There is nothing worse than that sinking feeling when you start to see camera after camera turn off inside your virtual meeting. Leaders know this feeling all too well as they have struggled over the past year and a half with keeping the engagement of their meeting participants. When it comes to keeping people engaged, competition is tough. Major industries spend billions of dollars to fight for people’s attention and engagement and inside your meeting; it’s you versus them.
When it comes to leading virtual meetings that people will actually love, you have to up your game. You have to be able to build the skills to make and keep the meeting personally engaging, and keep your participants active. In this podcast, Ivan Wanis Ruiz, founder of Public Speaking Lab, shares seven tips that will help you lead meetings that people will actually love. The great news about leading these types of meetings is that it isn’t complex. These are tactical tips that you can use right away in your next meeting.
1. Have one meeting to establish the rules of the meetings.
Have a meeting that gets your team to create and agree on a set of rules or norms for everyone to follow in the future meetings. Creating verbal and written social norms helps meeting participants know what to expect from others, how to behave themselves, and how to courageously declare breakdowns when that set of norms isn’t being met.
2. Create Visual Engagement that Engages Your Participants’ Attention.
Your participants are used to watching engaging media on their screens ranging from thrilling movies to TikTok. They are used to the visuals on their screens constantly changing. Because of this, it’s important to re-engage your participants often.
One way to do this is to toggle your camera between the PowerPoint you are presenting and you, or depending on what tools you are using, push certain buttons to make the screen go black or white. In Microsoft Teams, you can use the “B” button to make the screen go black, or the “W” button to make it go white. To illustrate, you can show a slide of a question that you want to ask your audience, and then make the screen go blank to give people the visual space to think about their answers creatively.
Another tactic is to make people do things. Ask your attendees to put something in the chat or ask them to share an emoji to react to something that was said. Ask them to take a big breath and stretch for a minute. Keeping your audience engaged by keeping them moving can help you create a meeting where they feel heard and are adding real-time value.
3. Give Everyone The Opportunity to Speak with The HIPPO Rule
A HIPPO is the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. Typically, at the end of the meeting the idea that always wins is the HIPPO. This does not make for an engaging meeting, and does not make the attendees feel like their voice matters. So how can you make everyone feel like their voice matters? Create a rule inside your meetings that the HIPPO always speaks last. As the HIPPO, ask a question and listen to feedback from every attendee in the meeting before sharing your opinion. Give people credit and recognition for the ideas that they shared, and determine how you are going to reach a decision inside the meeting. Not all decisions need to be made by the HIPPO.
4. Do BreakOut Rooms Differently
One of the first things you can do to create a worthwhile breakout room experience is to create space and time inside your meeting for breakout rooms that have nothing to do with the work. (Yes, you heard that right)
For example, give your attendees a question, prompt or no prompt at all to talk about inside the breakout room and let them talk and get to know each other. Having small group time with each other to chat is extremely important and is a missing element in the current work environment where employees are missing the water-cooler type communication they used to have in the office.
Additionally, ensure that after the breakout sessions, each group reports back. Make sure the attendees don’t know who is going to report. This helps build accountability inside your breakout rooms and helps everyone share their voice.
5. Encourage Conversations Outside Meetings
The thing we’re missing virtually is doing things like walking with each other to go get a coffee, grabbing lunch together or even just running into each other in a hallway. There are more serendipitous conversations when people are in the office, and when you are working in a remote or hybrid environment, you lose that all together.
So how do you replicate that?
One way to create that is for leaders to encourage their teams to create an environment for just the team that the leader is not a part of. For example, a team could create two WhatsApp groups; one includes the leader, the other group is just for the team. The second WhatsApp group is not work related. It gives the team a place to chat, laugh, vent, complain and have fun.
6. Ease in the Newbies With One-on-One Meetings
One of the most common issues that has occurred lately is that there are now many remote teams where the team members have actually never met. Many leaders are considering having their teams meet in person all at once. Meeting a whole bunch of new people at once can be overwhelming and awkward. Instead, leaders can help their newbies schedule virtual one-on-ones with each person on their team. This helps new members get acquainted in a comfortable way and familiarity is established and carried over into the larger group meetings.
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Your Attendees to Turn Cameras Off
It is not normal for humans to be looking at screens full of faces all day long. Give your attendees a break by asking them to turn their cameras off. This gives you a chance to really spotlight yourself when you are talking about something important because they won’t see anything else on the screen other than you.
About Ivan Wanis Ruiz
“I want to make you Batman! There is no one right way to speak, but there are tools that you can apply depending on the situation.”
Ivan is a communications expert and a guest instructor at several top universities across Canada including both Sauder School of Business at UBC and the Rotman School at UofT. Ivan also works with several Fortune 500 companies across North America in industries ranging from Financial Services to Oil and Gas to Industrial Design.
When he is not teaching how to speak, he is being asked to be the official spokesperson for such events as the PanAm Games in 2015 and The Invictus Games 2017. He is also regularly hosting and emcee’ing large events across Canada to audiences from 5 to 5000. You might also find him tearing up the dance floor as a professional salsa dancer and instructor.
Ivan is the author of “End Boring: A Tactical Approach to Public Speaking” and is the creator of Communication Strategies for a Virtual Age, a top-rated course with Coursera.
To hear the full episode so you can lead virtual meetings people actually love, download the episode today.
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