How to prepare engaging and productive virtual meetings?

Jul 12, 2021 | virtual meetings, virtual teams

Written by

BarbaraCV

BarbaraCV

Founder #virtualspacehero

Katja Keischnigg

Katja Keischnigg

Content Marketing

Virtually all projections anticipate the post-pandemic workforce will be relatively more remote — that is, nearly all firms will experience an increase in remote work relative to their pre-pandemic baseline levels (HBR 2021). An estimated 55 million meetings occur a day. Sadly, research suggests only around 50% of meeting time is effective and engaging. Unfortunately, these effectiveness numbers drop lower when it comes to virtual meetings (Rogelberg 2020).

This blog article recaps the most important points from the LinkedIn Live talk with Nancy Settle-Murphy.

Nancy Settle-Murphy

Nancy Settle-Murphy

Hybrid work expert

Table of contents

What are the essentials when preparing an engaging virtual meeting? 

Organizing a meeting that is engaging while also making sure that its objectives will be reached is always hard. In the virtual space, this struggle is present even more. Barbara and Nancy discussed different techniques on how to keep virtual meetings engaging and effective at the same time:

? Do not start with the technology aspects. Usually, we like deciding all technological aspects first and then planning the meeting around that. However, 3 things need to be considered before the technology can be chosen.

  1. What are the objectives and the intended outcome of the meeting?
  2. What kind of conversation(s) are needed to achieve those objectives?
  3. Is the topic likely to be contentious, or is there a large emotional component?

These aspects will determine the length of the meeting, as well as the activities that need to be incorporated into it.

“Many people say that virtual meetings need to be kept relatively short, and generally this is true. We have a very short attention span, and after a while, people will start to multitask and look at their phones. At the same time, if we need and deserve a full-blown discussion with an exchange of ideas, we cannot just plan for the meeting to be only one hour long.” Nancy Settle-Murphy

? Preparation of everyone involved is key. The participants must be adequately prepared when they join the meeting and know what will be going on. One way of ensuring that is sending out a general agenda beforehand (agendas and how to write them will be discussed in more detail in the following section), as well as letting everyone know what they are expected to prepare and how they are expected to prepare it. As people might not read the attachments of the e-mails they are sent, it is important to ask for confirmation and/or feedback if the expected preparation activities were understood and if they will be done on time. Another aspect that can “change the game” is to formulate questions rather than agenda items.

? Choose the right technology. When it comes to choosing the right meeting platform, many details need to be kept in mind. For more details about that, you can read our blog about that specific topic: How to choose the best online platform for your virtual event?

The two main necessary considerations are: 

  1. To what extent do the participant´s ideas/contributions need to be preserved? If they need to be savable and/or re-readable, it will probably not work to have the participants write everything in the chat, for example. Maybe a tool such as jamboard, miro or any other platform where to capture the brainstorming might work better. 
  2. Can your participants access the platforms/tools, and if not what alternatives can you offer them? Technological and/or environmental differences and physical ability might keep certain participants from participating in some activities. If possible try to find alternative ways of involving them already beforehand. A thorough onboarding to the platform is important, for example sending out a video with instructions on how to use the platform itself with the main features or opening up the room 15 mins ahead for those who would like to run a quick tech check.

? Establish team norms about being on camera. Every organization should have clear norms when and how their employees need to be on camera. Preferably, everyone should be on camera at all times. However, this is not always possible: be it due to technological reasons such as low bandwidth or personal reasons such as having a busy background in a place that the person does not want to show around. It is important to accept if a person cannot be on camera if they have a good reason. 

? Have a person that can support you. Having a producer or co-facilitator to support you can be a lifesaver. Not only can they focus on giving the participants technological support should they need it, but they can also keep an eye on the logistical aspects, while the facilitator of the meeting can focus on the content. Furthermore, they can make sure that the activities do not take longer than planned, help you solve conflicts, or simply be a different voice during the meeting, to keep the participants focused.

How should we create an agenda to drive success?

Any agenda should consist of the following 4 points.

