by Lisa Tener, award-winning book-writing and publishing coach, published author
Remote meetings were a brilliant solution to social distancing. Meet virtually, stay connected, run things by each other. It worked.
And then suddenly, it didn’t work so well.
The enthusiasm in connecting and getting things done soon gave way to fatigue — tired eyes, difficulty focusing and other challenges from staring at an electronic screen. There are only so many minutes a day we can look at people’s faces in a bunch of squares on a lit-up screen. Our eyes and brains weren’t made for this!
So, how do you take the good with the bad, make it better — more engaging, inspiring and powerful — and avoid putting your team to sleep?
It Starts with You and How You Show up.
Have you ever entered a conference call to find the host is adjusting his camera or searching for some notes on her desk? I feel for him or her but do I want to be on that call?
Come to the call prepared, in a space that feels orderly and welcoming. One intriguing accent piece in the background – especially one that relates to your passions or an aspect of the work at hand — can add interest. More will likely distract.
Before the call, privately center
Amanda Madorno, a leadership development coach whofocuses on building emotional intelligence (EQ) skills, suggests this:
“Don’t get distracted by yourself. Many people feel like they’re looking in a mirror during virtual meetings. It’s easy to feel self-conscious. We can become unsettled by the quirks we see in ourselves – a lopsided smile, our less than perfect hair day. Practice ignoring yourself and focusing on others. Actively observe others when they speak, the way others react and keep your eyes from wandering back to yourself.”
Such an “other-focused” orientation starts before the call. If you find yourself worrying how others will perceive you, remind yourself that you’re here to serve. Think about your team and the project and you’ll show up authentically — and that will engage your team members more than any particular strategy.
Now, we’re ready for team engagement strategies!
How to Keep Your Team Engaged in a Remote Meeting – 9 Secrets for Successful Conference Calls.
How do you meet the needs of your team members and keep them inspired and productive?
2. Engage Their Contribution from the Start.
3. Invite Movement: Movement enhances learning.
4. Ask Questions and Involve the “Quiet People”.
5. Use Breakout Groups Strategically.
6. Use Engaging Visuals.
7. Add a Group Theme.
8. Show Empathy.
9. Bring a Prop.
An Exercise in Mindfulness.
Bahl describes being invited by the Transformation Office in a multinational client to facilitate an experiential workshop to energize the team before their Zoom meeting. “The team was zoomed out, working non-stop, and wanted something to disrupt their usual meetings that typically had lots of slides.”
Bahl offered a mindfulness exercise to give participants’ thinking minds a break by using their senses (see the scientific explanation for this below). You can engage all five senses, one at a time, as she did, or choose one sensory experience at the start of each meeting.
“Invite participants to share a favorite song or start the meeting with looking at something in their environment that they feel gratitude for. You can get more adventurous by inviting participants to taste special chocolate treats that are delivered ahead of time or drinking a few sips of their favorite beverage like tea or coffee.”
Bahl points out that Neuroscience suggests that we experience the world through two distinct neural networks — the narrative or default mode (used for thinking, planning, remembering, etc.) and the experiential or sensory perceptual mode (uses the senses to experience the present moment). We tend to overuse the default mode, which leads to anxiety and overwhelm. Using our sensory mind gives a rest to the thinking mind.
Wrapping it Up.
Keep an eye on the time. Let team members know how long the meeting will go and do your best to stick to that timing. Studies show that in the best of circumstances and conference-call-friendly-
Pick a few suggestions from the list above and incorporate them in your next team meeting. I’m confident you’ll see productivity rise. Ask your team members for input and ideas, too! They know what will engage them!
Lisa Tener is a Book Coach and Creativity Catalyst. Lisa teaches on the faculty of Harvard Medical School’s CME publishing course and women in healthcare leadership course. Lisa has won 5 Stevie Awards in Business including Coach/Mentor of the Year and Marketer of the Year, as well as The Providence Business News Women’s Achievement Award.