As we all practice social distancing, virtual meetings are becoming the norm, and “I’ve been on Zoom all day” is a common refrain. Teams and collaboratives are quickly discovering that what works in the conference room doesn’t always translate directly to the virtual meeting space. But with a little preparation, virtual meetings can be an opportunity for deep connection and fruitful collaboration.
All of us at Duet have worked virtually and used Zoom for many years with a variety of organizations and groups. We queried each other, and discovered a set of tips and recommendations we hope will help you get the most out of your online meetings, especially for those using Zoom.
Duet’s top tips from the field for virtual meetings
Tip #1: Orient participants to the platform
Remember, people have different levels of virtual-meeting savvy. Make sure the entire group understands the platform technology and norms, so everyone can participate with confidence.
Suggest participants test their connection in advance. If you’re using Zoom a test meeting is available at https://zoom.us/test. This gives them a chance to check their microphones and set up their camera angles and lighting.
Show participants how to mute, raise a hand, share a screen, etc.
If you are hosting a regular meeting, establish and evolve some norms with participants. Click here for an example.
Tip #2: Take a few minutes to “set up the room”
When you host a face-to-face meeting, you take care to set up the room so it feels inviting and conducive to collaboration. This same sense of environment is important for a virtual meeting.
Turn off the meeting chime so participants aren’t distracted when new people enter.
Ask participants to turn on their cameras as the norm.
Pay attention to lighting and background. We want to see your face!
Ask participants to set up their screens for gallery view, so everyone is seen on the screen at the same time.
Tip #3: Start the meeting with a check-in or grounding exercise
Starting off with a check-in brings everyone present to the meeting. This is especially important when participants can’t chat informally at the snack table or as they walk into the room. Some ideas for check-in include:
Ask participants to scan their physical space to make sure it’s set up so they can focus.
Invite everyone to beam a sense of welcome to all the others on the screen, and to receive that from everyone else.
Ask people to offer a word or a sentence that reflects where they are at right now, mentally or emotionally.
Tip #4: Structure your meeting with the virtual space in mind
Successful meetings require upfront planning. Design a structure that supports the purpose of the meeting to help participants focus on priorities. Also, be mindful that in a virtual space, people may need additional encouragement to stay engaged. Some ideas include:
Purpose first: Be clear and intentional about why you’re meeting, so that everyone comes with appropriate expectations.
Plan for interaction every 5-7 minutes so people stay engaged and connected. This could include polling questions, breakout sessions, or group feedback.
Early in the meeting, break participants into small groups. Take 3-5 minutes to reflect on a question or topic before coming together for a full-group discussion. This gives everyone a chance to feel connected, invested, and less shy about being on camera.
Need More Help With Your Virtual Meetings?
If you are struggling to make your virtual meetings flow with ease, we are here to help. Contact us for a one-hour consult, and we’ll help you design meetings that your members look forward to attending.