✔️ Agenda items preferably in the form of a question (e.g. What are the biggest challenges that the Finance department is facing at the moment?)
✔️ Timeframes for the discussion of each point. If you plan on sending out the agenda beforehand, which is strongly advised as it means that everyone will be better prepared, the timeframes for each activity should be left out as it would create stress for the participants to know that they are behind on the allocated time for an activity.
✔️ Objective for each agenda item (e.g. Find ideas for possible solutions to the biggest challenges the Finance department is facing at the moment)
✔️ Possibility of engagement for the participants related to every topic (e.g. brainstorming, discussion, asking them to raise their hand, …) 


The agenda should be as detailed as possible and leave room for interaction opportunities every 5 to 7 minutes. They can be as small as asking the participants to raise their hand if they understood the question, or be more intense like asking them to contribute to a word cloud or collaborating in a breakout room. Formulating the items on the agenda in the form of a question will help to engage the participants right from the start. Ideally, everyone will contribute an answer to the posed question, which can stimulate discussion and the exchange of ideas.

Whom should we invite and how long should the meetings be maximum?

Generally, the smaller the number of participants, the higher the efficiency of the meeting. Meaning, that only those that are needed there to reach the objective should take part in the meeting. For some, it might be also enough to get the information in an asynchronous way afterwards. Furthermore, meetings about a certain topic might be splittable into different, smaller group conversations. For example, people working on a specific project can have smaller meetings amongst them if the discussed topics only concern them. There is no need to always invite the whole department of the region that the project is carried out in. Where this is possible, do it to avoid meetings with more participants than needed. In some cases, the input or ideas of certain people can be collected before the meeting. This can also reduce the number of actual participants in the real-time meeting.

⏰ When it comes to the time aspect, there is no magic number that is written in stone. It strongly depends on the constellation of each team and the objectives that need to be reached. But, if you set a meeting for an hour, don’t stay in the meeting if you reached the goal after 35 minutes. This sounds silly, but it is true that very often we try to fill up the time until reaching the planned 60 minutes.
⏰Global teams often have participants that are located in many different time zones, and significant time differences need to be navigated effectively. If someone has to be up at 4 a.m. or 11 p.m. local time to take part in the meeting, one hour might feel like a very long time for them, for example. And in general we can say that the “default meeting length” of one hour is also one of the reasons we found ourselves in a daily meeting marathon and started experiencing virtual fatigue.
⏰ Many virtual meetings have big parts taken up by content reviews. If this is done before the meeting by the participants, a lot of time can be saved, and the contents can directly be discussed. 
⏰ Asynchronous communication can replace the need for frequent and/or long meetings. So before planning a meeting, make sure that it is really needed to convey the information and that a well-written email will not have the same outcome. 

? Want to know “How to design a virtual onboarding event for newcomers?”

What do we need to consider when facilitating a virtual meeting so that everyone feels included in the discussion? 

One of the questions we are getting almost on a daily basis is “How do I get the meeting off to a good start?”. Why? Because the way you are starting the meeting will set the mood for the entirety of it. There are some little tricks that you can use to engage the participants right from the start.

“We often forget about the informal check-in at the beginning and jump right into the topics because we are so task-driven when it comes to virtual work. It is much better in my opinion not to show any slides or any other content via screen sharing at the beginning of the meeting so that we can all see each other. Use a fun icebreaker to kick-off with some laughs and then start the discussion around the topic.” (Barbara Covarrubias Venegas)

? Ask people to come on a few minutes early so they can test their audio and video and the rest of the technology as well as greet each other informally.
? The meeting has to start passionately and emotionally, transmitting a lot of energy to get the people to really be present in the meeting.
? As people come online, greet them by name.
? Verbally, or written in the chat, ask the participants a question that will help them connect and relax. (e.g. What new hobby did you pick up during the pandemic? Which one is your favorite season and why? …..) 
? In meetings where personal connections are crucial for its success, put the participants in small breakout rooms of 3 or 4 already at the beginning. Once they return, they will know at least the people that they were in the breakout room with and will be more likely to talk in the bigger group. 

Engagement, on the other hand, starts with people knowing what they are supposed to do. 

