Creating engaging meetings, presentations, or training is hard enough in person – it is even harder in a virtual environment- especially when you are unaccustomed to facilitating and delivering content in this way. When you are unfamiliar with virtual facilitation, it can feel awkward, challenging, and a bit limiting. But done well, using technology can be a great way to increase the accessibility of participation and engagement during your meetings! As an organization that is used to working remotely, we are here to help. Here are some tips on best practices we’ve found helpful at Youth MOVE National:
Turn on your video – I know, I know – being on video can be uncomfortable and can make you feel self-conscious. But encouraging people to use video can be a great way to increase engagement and make you feel “together.” Though being on video can’t replace the richness of an in-person meeting, it does allow participants to see each other’s emotions and reactions, which immediately humanizes the experience. Without video, it can be hard to gauge if dead air is happening because people are multitasking, rolling their eyes, or nodding along in agreement. Facial expressions and body language matter! So try to get folks to turn on the video. That said, I try not to make this a requirement as it can create anxiety for some, but do gently nudge and prompt participants to get on camera, when possible.
Build connection – It’s really important to create space for building connections, regardless of whether or not you are on a virtual platform. Our team always starts a meeting (even for our internal calls) with an icebreaker. It’s a great way to get to know one another, and feel comfortable sharing. People perform better when they are comfortable with each other, and this affords a greater degree of candor, mutual interest, and productivity. Create space for chit chat and laughter. It will go a long way in getting everyone to feel invested in the meeting and in each other.
Minimize report-outs – We’ve all been to those meetings where we think, “Couldn’t this have been an email?” Though report outs and updates are necessary, try to minimize the amount of time spent on something that could potentially be shared in advance via a simple written update. Too many meetings, virtual, and otherwise, end up feeling like a waste of valuable time, so I encourage focusing on meaningful conversations and opportunities for collaborative problem-solving. This approach will not only help get the group invested, but it will also help you to further the work at hand.
Use virtual engagement tools – One of the most effective strategies for engagement we’ve found is to integrate games or other activities, just like you would for in-person sessions. This can be as simple as a True/False game facilitated verbally and through the chatbox, to using polling features, to actually having a quiz show style game! Some of our favorite tools are Menti, Kahoot, Slack, and online whiteboards, like Mural. Most of these virtual engagement tools offer free or low-cost versions for smaller meetings.
Maximize chatbox functions – This can be a great way to engage people who may not feel as comfortable or confident speaking up verbally. Use the chatbox to ask questions, review responses, and create a more robust dialogue.
Evaluate your meeting – At meeting wrap up, I always like to do a Delta/+ meeting evaluation. This strategy provides a simple method for individuals or teams to engage in reflection as an approach to improving meetings and team dynamics. The Delta/+ evaluation can help identify what works well, and what may need some tweaking, moving forward. A facilitation template for that can be found here
I know many of us are missing in-person interactions and traditional office environments. But as we transition to a virtual environment, we know it is possible to have engaging and productive meetings. If you have questions or would like additional support on this topic, please fill out our TA Request Form, and we’ll be happy to brainstorm with you further.
Written by Kristin Thorp