Virtual communication: Slicing the banana
In our COVID 19 world virtual communications have never been more important than right now.This could be informally with friends and family, or increasingly, in our business context. What is certain, when we return to ‘normal’, it will not be the ‘normal’ that we were used to. The seismic shock that we are experiencing will shape the future. It will never be the same again.
On that sobering thought, we all need to learn to use the virtual context in a way that helps, not hinders our communication.
In this series of articles, I look at some of the ‘quick wins’ – simple things that you can do to significantly improve the way you come across when communication through the ‘little screen’
In this fifth and final instalment, we look at how to run bigger meetings and maintain engagement.
Slicing the banana
By now, you may have read the previous four episodes of this series of how to get the best out of your virtual meetings. If you have and have been experimenting with some of the ideas, you will have seen a big difference in the quality of your meetings and the levels of engagement you have been receiving.
However, when it comes to running ‘big meetings’, which through necessity means that you will be spending more than a couple of hours with your audience – you have an additional challenge: How to avoid turning your audience off and keep levels of engagement high? How to gain buy-in and contributions up? How can you take them on the journey you have intended?
OK, so how can you design your Virtual Meetings to maximise engagement over an extended period of time?
Here we look at the top 5 tips we have found work well when needing to run longer sessions.
Slice the banana
Think of the end-to-end journey you want to take people on as a banana. Now slice it up into digestible chunks. Consider how that might work logically – how topics or elements could naturally fall so that you never run a session that is too long.
Consider natural rhythms
Humankind needs to ‘oscillate’; if you do not change focus, activity, or physical state in a significant way at least every 90 minutes, people’s ability to concentrate and produce good work drops dramatically. In short, if your meeting length is any longer than 90 minutes, it’s too long. 45-60 is even better. So…put simply, keep your banana slices to fewer than 60-90 minutes, maximum.
Consider what participants do before and after a slice
Getting the maximum productivity and contribution from participants requires them to ‘do stuff’ around the physical meeting. This means that their contribution will be most relevant, the application of what they have taken out of any particular element will be immediate. That momentum will continue during the slices more easily. This is also great from a ‘learning styles’ perspective; many people will welcome the time away from the screen to ‘reflect and apply’, as they will often find that difficult in the intensity of being in a Virtual Meeting.
Build in variety
The moment you become predictable is the moment people will become distracted and tune into other things in their physical world around them. This series of articles has outlined a wealth of ideas you can use to ‘mix it up’ – take responsibility as a meeting facilitator to energise and engage your audience through a creative approach to the ‘texture’ of their experience.
Change the focus
Consider how you can use others in the virtual room to bring a different focus and stimulus into the group, through unique experience or knowledge. Plan this carefully, liaise with them regarding the use of technology, timing, and style so that it complements what you have created and comes across as well planned and professional.
So, there you have it. The end of this series of articles designed to help you get the most out of your Virtual Meetings. ‘They’ say that with knowledge comes great responsibility. You now have quite a responsibility to set the pace and be part of the crusade to change to reputation and experience that people have during Virtual Meetings. These are now a bigger part of our lives that they have ever been before…and will ever be again in the future.
However, be clear, the ‘new normal’, once COVID-19 has exited the headlines and has allowed us to go back to some of what we recognise, will NEVER be the ‘old normal’, not by a long way. Within the enormity of what that really means, the fundamental need for humans to interact, from a social perspective and, of course, via the need to ‘do business’, mastering Virtual Meetings could well be one of the most important emerging business skills that we never realised we would need.
I am keen to hear your tips – no doubt there are many that I have missed in this series…let me know your ideas and we can all continue to develop this important emerging skillset.
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