Interactive tools like Mentimeter, Sli.do or Miro/Mural are an amazing way to keep the engagement high during the meeting. However, they can only work if the participants know how to use them. Meaning that whatever tools will be used synchronously, people should familiarize themselves with asynchronously and in advance. This can be reached by giving them exercises and/or links before the meeting, sharing a short video tutorial or even by organizing a demonstration on at least 2 different dates the week before. Lastly, in the virtual space context is crucial. Giving everyone the information on how or why something is happening is the only way to get everyone on the same page and having everyone know what is happening.

? Want to know more about best practices for online teams collaboration?

5 things to consider to design and facilitate inclusive conversations

When working in global virtual teams, cultural differences are inevitable. The following aspects are critical to work effectively together by creating an inclusive environment:

1️⃣ Know how proficient the participants are in the shared language. If there are one or more participants that are not proficient in the used language, plan for around 15-20% more time for paraphrasing, summarizing, and validating understanding.

2️⃣ Pause and scan for misunderstandings. A producer or co-facilitator can have an eye on the participants and let the facilitator know, in a subtle way, if something should be repeated, as the participants themselves often do not ask for repetitions.

3️⃣ Be informed about the different decision making-, and conflict resolution styles. Knowing how different cultures handle decision-making and conflicts is very important. For example, some cultures take decisions in a fast way and do not need a lot of time to reflect. Others need to consult with colleagues, family, or friends first, meaning they need more time, and you cannot force them to make fast decisions. The same is true for solving conflicts. You cannot intervene in the right way if you are not informed about the cultural differences that might influence the process.  

4️⃣ Be aware of technological differences. The same technological infrastructure is not available everywhere. Be sensible and offer alternative ways of participating for those that might have technological constraints. Be it due to bandwidth or even to national restrictions on using certain web based platforms.

5️⃣ Do not leave out introverts. Introverts are often forgotten about in virtual meetings. For everyone to be able to contribute, there should be at least two communication channels. Namely, verbal contributions and the chat. Go back and forth between having the participants talk and type. Limiting verbal contributions per person allows for talking portions also in bigger meetings.

Besides, consider the rule *THINK*-*PAIR*-*SHARE*. We know that using techniques such as Liberating Structures 1-2-4-ALL where you first encourage individual reflection *THINK* and then *PAIR* up in a 2-breakout session, 4- breakout session and *SHARE* at the end in the plenary. This is how you can ensure that the louder voices amplify the lower voices (introverts).

What needs to be considered when ending a virtual meeting?

How a meeting ends is just as important as how it is started. Following the below-mentioned steps will make sure that everybody leaves with the needed information.

1️⃣ If a meeting is going to end with actions or questions, allocate at least 5 minutes, in the end, to recap them verbally. The verbal recap is a strong buy-in as well, meaning that your participants feel more committed to the task and it is also the moment to ensure that everybody understood correctly.
2️⃣ Plan for enough time to go over at least some questions/topics/concerns that were put in the “parking lot” at the beginning of the meeting or during it. If questions/topics/concerns are brought up by the participants during the meeting, and you have promised to revisit them at the end, it is important that you actually do. If you do not, your employees or colleagues will lose their trust in you. 
3️⃣ Give the participants information about what is going to happen next and about what decisions will be taken when, and in what way they will be communicated to them.
4️⃣ State the next meeting time.
5️⃣ Let everyone know where the notes can be found if they were taken.

Creating creative and engaging virtual meetings can certainly be challenging and sometimes maybe even overwhelming. So, become a #virtualspacehero, and do not miss our LinkedIn lives, blog posts or podcast to get tips and tricks that will help turn you into a virtual meeting pro! ???

? Want to know more about how to lead hybrid teams?

? Resources?

Katja Keischnigg & Barbara Covarrubias Venegas (2021): How can we create interaction with breakout rooms in our virtual live sessions?
Abril Canale & Barbara Covarrubias Venegas (2021): Best practices for online teams collaboration
Tamara Mladenovic & Barbara Covarrubias Venegas (2020): How can you shape meaningful interactions in the virtual space?

?  If you want to rewatch the LinkedIn live, you can find it on our #virtualspacehero YouTube channel ?

?  Listen to this episode on the go ?

