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Having Extra Time at the Start and End of Your Meetings
Encourage people to come a little early to the meeting or stay a little afterward. Just like an in-person meeting — you don’t expect people in an in-person meeting to jump in the room exactly one minute before it’s going to start, settle into their seats, and start discussing right away. People come in a little bit early and they chat a little bit. They say, “How are you doing?”.
This is the same things you want to do for a virtual meeting. Suggest people come in a little earlier. Let them know you’re going to start the session maybe 10 minutes ahead of time. That allows people to be able to chat, connect with each other, make sure that they can get connected fine and not feel rushed.
This might help them look forward to your meetings because they can have some type of connection before or after the meeting — the social connection is very, very important as we move to this virtual mode of communicating and sharing.
Increase Engagement Using Chat
One of the easiest ways to increase the level of energy and engagement in your online meetings is to use the chat function. Most online platforms have this feature — where individual participants can type in their responses and share it with the group or to another person.
As you’re leading your team meetings you can pose a question, give people time to think, and then ask everybody to respond. This helps you make sure that you hear from all of your team members, not just those who are extroverted or who are comfortable speaking up or raising their hand on camera, you’ll get your whole team’s responses.
One way to get people comfortable with the chat is to have fun icebreakers. For example, you could post a puzzle during one of the breaks and have people try to guess what is the answer. This helps them get used to typing in the chat function. Or you can do something fun like posting a picture. I have a picture of Girl Scout cookies on my screen because my daughter was selling Girl Scout cookies — I could say, “Okay, what’s your favorite flavor?” And people could debate about that using the chat feature. You could even ask a simple question like, “What’s your favorite app on your phone? Everyone likes to share their favorite apps and get ideas for other apps they can download — that’s a great conversation starter.
Once people are comfortable using the chat, you can tell the team, “Okay, I’m going to present some information,” and then take a pause (it’s okay to take a pause and have silence in your meeting) and then ask, “What are your thoughts?” Then everybody can respond using the chat. This will help make sure people are engaged and paying attention in your meeting because they know that at certain points you can ask for their responses. It provides a chance for everyone’s voices to be heard.
Identifying Desired Outcomes and Required Content
Sometimes we joke with our clients and say that converting your instructor led training into an online format is a lot like the process someone goes through when they’re using the tidying up method with Marie Kondo, the KonMari method.
The first thing you need to do is you need to just recognize that the instructor led course, as you have it right now, will not be the same. You are going to have to change and it’s going to be different when you’re converting it to an online format, because it’s just a different mode of delivery.
Ask yourself, why don’t you have the course in the first place? What’s its purpose? What are the desired outcomes? What are the specific skills or behaviors you want employees to exhibit after they finish the course? Make sure those are clear and written down so that you can look at them as your guiding posts in terms of what to keep and what to not keep in the course.
Pull up your course outline — this is where the process becomes very similar to the KonMari method where you would look at an object and ask, does this spark joy? If so, you keep it. If not, you take it and you put it aside. You’re going to do the same thing for your course outline. You’re going to look at every slide, every activity, exercise, every element, and ask yourself, does this item spark results? Is it tied to the desired outcome or behavior or skill development that you need to have for employees? If yes, then great, we keep it and we figure out where to categorize and put it into your online course later. If not, you’re going to take it and say it was great for the instructor led course, but I’m going to put it aside because it’s not relevant for my online course.