This year has been the year of uncertainty and unknowns. Many of us feel like we’re continually walking on unstable ground and living in the land of inbetween. We’ve lost so much and we have no idea what lies ahead. We only know that we feel alone in it most of the time.
Sherry Turkle has appropriately labeled this Covid-19 state of being, “alone together.”
But, maybe, inlight of the digital age, it doesn’t have to be.
One thing all business owners and leaders do know with absolute certainty is that virtual meetings will be “a thing” for a while. In this month’s Marketing Minute, we are here to say, that’s ok!
We’ve done some research and collected tid-bits. We want to offer you helpful advice about how to create meaningful and productive meetings via Zoom, GoogleChat or wherever it is that you keep company these days.
Here we go…
1. Clarify Your Purpose
The first and most vital thing you must do before you “hop-on” is clarify your purpose for the meeting. This sounds obvious, but purpose is more than a category. The purpose for your meeting should be, in the words of Priya Parker (world renowned gathering consultant), specific, unique and disputable.
This purpose will help you harness direction and authority for your virtual meeting. It will also help you decide which platform is appropriate. Some platforms don’t require a membership, but limit the amount of time you can use. This becomes awkward and inappropriate for meetings that are more momentous and require diligence and discussion. Knowing your purpose will guide you to the right tone, intention and space for your meeting to take shape and fly.
To help clarify your purpose, ask yourself these questions and reflect on the answers:
Given this new, virtual context…
-What is the most important need now for this group to gather around?
-What is the new heart of the gathering?
-How can we create that online?
-Which platform will allow this meeting to exist as it needs to and serve our people well?
-By the end of this meeting we will have achieved ____________ as the external solution, ______________ as an internal solution and ____________ as a greater philosophical solution that will serve our company’s mission.
2. Use Everyone’s Room
According to Parker, the room and location of a gathering does a lot of work to set the context of the group and meeting.
“A ballroom signals a different set of norms than a mosh pit. The level of light in a restaurant primes guests to the level of intended intimacy. The height of a judge’s bench conveys authority.”
Virtual gatherings struggle because there is no inherited context. But, as Parker says, “On Zoom, you can build the room through a dozen windows.” As we emphasized above, 2020 has forced us all to get more creative and innovative. We suggest you try something new and imaginative to assist in this location dilemma.
Invite people to set up their cameras in front of spots that have meaning to them, include a pop of color or add warmth to the picture. When launching this new initiative, share the mic and allow each person to explain in 30 seconds or less why the background matters them. For longer meetings, ask everyone to move to different rooms at the end of a 30-minute session. This will spice things up and keep creative juices flowing. By implementing these ideas, you and your team are co-creating the room and adding a dose of profundity and fun to your virtual meetings that will pay off in ways you could never have expected.
3. Establish a Clear Authority
Virtual gatherings are by nature sloppier than in-person meetings, therefore, you need a good traffic cop. This is someone who has leadership capabilities, a generous, empathetic spirit and no fear when it comes to using the mute button. Maybe this is you! Maybe it’s not. Regardless, you need someone to fulfill this duty.
According to Priya Parker a good host:
Equalizes your participants
The host of the gathering should also share a specific agenda for the meeting to lift the fog for participants by offering a simple plan for the meeting with a clear objective.
4. Set Ground Rules
Once a generous authority has been established, that figure needs to set some ground rules for the gathering.
Here are a few we suggest:
-Mandatory camera-on policy.
This rule goes a long way to humanize your virtual meetings. Research suggests that humans respond to faces better than voices. When you offer direction with a present face, your team will not only feel compelled to apply your ideas, but actually feel inspired by what you have to say.
-Ask everyone to use the mute button when they are not speaking.
This ensures there is no extraneous noise when others are speaking. Implementing this rule is a way to protect and equalize your team by ensuring that every voice is heard.
-Set a max speaking time.
Let’s be honest. You know why this rule is in place. There is always that one person that takes up all the talking time. Sometimes this happens at the expense of a quieter but worthy voice that needs to be heard.
5. Create an Opening Ritual
This connects people to the purpose of your gathering and establishes who is in the room and what their relevance is to the meeting. The Dimalanta team begins with a prayer that acknowledges every member of the team specifically.
Priya Parker offers another creative idea– she suggests you invite people to bring a beverage to the meeting in their favorite mug. Ask them to show the mug and answer (in one sentence or less) a relevant prompt.
6. Allow Human Moments
The benefit of visiting everyone in the comfort of their own homes is that you get to see into bits and pieces of their personal lives. Take advantage of this opportunity. Let your participants have human moments that reveal the silly, messy and REAL life they are living. This will give you a picture of who they are as a whole person.
As the host of the meeting, when you embrace the interruption of a child or the cat that saunters across the keyboard, everyone else in the meeting will too. This creates a culture of understanding, empathy and openness. Remember to have your ground rules in place to avoid losing complete control of the gathering and let people go ahead and have their humanity. This will create more room for creativity and connection.
7, Keep Time for Celebration, Banter and Release
This is another brilliant Priya Parker suggestion. We need a little extra time for chit chat, toasts and laughs this year more than any other. We aren’t grabbing coffee breaks together or meeting around the water cooler so be sure to fill in these gaps by establishing the 20/20 rule when structuring your virtual gathering. Allow your meeting agenda to incorporate 20% FEWER items and 20% MORE time for discussion.
8.Always Agree on Next Steps
Finish your virtual gathering with clear directives and next steps. Again, you will not catch up with these team members in the hallways at your workplace or as you’re headed out the door to your next meeting. Make sure everyone knows what they’re supposed to do after this meeting happens.
Allow plenty of time for:
These are just a few helpful tips we have gathered from our own experience and a plethora of research. Visit Priya Parker’s website https://www.priyaparker.com/ and https://insights.learnlight.com/en/articles/8-tips-more-effective-virtual-meetings/ for additional information on how to craft meaningful and productive virtual meetings. Happy Gathering!