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Persuasion is the centerpiece of business, training, teaching and event activities. We want to convince customers to buy our company’s products or services, employees and colleagues to go along with a new strategic plan or reorganization, investors to buy (or not to sell) our stock, and engage our learners in our training. But, too often we get lost in boring presentations with too many PowerPoint slides, dry memos, and hyperbolic missives from the corporate communications department (Fryer 2003).

This blog article summarises the main points from a LinkedIn Live with Charles-Louis de Maere (Explorer at Exploration Labs SRL) and Barbara Covarrubias Venegas (Founder #virtualspacehero).

Charles-Louis de Maere

Charles-Louis de Maere

Explorer at Exploration Labs SRL

Table of contents

What is a story or a fairytale? What essential elements do we need to consider? What makes a good story?

A story is the telling of a true or fictional event, in a way that the listener experiences or learns something just by the fact of hearing the story. A story gives information, experience, attitude or a point of view. And like all stories, fairy tales are meant to entertain. Some of them have a good or an evil character, others use dragons or monsters, but not all the stories follow these patterns. Their main purpose is to give morals in a way the audience will remember.

"Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."  Neil Gaiman

? Think about the context
When picking stories for a workshop, first consider who you are talking to, and what you want to address with them. Once you have this clear, it is important to choose a story that is related to that topic and that people can associate with.

? It is not necessary to reinvent the wheel
Using existing stories is much easier than creating a new one. There are people that have been writing stories for decades and there's loads of wisdom to be learned in their stories. When choosing the story, make sure it is short enough so you can handle it and the story is clear enough for your participants to work on it.

? Consider Cultural Exchange
In our workshops we might find people joining from different parts of the world, and when picking stories or fairy tales there is a cultural element that we also have to be aware of. Stories have to be carefully selected, some of them could convey stereotypes and misconceptions, and depending on your cultural background stories could even have a different meaning. However, if we take a step back and take a deeper intention, there's a shared understanding that can be very interesting when applied in our training. Interact with your audience around the same story and ask them to go through what the story meant for them. Sharing deep thoughts and then analysing how that relates to someone coming from a completely different culture, can be an impactful experience for your workshop!

 “It's an interesting step into inclusion if we start sharing a story, to see how the story resonates with your participants from different cultural backgrounds, to see what they make out of it”.  Charles-Louis de Maere

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Beyond Cinderella and Arielle, what fairytales can we use in our training?

If we tell you about The Three Little Pigs or Little Red Riding Hood, you probably have already heard of them, and we can trigger some themes behind these stories. It is easier to talk about topics you want to address through stories (e.g. communication, hierarchy, conflicts…) rather than talking about these different themes directly. You can either make your participants extract a learning concept from your story, or propose one. Here are a few suggestions about stories and themes you could use in your virtual training:

?“The Emperor's New Clothes” - Hans Christian Andersen
Themes that can be discussed:
- Why is it hard for people to tell the truth, and why are we afraid of doing so? What role does hierarchy play?
- Why do people lie to make a good impression on others? Why do people tend to repeat rumours even if these are not true?
- What type of mask do you carry, if you know things aren’t true but you don’t dare to say it? 

? “The Three languages” - The Brothers Grimm 
This story could be used to talk about:
- What is useful learning?
- How do we measure the impact of learning? 

? “The Snail and the Rosebush” - Hans Christian Andersen
Could be great to debate about:
- How do people deal with their own situations?
- Are we aware of the impact we can make with our actions?
- Do we give the best of us? What have you done for your inner development?

How can we learn to tell stories and use fairytales?

When working in the virtual space sometimes we are stuck in keeping our learners engaged, and using stories for this particular learning setting is a great way for having our audience involved with the topic we want to discuss. Charles-Louis de Maere has been using stories for loads of virtual workshops with a tremendous engagement from people all over the world. He believes that stories connect one another because we get through stories to emotions, and we cannot agree more!

? Run it in a space that you trust
If it is the first time you include a story in your training you might say “I am not ready for this”, but you can start with a small group to see how you feel with storytelling and how your learners interact with your stories. There's no need to go with a big group at first!

