Ed Stevens is the founder and CEO of Preciate. He is deeply committed to helping others build strong, authentic relationships with the power of technology. Stevens has a B.A. from Stanford University. For more information, visit preciate.com.
For many organizations, the pandemic created problems that needed quick, effective solutions. Many people moving to remote work positions created new environments filled with virtual meetings and irregular engagement with their co-workers.
Now that it is clear remote and hybrid work is here to stay, we must ask ourselves how employers can best battle the issue of engagement in virtual meetings. In a 2021 study, an astonishing 90% of workers surveyed said they multitasked during virtual meetings. This means that the majority of workers are not fully engaged in virtual meetings. Solving this problem takes creativity, ingenuity and a commitment to creating an experience that is not only engaging, but productive. Here are five ways to make virtual meetings more engaging:
It’s hard to stay engaged when you can’t see who you’re supposed to be engaged with. The importance of faces in engagement is backed by scientific evidence. It stands to reason that a virtual meeting full of the smiling faces of your co-workers would be more likely to keep your attention.
In 2019 — before the pandemic changed the way we work and hold meetings — researchers, business leaders and consultants met to discuss how meetings can be more effective. One report found that virtual meetings with cameras on were just as effective as in-person meetings.
Asking employees to keep their video on during virtual meetings holds them accountable and makes it easier to focus on the meeting. When videos are off, it’s much easier to “dip out” for a quick moment, engage with people in your household, or start on another task unrelated to work. This ease of distraction could lead attendees to miss critical points in the virtual meeting they should not simply be attending, but engaging in.
Additionally, keeping live video on during meetings also fosters connections between employees. Discussions can be more vibrant and lively when everyone’s face is visible.
Many people experienced what became known as “Zoom Fatigue” through the pandemic, and as a result, cameras started to get clicked off. However, now that we are establishing more permanent virtual work environments, it may be time to encourage employees to turn those cameras back on and let us see those engaging faces again.
Platforms such as Preciate and Class were founded on the idea that video meetings do not have to be the standard sea of boxes that we often think of when it comes to virtual meetings. Companies and schools can create a more immersive and “real world” type of experience with today’s emerging videoconferencing technology.
Few experiences in a physical workplace are more immersive than the feeling of getting up from your desk, walking down the office hallway, and taking a seat in the conference room. With advancements in virtual reality, today’s platforms can allow you to “walk from room to room” during a virtual meeting, join and exit conversations as you would in a non-virtual meeting, and even mingle as one would at an in-person event.
Some platforms meant for learning environments even have virtual classroom set-ups that mimic sitting with your classmates and engaging in the lesson in real-time. The more advanced this technology gets, the more immersive the meeting experience can become.
By now, people know what to expect from a typical Zoom meeting. It’s not likely that many find Zoom meetings the height of excitement. Videoconferencing is meant to be functional, but not necessarily compelling or special.
By branding your meeting, you are creating exclusivity. Much like how your organization has its own exclusive brand and image, your meetings’ attendees are coming to a meeting exclusively for your team members. Branding those meetings builds camaraderie, making attendees far more likely to want to engage and be fully present for your meeting.
Branding also aids in fostering identity among employees. Colors, fonts, logos and other branding elements give something for employees to support. Think of how people wear the colors of their favorite sports teams or fly the flag of their country of origin. They create a thread of connection with others who love the same team or are from the same place. Team branding works in much of the same way, and bringing branding to your virtual meetings provides team members a common work identity. Branding makes the meetings special and, therefore, more engaging.
Whether in-person or virtual, meetings can always benefit from some ice-breaking exercises. Breaking the ice is especially helpful if there are many new people joining the team, or if meetings happen sporadically.
New employees should always be introduced to the team, and a big deal should be made of welcoming them. If this is the employee’s first meeting, they may hesitate to speak up or put themselves out there. Giving them an ice-breaking nudge by having them tell three things about themselves or another similar activity can help new employees ease into joining the fold.
Typically, virtual meetings can have some pretty thick proverbial ice to break. People never want to be the first to talk. This can make for some awkward silences with attendees staring one another down, but they will be more likely to want to join in on ice-breaking exercises to distract themselves from the awkwardness.
There’s a relative anonymity associated with being behind a screen, even if you’ve been working with people for a long time. No matter how immersive virtual meetings get, they’re never exactly the same as in-person gatherings.
Organizations may want to assign an employee, a manager, or someone in human resources to be the designated “ice breaker.” Fun games can be played to loosen people up, such as ‘Two Truths and a Lie’ or ‘Name That Employee.’ If leadership focuses on breaking the ice right away by stoking the fires of conversation at the onset of a meeting, they are more likely to have more engaged employees.
Employees like to be recognized. Studies show that organizations with effective employee recognition have 31% fewer people quitting their organizations. Conversely, employees who feel like their employer doesn’t recognize their hard work are more likely to start looking elsewhere for employment.
It can be easy to miss the importance of employee recognition in a virtual environment. Excellent work can slip through the cracks with people spread out and working remotely, and resentment can build if employees feel ignored.
A simple and effective way to kick off a virtual meeting is by starting with recognizing the employees who deserve it. Give shout-outs to members of your team who are doing excellent work. When praise starts to get passed around, employees will sit up and take notice. They will want to be recognized as well. As a result, the quality of their work and productivity will increase. Make recognition personalized and integrate shout-outs into every meeting. Employees will come to expect them, starting each meeting feeling more engaged and ready to hear who gets their kudos.
The best online meetings include collaboration, open communication, connection and engagement. To effectively engage employees in your virtual meeting, organizations must pay attention to the steps they are willing to take to make engagement a priority. With a more engaged workforce, organizations can enjoy better retention, as well as heightened job satisfaction and productivity that comes from genuinely engaged employees. | AC&F |