has fallen into a comfortable rhythm. But could that be the problem?

One of the dangers of remote meetings is the predictable nature that many of them take on. Standard agendas. A short slide presentation. A few key contributors. No wonder it’s so easy to become distracted. And yet, videoconferencing platforms offer a variety of features that can be used to add interest to virtual meetings. Now just might be the time to explore these features and level up your skills, engagement and results. Consider starting with these four.

Screen sharing

Using a videoconferencing platform is ideal when the group must concurrently look at and work with documents or other visual support. But a recent pulse survey I conducted found that many meeting participants approach this feature with trepidation, expressing feelings of vulnerability and exposure when invited to reveal their screens.

So, spend a few minutes walking your group through the details of the technology. Demonstrate how it works, with a focus on whether full desktops or just individual applications can be seen by others. Encourage tidying up one’s desktop, if necessary. And help meeting participants find the "do not disturb" setting on their computers so text and email previews don’t pop up at inopportune times.

The effort is so worth it because screen sharing isn’t just functional. It can be used to inspire greater human connections and engagement. For instance:

  • Warm the group up with a digital scavenger hunt. Identify an item or word and see who has it on his/her home screen; then pass the rights to allow the winning screen to be shown.
  • Invite a participant who recently returned from vacation to share a few pictures from his/her screen.

Chat it up

Many videoconferencing platforms offer the ability for participants to share their thoughts via text. While it can become distracting if used in an unfocused fashion, this sort of short response sharing can also be effectively used to your advantage. For instance:

  • Use the time while everyone is logging on to warm the group up with a nonwork question that participants can respond to in a few words. Examples include: What was the highlight of your weekend? What’s the last book you read that you could recommend to others?
  • Chat is an ideal tool for gathering input when the group is too large or unwieldy for verbal responses. Simply pose the questions and invite participants to briefly capture their responses. You can then unmute individuals to expand upon their contributions.
  • Brainstorming can sometimes become chaotic via video. So, lay out the problem or question and have group members share their ideas via chat.
  • Close the meeting by asking each person to recap their action items in chat. This builds accountability and provides a written record for follow-up.

Possibilities for polling

Many platforms also offer polling. And, while this can be an effective tool for engaging presentations and training, a skillful meeting leader can make use of it, too. Perhaps your group is struggling to decide among potential solutions. Perhaps you want to rank vendor options. Perhaps you need to set a time for the next meeting. A quick, in-the-moment poll can achieve these content-related objectives while offering variety and increasing interest.

The wonders of the whiteboard

Finally, one of the most underused videoconferencing features is the whiteboard, a tool that can allow a more organic sense of participation and exchange during a virtual meeting. Whiteboards are ideal for:

  • Brainstorming. Everyone can type or write in their individual ideas.
  • Capturing issues and actions. An ongoing visual log demonstrates respect for participant contributions while enhancing clarity and agreement.
  • Facilitating fun.  Drawing, doodling and other creative ventures are possible via whiteboarding.

Remote work is here to stay. As a result, effective leaders must recognize the power of virtual meetings – not just for taking care of routine business, but also to achieve other critical outcomes like community building, engagement and business results. So, now is the time to befriend your platform, get to know what it can do, and make sure that it’s working as hard as you and your team.

 

Want to enhance the effectiveness of the meetings you lead? Download my complimentary e-toolkit, "Facilitating from Afar: Making the Most of Virtual Meetings." In it, you’ll find ten tools, a self-assessment to calibrate your current approach, multiple templates, and countless strategies for taking your skills and your meetings to the next level.

Julie Winkle Giulioni works with organizations worldwide to improve performance through leadership and learning.  Named one of Inc. Magazine's top 100 leadership speakers, Giulioni is the co-author of the Amazon and Washington Post bestseller "Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want," You can learn more about her speaking, training and blog at JulieWinkleGiulioni.com.

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