? Take a story you know, an existing one, and a short one.
Pick a story that you can relate to and “easily” match with the topic you want to deal with during the workshop. The most important thing when using storytelling is to use something that people can relate to. For example, you have noticed that the people you are working with do not always tell the truth, and you want to discuss that usually the reason is because they are scared. Therefore, “The Emperor's New Clothes'' story might be a good fit to present this subject.

? Plan how to work around with the story
Once you have the story chosen, you can then either ask them to read it ahead of the workshop (if the story is long), read it yourself to the group or you can organise a reading session, e.g. in breakout rooms. This depends on how long the story is and what your objectives are.

? Prepare questions and exercises
We want the group to be engaged and participative during the session, and having questions and exercises prepared in advance will help you to interact with them and relate better to the story.

? Ask the right questions. Sometimes as trainers and facilitators, we ask too complex questions. Ask questions where your participants need to take a different perspective than their own. If you are using “The Emperor's New Clothes” for example, some questions you could ask are: “Which character do you feel the closest to?”, “Do you feel you are like the Emperor? Do you consider that you are more like the child of the story, that is always calling out the truth? Or do you relate more to the Minister, who got into a situation where he could not escape?”.

? Make your participants work together. Another good exercise where the learners can connect with each other is to ask them to find the moment of the story where they see the tipping point. You can then propose to them to work out another ending, or a different way of handling that situation.

If you have an online workshop, consider moving attendees into small groups in breakout rooms, or working on a reflection activity by themselves to then pick it up in a debriefing session to relate it to the context. Learn How can we create interaction with breakout rooms in our virtual live sessions?  in this #virtualspacehero blog post.

Why is persuasion so difficult, and what can you do to set people on fire?

Persuasion is about making your argument successful in a confident and knowledgeable way, and this could be difficult when the person you are trying to persuade does not agree with the logic you are using to convince them. If you need to make an argument about a topic about which you feel very passionate about, don’t use rhetoric. Tell a story instead. Sometimes people are using stories only because it is en vogue. However if the story does not share elements with the context and is not related to the topic to be addressed, then there´s no point in using a story. We want our participants to remember both the story and the context! Here are a few suggestions:

? Read more fairy tales
You usually read fairy tales for your enjoyment but you can also  reflect on them. After reading these stories, people usually empathize with them and continue thinking about it for a longer while, which could be a great exercise for you to also discover the topics you want to address in your training.

“Those that are in the learning and development space and are reading for children, for another adult, or are reading simply for their own joy, we see these stories from a totally different angle. There is another light on the fairytales we read.” Barbara Covarrubias Venegas.

? Stories can be inclusive and engaging
The simplicity goes back to the stories. Stories allow us to talk about complex matters, using a simple structure that everyone understands. Once we start using complex words, we all have different understandings of it, but if we put it in a narrative it can create a common understanding. 

? Use your creativity
When we switched to the virtual space, many left behind all the things we were using in a normal training in presence context. Use the whole virtual space that you have: Think about playing with the visuals including objects, pictures, drawings and even sound effects on our virtual training sessions. Read here more about How to use objects/props in your virtual training?

? Let the others discover it on their own
If you tell a story and then tell your audience immediately what the learning points are, what's the point of it? Invite others to put their thoughts and their perspectives and then you can work from there to have a very powerful session.

 “The one who does the talking, does the learning”  Jen York-Barr

? Be open and learn from your sessions
As facilitators and learning designers, it is an advantage to be curious and have the courage of not knowing what is going to happen in your workshops. It is a good opportunity to learn from the discussions, as they can go in a completely different direction than you might have thought. 

? Understand that it can go wrong
Even if you selected a story carefully, it could still not work out, and it is all right as long as we have that conversation and we use that opportunity to discuss it. Stories have been written in a certain different historical context that is not the one we have today, there were some other truths. If you see something is not working, you can always try something else!

 

WE ARE CURIOUS! What was your favourite fairy tale
Share with us what was your favorite story when you were child or now as an adult! We would love to hear which stories you are thinking of including in your next workshop or training.

? Resources?

Bronwyn Fryer (2003): Storytelling That Moves People, HBR Magazine
Covarrubias Venegas, Barbara (2020): How to use objects/props in your virtual training?
Covarrubias Venegas, Barbara/Keischnigg, Katja (2021): How can we create interaction with breakout rooms in our virtual live sessions? 

