I am working with a software development company in Gurugram, as the head of the software development department for our clients based in South Asian region. I have been using video conferencing tools while communicating with our clients, but not with my teams. Now, I have to stay in front of the camera almost every minute of the day and mostly, I am hosting virtual meetings for the clients or my teams. Communication has become different than earlier and despite all my efforts, I am not able to promote participation and feedback from the participants (teams to be specific). Nobody is using the option of ‘raise hand’; people are not able to understand non-verbal cues, instead, most of them seem rushing away due to some or the other reason.
Do you have any tips on how I can make my virtual meetings more engaging and effective? How can I make the interaction smoother and make people ask questions frequently, like they used to do earlier in face-to-face meetings?
While the world has entered a new way of working, most of the organizations are struggling to make their virtual meetings more effective and productive. The so-called ‘new normal’ accompanied with the ‘work-from-home format’ has dramatically changed everything and people around the world are trying every possible way in keeping their people engaged, motivated and positive.
It can be annoying when people in your team are partially listening to you or not paying attention in a virtual setup while you are making your 100% effort to make things work as they were earlier. This may not be the case of ineffective hosting every time, but also due to the lack of accountability. Prerequisite for any successful meeting—is voluntary engagement. Let me explain how it works:
1. The 60-second Rule. In the first place, never try to solve a problem, until your people have actually realized it. In the first 60 seconds, say or do something so they experience it in the first go. For example, while hosting a team meeting, you can share a few insights on the challenges of various software development companies around and let your people relate to it. No matter ho you seek their attention, the goal is to ensure that your people understand the problem and appreciate your problem-solving.
2- The Responsibility Rule.While entering any social setting, our mindset starts to define our roles. For example, while entering a marriage venue, we know we have to enjoy, have food and dance without anybody asking us to do so. Similarly, while watching a movie, our minds are trained to be entertained, the moment we enter a theatre we keep quite and start watching the big screen, without people sitting besides us telling us to watch the movie.
This mindset, or the pre-defined roles in our minds are the biggest threat to any virtual meeting. Most of the people accept your meeting invite thinking that they are only the spectator and are determined to take care of their kids or purchasing groceries and doing everything, except listening actively. To avoid these kinds of unfavourable encounters, you need to counteract this mindset by creating an experience that converts your solo presentation into an active and highly engaging meeting. But don’t try to achieve this by telling people to concentrate on your speech, this won’t work, my next rule explains how you can do that in a better way.
3- The Nowhere-to-Hide Rule.Remember one thing – if all are responsible, none is responsible. Avoid this situation by assigning people the tasks that they can actively engage in. Define a problem, assign people into groups of two or more and give them an option to communicate by making virtual groups or breakout rooms where they can communicate easily, under your supervision. Various virtual meeting platforms have these kinds of options in-built, so, use them liberally. Time-box these activities and let them finish the assigned task in the given time only.
4. The MVP Rule.If you’re thinking to show only the data and feed lots of numbers, slide after slide, you are likely to disengage your people, yourself. The better way is to mix facts and stories. Check the Minimum Viable PowerPoint (MVP) deck you need; select the least amount of data you want to show and don’t flood in the slides in your presentation. The lesser, the better.
5- The 5-Minute Rule.Time-box your first five minutes. Try not to say for more than 5 minutes without giving your people another problem to solve. Remember, your teams are in different rooms with lots of distractions around. Try to maintain continual expectation of meaningful involvement so they do not go back into their roles of spectators. Once your teams are done brainstorming, consider wrapping up with a list of options, invite voting and go ahead with your team’s opinion about where to begin.
Hope this helps.
This blog is an adaptation of a recent blog written by Mr. Justin Hale on May 27th- https://bit.ly/2BKocmG
Have similar questions? Submit your queries directly to Mr. Yogesh Sood at - firstname.lastname@example.org
Yogesh is the founder and CMD of BYLD Group. BYLD is the largest group in the South Asian region, offering value-added services in HR, Leadership, Organizational Development, Business Operations, Manpower Staffing, Technology, and Executive Coaching. He leads the board of Indian operations of Blanchard Research and Training, Door Training and Consulting, VitalSmarts (LCPL), YOMA group and Aspectum Consulting, Finland. These organisations have expertise in complete organisational development and performance enhancement solutions, including Consulting/Training/Coaching. Yogesh is an alumnus of Harvard Business School and College of Executive Coaching USA. He founded the first ICF (International Coach Federation) chapter in South Asia in 2015.