Insights and inspiration to help you continually grow in your leadership roles within your organization and community.

Leadership Success in a Virtual World

These days most of us are working from our home offices/spare bedrooms/kitchen tables in our “Zoom Mullet” wardrobe — business on the top and casual on the bottom (gym shorts, sweatpants, or PJs, right?).  Yes, we are saving money on gas, travel, dry cleaning, new clothes, and Starbucks but it can be exhausting at times to be on Zoom for hours each day.

While many are just surviving the virtual training world, we have received rave reviews from our workshop participants.  With this in mind, we wanted to share tips we have found that have helped to make our meetings and workshops a success.

  • When scheduling your meeting, be mindful of personal commitments for participants. With school starting back up, and for most in a virtual setting, having an 8:00 a.m. start time or a meeting during lunch may pose a problem. These are the times of day parents are connecting children to virtual classrooms, troubleshooting connectivity issues or fixing meals. The impact of children at home must be a consideration. Also, it is important to be mindful of employees who are in different time zones.  You sure don’t want people to have to jump on a Zoom meeting at 6:30 am or 8:00 pm!

  • Start Your Meetings Informally and End Them the Same Way. It used to be, when you walked into a meeting, you spent a few minutes chatting with your co-workers, catching up on office gossip, or just getting settled in.  However, with virtual meetings, we seem to overlook the importance of personal connectivity.  We have found that taking a few minutes at the beginning of the meeting, just to check in, is vitally important and even leads to better meeting outcomes. We open our Zoom workshops 10 – 15 minutes early–utilizing that time as a warm-up for meeting participants.  Then we create an “After Party” for 15 minutes after each workshop to allow for informal Q & A and side conversation.  We add music to encourage that informal exchange.

  • Be Intentional About Hearing from Everyone. We have found that everyone seems to be more at ease and eager to speak during virtual meetings, even those who are typically quiet seem to feel more at ease speaking up.  While different virtual platforms have a variety of ways for people to show they want to speak (raising a hand on Zoom), we have found that watching for people to turn off their microphones is a good indication they have something to share. In fact, we typically have someone who is watching for this in case the person leading the meeting misses it.

  • Build in Frequent Breaks. For any meeting lasting over 90 minutes, we highly recommend frequent breaks.  When facilitating a workshop, we take at least an 8-minute break every 75 – 90 minutes.  We even run a timer on a shared screen so everyone knows when to be back.  We have found frequent breaks help all involved (even the meeting/training facilitators) with Zoom fatigue.

  • Mix it up. Even with the most captivating facilitators, we know that participants get tired of sitting in virtual meetings.  Utilizing the full range of tools available on your virtual platform can help keep participants engaged and interactive. On Zoom we regularly use:

    • Breakout Rooms

    • Chat Box

    • Polls

    • Shared Screen

    • Annotate

We love Breakout Rooms.  This feature allows us to decide which groups people join and the ability to bring everyone back together at the same time.  One side benefit of breakout rooms is that our more introverted leaders tend to contribute more freely.  Again and again we hear, “We wanted more time!” when we complete a breakout.  They really get everyone engaged!

The Chat Box is an excellent tool for capturing ideas during a presentation or allowing those who did not have a chance to speak to share their thoughts and ideas.  Also, the chat feature is an excellent way to get input from all involved (and we love the “save chat” feature so we can go back and review comments later!!)

Polls add interest and take very little time to administer and set up.  We look occasionally to the internet to find fun polls that make participants smile.  Try this site for fresh, fun ideas.

Shared Screen is best used by experienced facilitators.  However, as the collective consciousness of Virtual Meetings increases, more and more folks are comfortable with this feature.  There is no better way to engage a participant than to ask them to initiate shared screen of an important photo, graph, or PowerPoint of their own.

We regularly utilize a blank PowerPoint slide or Word document to capture ideas similar to using a flip chart. We have found this to work best when one person facilitates a conversation and another facilitator captures main ideas on the “Virtual Flip Chart” either by typing on the document or using the Annotate feature.

We hope these tips help your meetings/facilitated trainings run more smoothly.  And, if you have any tips you would like to share, we would love to hear them!


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