?  If you want to rewatch the LinkedIn live, you can find it on our #virtualspacehero YouTube channel ?

?  Listen to our Podcast on the go ?

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Whether it’s an online meeting, a presentation via webinar, or live online training, engagement is the main question on everyone’s mind. Will it be worth my time to attend or will it be an opportunity to check email instead? Interaction is the answer to successful engagement and using the features of the platform is the answer to interaction. However, the features alone do not engage the participants. It is what you choose to do with those features that will make the difference in your next virtual training, webinar, or meeting.

This blog article sums up the main points from a LinkedIn Live talk about interaction and engagement Kassy LaBorie (Virtual Classroom Master Trainer | Blog Virtual Hero Trainer Tips) and Barbara Covarrubias Venegas (Founder #virtualspacehero). 

Kassy LaBorie

Kassy LaBorie

Virtual Classroom Master Trainer

Table of contents

What elements should be considered when you plan your virtual training sessions?

Way too often in the virtual space, the focus lies on the task hand, rather than on the people that have to complete it and their surroundings. Some of the aspects that are often forgotten about or ignored but can make a huge difference in the quality of your virtual training will be listed and explained below.

? Have a clear objective. The used activities and interactions should help the participants reach an objective set at the beginning of the planning process. Of course, this objective is different for every session. It might be better teamwork or better knowledge about a certain software or process. Once the objective is set, the activities that will ensure that it will be reached can be chosen.
? Allow the training to be about the participants. Virtual training sessions are about so much more than smiling on camera or sharing your screen and nice slides. They are about getting the participants engaged and helping them to learn what they need to learn. Truly getting people engaged in a virtual training will only work by involving them as much as possible, letting them work by themselves, and asking them questions.? Set expectations about how to be in the virtual space. Many have been thrown into the cold water during the pandemic when it comes to working virtually. Meaning that many have not learned the proper “etiquette” of the virtual space yet.

“The way we were thrown into the virtual space because of the pandemic certainly did not bring out our best behavior. For example, we are used to being muted all the time, and if participants are asked to unmute themselves, you sometimes  can even see them taking calls or talking to someone in the background.” (Barbara Covarrubias Venegas)

Therefore, it is important to communicate certain expectations to the participants before the virtual training. Specifically, the following points should be included:

  • How are the participants expected to set up their environment? 
  • In what way will the communication with the group take place? e.g. verbally (headphones and a working microphone might be needed), or in a written form
  • Technology set-up: e.g. proper audio settings and internet connections, so other participants are not disturbed, etc.
  • General behavior expectations: e.g. no phone calls are to be taken, etc., participants are invited to be active via chat or audio etc..



For example, before the first session of a #virtualspacehero events our participants receive the following mail with instructions. Besides, we often attach a short video explaining the platform so that all participants feel onboarded from a technological point of view.

***************

In #virtualspacehero events you will be engaging in live conversations with real human beings. Expect to be heard and seen throughout. As with any remote meeting, each participant brings part of the meeting space with them. Please help yourself and others by ensuring you:

? Participate from a quiet place.
? Have a stable broadband internet connection. Optimum bandwidth, i.e. internet speed on your side will be at least 10 Mbps download / upload. You can measure it using speedtest.net.
? Use a headset.
? Turn your video camera on (if possible!).

To optimise your set-up, follow these suggestions on how to have a great video conferencing setup.  Join on a laptop or desktop. The workshops are immersive and experiential; you will have a better experience if you can interact with a variety of tools easily.

What else do we need? ONLY your positive ENERGY ? and positive vibes ?, which is the most important!

***************



? Let the (adult) participants work and give them enough time to do so. Particularly, when working with adults, there is no need to spell out absolutely everything for them. They will have their opinions, stories, and experiences about most topics, and including them in the training will make it way more interactive and memorable. Also, when working with a new software the participants should actually work with it and not just read instructions from a PowerPoint presentation. Training is there, so what needs to be done in the daily work-life once the training is over can be practiced.  However, this approach takes much longer than the frontal presentation, which needs to be considered when designing the time frame for the training.
? Keep it simple. There are so many great interactive tools that can bring a lot of fun and effectiveness into the training. Despite the vast offer, it has to be remembered that including too many different platforms or tools can just be very overwhelming for participants that are not used to it. Ultimately it might even get in the way of the process or the final goal of the training. The goal is the learning and not the tool!

