With millions of people working from home and many businesses and organizations choosing to stay fully remote or go hybrid, virtual meetings are a daily occurrence in our lives. Working remotely or hybrid has proven to be just as effective as working in person or in office, and studies have even shown that working from home has produced more productivity and advantages than ever before. However, we can all agree that despite the advantages, attending virtual meetings is tiresome, especially when we know that other people are having difficulties staying engaged in the conversation. Because we are all calling in through a video conferencing system, we have the option to turn our cameras off which many of us have taken advantage of more than once.
When the speaker that we have to pay attention to is a dark, black box (when people forgo uploading their photo), it’s difficult to follow what they are saying. Additionally, with so many distractions, it can be hard to focus and it’s no single person’s fault—it’s the nature of remote work. Businesses and organizations have to learn how to be flexible and be ready to encounter any difficulties that may evolve over time.
So this is when the business or organization has to sit down and brainstorm how to keep coworkers engaged during team virtual meetings. Here are five ways to keep your team engaged during virtual meetings.
1. Prepare an agenda and stay on task
Coming prepared to a meeting with an agenda gives the meeting structure and it’s a better way to ensure that everyone stays on task. With an agenda, it’s also easier to circulate the content of what will be discussed in the meeting before it even begins. This ensures that everyone comes prepared and they won’t be surprised by anything being discussed for that particular meeting. Participation also goes up when everyone knows what will be discussed in meetings. Additionally, try not to stray away from the content that was prepared on the circulated agenda. The meeting could run over time and everyone ends up sidetracked. Strive to stick to the agenda at hand and stay on task to be respectful of everyone’s time.
2. Start and end on time
On the topic of time, start and end your meetings on time. This firstly demonstrates that the host of the meeting is respectful of other people’s times, any other meetings that they may need to attend after, and the workload that coworkers may undertake. Starting and ending meetings on time also improves productivity by ensuring that everyone stays on task to discuss the agenda in the allotted amount of time that was designated.
3. Customize your video conferencing rooms
It might be difficult to feel unity with other coworkers when everyone is working remotely. So customizing your video conferencing rooms will develop a sense of brand unity amongst coworkers at a business or organization. Take time to crowdsource ideas for colors, virtual backgrounds, virtual waiting rooms, and watermarks–anything that is customizable accounts for a unique personality for not only the branding and marketability of the business but the involvement of the people working as well. Do take advantage of the video conferencing tools that are available to you.
4. Open the chat and ask for volunteers
If your meetings are filled with endless moments of silence, explicitly assure your coworkers that replying in the chat is completely acceptable. They might not be used to writing in a chatroom during a meeting so open that option up to them. Additionally, ask for volunteers. Try not to outrightly call on people. They might not actually have a solid opinion or idea yet and calling on people might just end up disrupting their train of thought. By asking for volunteers, or even shooting out helpful questions related to the agenda, it may supplement everyone’s brainstorming and make people more comfortable to speak up and present their thoughts in the meeting.
5. Show empathy
Lastly, be conscious of why people aren’t as engaged during meetings. People could have family issues, health-related issues, or even suffer from burnout. If anything becomes too much of a problem, it’s always best to reach out to them to ask if the business or organization needs to accommodate any issues they may be having. Or, you could sit down and resolve any issues anyone may have. Talking about team productivity and qualitative progress even makes for a great meeting idea to have monthly.