Logged on but switched off. That’s how many people are feeling about the endless stream of video calls that’s become part of daily life.
Be honest, are you pressing ‘join meeting’ with a feeling of anticipation and excitement, or is it more like Groundhog Day?
After months of lockdown and the heroic efforts of businesses adapting to an almost entirely virtual world overnight, there’s a sense people are suffering with meeting fatigue. It doesn’t matter whether it’s on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Google Hangouts or another platform, the experience is the same.
The reality is, virtual meetings are not going away. Whatever happens to ease lockdown over the coming weeks and months, businesses won’t be rushing back to office-based operation any time soon. Yet we need teams to stay connected, motivated and productive for businesses to weather the COVID-19 storm and come out the other side in good shape.
So what can you do to make sure your meetings are engaging rather than draining? How do you hold people’s attention so they’re not tempted to multitask? And how can you get on with your meetings, so you can get offline as soon as possible?
1. Set clear rules of engagement
One of the most common mistakes people make in their virtual communications is assuming people know what’s expected of them, even if it’s never been expressed out loud. Unclear rules of engagement lead to meeting participants struggling to know who’s in charge, what’s going to happen, when, and how they can input most effectively.
The result? Some people ramble to the point of distraction and others barely get heard at all. Meetings become more time consuming for all and stressful for those who can’t get their voices heard.
Be clear about how your meeting is going to run, what you want people to do, and not do!
2. Save everyone’s time by getting organised
The majority of meetings lack clarity of purpose, which means they take too long. If you do a little heavy lifting before the meeting to get it organised, everyone will get more done in less time.
- Specifically, what problems are we trying to solve in this meeting? Be clear about what you’re trying to accomplish.
- What do you want from the people in the virtual room? Be specific about whose opinion you want and how you want them to add value.
- What information do they need from you? Use even simple visual aids to bring your concepts to life.
- What decisions need to be made? State them clearly and do your best to get to an outcome.
3. Step outside for break time
We all know kids concentrate better after they’ve had a run around outside during break time. And while we may be used to sitting at a screen all day, it’s not usually the most efficient use of our attention span. Even a few minutes of fresh air and movement help to boost our energy levels.
Likewise, standing versus only sitting in virtual meetings can help to maintain focus. So, why not encourage your team to have a stand-up virtual meeting to start the day?
4. Remember the human touch
Even if we can’t physically touch, it’s still possible to have human connection in virtual meetings. For example, in our virtual training programmes we replicate the ‘coffee table chats’ that are so valuable to delegates, by using Zoom breakout rooms.
Sharing opinions or problem solving with micro-groups can engage and energise virtual meeting participants – much better than only listening to others talk for hours on end.
5. Stay hydrated
Bottles of water (and cookies) are often found in the middle of a boardroom table for a reason – because they aid brain functioning and if they’re not there we forget to drink. Ok, you’re going to have to stand up and get your 11-16 cups of water a day yourself, but that’s no bad thing either.
Why not start your next team meeting by inviting everyone to go get a glass of water before you kick off? What you lose in time at the start of the meeting, you’ll pick up in energy and focus.
6. Involve everyone
If you’ve ever been a student sitting in a lecture theatre, you’ll know how easy it is to switch off when you’re not being involved in the presentation. Likewise, professionals are much more likely to ‘check that one email’, or simply zone out in a virtual setting than they are in physical meetings. One of the best ways to fight virtual meeting fatigue is to make sure everyone is involved throughout.
See our article coming next week for ways to engage the 99% of people who multitask during virtual meetings.
7. Dial up your enthusiasm!
If you want your meeting partners to stay engaged and contribute positively to the discussion, then you need to set the tone of the meeting and encourage people to share their thoughts and ideas.
Your energy will rub off on the other participants, so make it a welcoming environment, turn up your warmth and involve people as much as you can. Thank participants for their contribution and agree who is responsible for taking actions forward.
8. Use a visual aid
You can bring a point to life by sharing something visual. Think beyond creating PowerPoint slides. What about a prop or a hand drawing? It doesn’t have to be super sleek to have real impact.
Some of the best talks use simple visual aids to connect people to the message. Like Simon Sinek’s whiteboard in his famous Ted Talk Start with Why. Or the box in Graham Hill’s talk about taking up less space. You can do this on a smaller scale in your meetings with something like a pen, piece of fruit, book, hard hat, bag of flour etc. – anything relevant which makes your point more memorable.
9. Try a phone call
Remember landlines? Although there are huge benefits to meeting online, don’t feel shy of picking up the phone. It’s actually quite refreshing to have a phone call these days! And you don’t have to worry about what you’re wearing.
10. Know when to switch off
If you spend 8 hours per day in virtual meetings and then check emails on your phone all evening, you’re not going to be at your best for the days to come. Remember that you’re in a marathon, not a sprint, and that you owe it to your brain, your eyes and your colleagues to switch off the tech.
We can get a kick out of being available online at every waking moment, it feels like we’re being heroic. But have you ever noticed that when you go away on holiday or are sick, the world keeps on going? And that your teammates and clients can even survive without you for a few hours? Give yourself permission to switch off.
“Communication needs to be clear, structured and engaging. Doing this well digitally takes practice, especially when the stakes are high during this health and economic crisis. Let the amazing Sarah Lloyd-Hughes and her team at Ginger take you through your paces to become ‘virtually brilliant’ on Teams or Zoom calls. This course has been practical, relevant and totally fun!”
Caroline Mair, Investment Partner, Veritas
“I have recently had the pleasure of attending a series of Virtually Brilliant training sessions run by Sarah Lloyd-Hughes and the Ginger team. These fun, fast, practical and interactive sessions give great advice on how to make your digital meetings more engaging, more relevant and more productive… a thoroughly enjoyable and informative time.”
David Carter, Director, Freeman Clarke
If your virtual meetings are starting to feel flat, get in touch about our Virtually Brilliant programmes to put some zing in your Zoom and tingle in your Teams!