? Want to know more about how to create Spectacular Live Online Training?

What features are essential to give a trainer the best chance of connecting and creating connections?

“I do not think that it is difficult to connect in the virtual space. I think that people are making it difficult by not paying attention to more than just a lecture and smiling at the camera. The bar in terms of behavior was way too low for way too long. My mission is to raise this bar and have people do better.”  (Kassy LaBorie)

Very often, everybody is expected to be “muted” when they enter a virtual meeting room. Because of that, it is often overseen what a powerful way of creating engagement and connection the mute/unmute button can be. 

? Creating a more participant-centered training approach also means granting them the power to decide for themselves when it is appropriate for them to be muted or unmuted. This, of course, also depends on the size of the group. A group with 200 participants cannot have all microphones on at all times. In a small group, however, this is possible and can contribute to a successful outcome, as people learn while contributing. And inherently people are less active in joining the conversation if they have to be on mute.

Another easy and fun way of creating connections with and between participants are so-called ice-breakers at the beginning of the training or during a break. Three ideas can be found here:

?️ Prepare a slide with 3-5 different pictures (e.g. different animals or flowers) and ask the participants which one of the images describes them or their current situation best and why. Then have everyone turn on their camera and microphone and one after the other answers. In that manner, everyone can get to know each other a little without any performance pressure.

? The above-mentioned exercise also works with asking the participants to take an object from anywhere close to them at that moment. This can also be used to debrief at the end of a session: look for an object and describe how that object relates to one learning/key takeaway.

? Even theoretical knowledge about a website or software can be acquired in a fun way! Prepare theoretical questions that relate to the knowledge that needs to be acquired, as well as some fun ones in between. Then let the participants go to the website or browse the software and find the answers themselves.  They can either do that alone or in small groups. Dividing them into groups can increase the fun and teamwork even more as the “treasure hunt” can be turned into a little competition between the different groups.

? Want to know “How you can create interaction with breakout rooms?"

What techniques can we use to drive engagement, interaction, and learning in our virtual sessions?

There is one simple golden rule in regards to driving engagement: TRANSFORM your in-presence activities to best fit for the virtual space. Conversion is not enough! Here are some starting points that you should consider during your planning process and the facilitation:

? Listen to the participants
? Ask relevant questions
? Participants should be able to feel good on camera (at the beginning or before the meeting give them some tips about camera settings, positioning themselves, etc.)
? Give the participants opportunities to actively participate
? Use all available features as much as possible without overwhelming the participants (e.g. chat, annotation tool, raised hand/green tick function,.....)
? Encourage people to speak and answer instead of you as a trainer saying everything first

“The person doing the talking is often the person doing the learning.” Jen York-Barr

Sometimes it seems like we have already accepted that the same level of interaction and engagement as in real-life training sessions cannot be reached in the virtual space. That is by no means true! Become a #virtualspacehero and learn how to make your virtual training sessions as interactive as possible. ??

? Want to know “How to shape meaningful interactions?"

? Resources?

Covarrubias Venegas, Barbara (2020): How to use objects/props in your virtual training?
Covarrubias Venegas, Barbara/Keischnigg, Katja (2021): How can we create interaction with breakout rooms in our virtual live sessions? 
Abril Canale & Barbara Covarrubias Venegas (2021): How to design online courses to bring learning journeys alive?
Abril Canale & Barbara Covarrubias Venegas (2021): How can we use stories and fairytales in our training

?  If you want to rewatch the LinkedIn live, you can find it on our #virtualspacehero YouTube channel ?

?  Listen to this episode on the go ?

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Continue reading our articles

How to master hybrid meetings?

How to master hybrid meetings?

The day will come when we will again be able to decide freely how and where to hold a meeting. But one thing is already clear: in presence meetings will be much less frequent. Instead, we will get used to mixtures of remote and face-to-face. Read here how to master hybrid meetings.

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