5 ways to make virtual meetings more engaging


Do you run virtual meetings or training sessions often? Would you like to make those sessions more time efficient and more impactful? These tips might help, especially with larger groups (more than 6 attendees).

1. Start the meeting 5 minutes early

Start the meeting at 8:55 instead of 9:00. This makes it more likely that everyone is online when the meeting is supposed to begin. When you don’t have to wait for late attendees, the meeting can start energetically. Everyone is more focused when there is no uncertainty about when the meeting actually starts.

2. Make sure the meeting has a(n engaging) leader

Make sure that one person acts as the meeting chair, leader or facilitator and gives participants turns to speak. The leader is responsible for involving everyone in the conversation. If someone has been quiet for a while, the leader should ask him or her for input. The meeting chair can be a rotating role that is given to a new person every week or month, for instance.

In a training session the trainer should ask the attendees questions every now and then. This both helps keep the attendees awake (no 45-minute monologue slide shows) and involves them in the learning process. Give them assignments, too, and ask them to share what they wrote or thought about during the writing assignment. Pair or small group discussions also help focus participants’ thinking and raise their energy levels.

3. State the purpose of the meeting and ask participants for their expectations

If the session content is determined in advance: state the purpose and goals of the meeting at the very beginning. Then ask what expectations participants have for the session. Does anyone have expectations that are in conflict with the goals? If so, what should be done about it? The leader decides (perhaps with some help from the group) whether to adjust the agenda or to move the topic to a separate meeting.

If the meeting content is predetermined, state the purpose and goals of the meeting at the beginning.

If the meeting content is predetermined, state the purpose and goals of the meeting at the beginning. Click to enlarge.

If the session only has a topic but no agenda, ask the participants what they expect from the session. What should happen so that this precious mutual time would feel like time well spent? Write down attendees’ hopes and expectations and make them visible. If there are a lot of topics to cover, help participants prioritize them and cover them in priority order.

4. Use an idea parking space

Sometimes there simply isn’t enough time to cover all topics, even if they are important. Good ideas shouldn’t be ignored or forgotten, however – so write them down in a parking space. A parking space can be a Skype whiteboard, Microsoft OneNote, Google Doc, a Slack channel or any shared location. The topics in the parking space can be dealt with at the end of the session, after the session or at the beginning of the next meeting.

5. Document the results of the meeting

Document the outcome of the meeting. If the final step is actioning, save them in a shared location, such as Dropbox. The challenges, solutions, and most important insights of the discussion should also be documented somehow. It is crucial that attendees be able to return to the meeting content later, so they can remember what was discussed, discovered, and decided. We call this group memory.

Explanation of group memory from one of our training sessions.

Explanation of group memory from one of our training sessions. Click to enlarge.

Hopefully reading this gave you some insight or inspiration, or both.

Do you have a virtual session coming up that requires new skills? Would you like to order a training session for your team or your colleagues?

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About the author

Jonas came to Grape People from the IT Service industry, where he spent many years facilitating collaboration with the help of technology. At Grape People Jonas has shifted his focus to online interaction and ways of working that enable teams to take their collaboration to the next level.

As a facilitator Jonas is specialized in remote working and online collaboration. He trains team leaders, project managers, trainers, educators, sales people and others for whom virtual meetings are an integral part of their work.

Jonas’s mission is to make online encounters as pleasant and productive online as meeting face to face.

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