This post explores how to make your online meetings more engaging than ever!
In a perfect world, our most important meetings and events would be held in person. But if the Covid-19 pandemic taught us anything, it's that there are times when “business as usual” isn’t practical.
While many would prefer meeting face to face, where the tone is clear and interactions are more straightforward, it's not always possible. Plus, there are many times when it’s actually more beneficial and cost-effective to host a virtual meeting).
It's critical then to make the most of online meetings.
And while it’s true that remote meetings present their own set of challenges, you can close the distance created by a screen and digital connection by ensuring your online meetings are just as engaging as their in-person counterparts.
Let’s explore why engaging online meetings matter more than ever, and how to increase the engagement level for your next remote online gathering.
Online meetings open up possibilities that traditional in-person meetings don’t have.
For starters, online meetings provide you and your team flexibility. Whatever the needs of your business, you can tailor your online meetings to fit them.
Have teams in multiple cities across the country? Or even the globe? Meetings online act as a bridge between your company’s many locations. Even if you are a local operation with a remote workforce, online meetings allow you to meet at a moment's notice, saving both time and resources.
To that same end, a virtual meeting is a far more cost-effective way to bring your employees together.
You don’t have to drop thousands of dollars on airfare and hotel. You don’t have to rent extra meeting space to accommodate large groups. And if you opt for a predominantly remote workforce, you don’t even have to lease as much office space.
Yet, online meetings still allow you to bring your staff together for your most critical gatherings and team-building moments.
Ultimately, online meetings are just easier to manage and coordinate. You can host five people or thousands. Aside from a bad internet connection, few things will get in the way of your video team meeting from taking place.
Bad weather? Not an issue. Traffic tie-ups? No problem. Pandemics? If anything, that proved just how beneficial virtual meetings can be.
Not to mention if your company positions itself as environmentally friendly, the low carbon footprint of online team meetings is something worth advertising.
Of course, to take advantage of the benefits that online meetings provide, and ensure your employees get just as much from them as they do face-to-face gatherings, they must be engaging.
If your virtual meetings aren’t engaging, it’s very easy for attendees to tune out.
So just how do you make your remote online meetings more interesting and engaging for your team members?
It’s not as difficult as you might think.
In fact, many of the same strategies you might use to liven up your in-person events are applicable online. Even better, the platforms you utilize online offer a handful of features not otherwise available when meeting in a traditional, face-to-face setting.
The first step to more engaging online meetings is choosing a platform or collection of platforms that fit your business communication needs.
Real, genuine engagement only happens if you give your team the tools they need to collaborate effectively and engage with each other. Regardless of your industry, there's a solution or solutions out there that will bring your employees - and client and business partners closer together.
At Livestorm, for example, we use Asana for asynchronous project management. We employ Slack for our daily communication needs and, of course, we use our own Livestorm video engagement tool for all of our meetings and internal presentations.
Consider what you’ll need to make your online meeting more dynamic.
Whatever the requirements, take stock of what your needs are, and what’s most important to bring your team together. Then find the virtual meeting platform that meets those needs.
Online meetings are perfect for bringing groups of all sizes together under the same “roof.” One drawback, however, is they can easily get off track when that roof is virtual and not physical.
Planning and providing an advanced agenda to all participants is one way to keep all attendees focused and on the same page. Have employees introduce themselves or be responsible for a specific part of the agenda. This promotes mutual respect among the group as a whole and additional moments for interaction.
To boost productivity further, collect questions in advance or provide an in-meeting questions tab to collect them as you conduct the meeting. (The chat function works well for this too.) At the end of the meeting hold a Q&A session to address those inquiries.
Predictably also aids in keeping attendees locked into your virtual event. Schedule recurring meetings at the same time so that every attendee remains on the same page, regardless of where or what time zone they’re attending from.
Many businesses (and employees, and customers, and partners) have grown quite familiar with online meetings over the past year. Even so, for many, there’s still an element of awkwardness that comes with not being in the same room with their peers or clients.
Meeting icebreakers help break that tension and relax a virtual space ahead of your meeting. They also add an element of fun to what otherwise might be a mundane or serious topic and allow team members the opportunity to get to know each other better.
Build a few minutes into the top of your meetings for space to small talk and set an upbeat tone for your event.
It’s no stretch to say there are thousands of ideas for icebreakers. A few of our favorite to start your meeting off on a positive note include:
Admittedly, with a meeting attendee sitting behind a screen, you run the risk of losing their attention rather quickly. Virtual meetings are the ideal place to let your tech take center stage and add interactive and engaging elements to the proceedings.
Whatever your meeting topic, try to incorporate visual elements every chance you get. Sharing your screen, uploading slides, or incorporating a video segment or presentation keeps things interesting and your audience attentive.
Get your attendees in on the act, and provide them a visually interesting task to complete by requesting they wear a unique article of clothing - a favorite hat or ugly holiday sweater, for example - or display a favorite item or family pic in the background of their camera shot.
Speaking of the camera shot, promote a fully immersive and participatory vibe by encouraging all attendees to turn on their camera to show their presence (and their ugly holiday sweater).
Although promoting engagement in a physical setting serves up its own challenges, that space at least has the benefit of seeing your audience eye to eye. Virtually it can prove sometimes impossible (especially attendees refusing to turn their cameras on).
What effectively amounts to adding game-like elements to your virtual meeting or presentation, gamification adds a fun, unexpected element to an otherwise straightforward meeting.
Gameplay execution may include competitions or accumulation of points or earning of prizes and rewards. You can pair attendees off into teams to work on answering questions or solving problems.
The key is to prompt attendees to keep their engagement high in order to earn rewards or further collaborate with others taking part in the meeting.
Even simple exercises such as polls (which can be used to gather feedback and inform your firm’s decision-making) or emoji reactions (Livestorm just incorporated this feature into our platform) can compel team members to get up off the sidelines.
A few more examples of how to gamify your next online meeting or virtual event include:
Gamification not only promotes coveted user engagement but also enhances their virtual meeting experience. The higher quality experience you provide the greater long-term engagement you’ll experience from your audience.
Though they may be remote, and you and your team are often sitting at home, a remote meeting is not the time to forget your professionalism. Quite the opposite actually.
The camera doesn’t lie, and modern-day microphones are extremely sensitive at picking up every single noise.
Tidy up space where you plan to attend the meeting to avoid sneaking lunch or chewing gum while in session. In addition, utilize headphones and use the mute whenever you're not speaking.
It's often extremely obvious when you’re distracted in a virtual meeting. Respect others in the meeting the same way you would if they were sitting in the seat right next to you.
Finally, much as you would any in-person gathering, send a follow-up once the meeting is over to reiterate the discussion, ensure the plan is clear, and further recognize standout participants or contest or game-winners.
One of the best features of online meetings is the ability to both record and transcribe them. Send these items out to those who may have been unable to attend or new hires or business partners to catch them up on your firm's current initiatives.
Even better, if your meeting was a company-wide event - such as a virtual conference or product launch - pull the best individual moments to share on social media or for the team to engage with and further rally around.
Molly Hocutt has been a Content Manager at Livestom since 2019. She has more than five years of experience in SaaS content writing and B2B marketing.
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