Tag: virtual meetings

Make Virtual Meetings More Fun — and More Effective

Ready for virtual meeting. Hope it will be fun and effective!
“How will I possibly make it through the whole meeting?”

Our best-selling book last year was Emergency Preparedness Meeting Ideas – that is, up until COVID hit and in-person meetings were cancelled! Happily, our Q&A Mini-Series was finished just in time to take up the slack. The mini-series booklets can provide the perfect launch for a series of virtual meetings on the topic of emergency preparedness. Whatever your topic, though, you want to make virtual meetings more fun — and as effective as possible!

We’ve scheduled different types of virtual meetings since our in-person meetings were cancelled.

Telephone Conference Calls

Earlier this week, for example, we held a simple telephone conference call to discuss an upcoming COVID vaccine clinic being held in our neighborhood. We chose a simple telephone call-in format so neighbors without internet access would be able to participate. About 40 people joined the call. (Hint: Even a simple conference call needs managing! Be sure that you know how to mute and unmute attendees, and explain what you are doing when you do it! First-timers on a conference call may never have heard the word “unmute.”)

Virtual Video Conference Platforms

Joe and I have also participated in many webinars, several Zoom meetings and a Microsoft Teams meeting. Meetings were as long as 2 hours; participation ranged from 15 to as many as 60+ people. Some sessions could have been more effective and a whole lot more fun. Here is some of what we experienced . . .

  • Some people’s faces are in total shadow so you can’t see if they are awake or asleep.
  • Probably half the attendees pay close attention; others bob around, eating and drinking.
  • A few people simply disappear for a while and leave you seeing just their name, or worse, their empty chair!

We want to improve on results for the meetings we are hosting!

A while back we compiled some best practices for preparing for and managing virtual conference calls. They still hold. Today we want to step up to another level of effectiveness – an increase in engagement, education, and just plain fun.

Whether you are the host or a participant, you can help get your message across by including some of the following suggestions. We’ve included emergency preparedness examples to help in your planning.

As you will see, these suggestions assume a relatively small group – maybe 12-15 people. A group this size keeps everyone visible in gallery view. Plus, you can see people’s expressions, their hand motions and, if they want to hold something up to show, everyone can see it. This size group is also exactly what we had in mind for the Prepare & Share concept, where the goal of the meeting is to help build relationships, not just deliver information!

Show and tell, don’t just talk!

  • Demonstrate a piece of equipment or a tool. If the topic of conversation is emergency lighting, for example, you can hold up your foldable lantern, flip up the handles and pull to turn it on, show how the switch activates different white/red/strobe lighting options.
  • Show variations on a theme. Have several members of the audience bring their favorite pocket knife or maybe their favorite first aid kit — and be ready to explain which feature/s they particularly appreciate.
  • Illustrate using a miniature or a picture – either of which can be held up to the screen so everyone can visualize the item. For example, what about a model mobile home or tent, a chain saw or a firefighting helicopter with its snorkel? Too big to hold up to the camera!

Give weight to your words.

  • Make words or ideas tangible. Are you quoting a good book? Hold up the book where the words can be found. Point to the picture of the author!
  • Illustrate a concept. Show how the wrong sized wrench can’t accomplish the job! Or remember the little kid’s toy, with holes for the various shaped blocks? Use either to illustrate the importance of the right fit.

Ask for feedback along the way.

  • Ask for a quick vote: thumbs up, or thumbs down? Interrogate a couple of your participants as to why they voted that way.
  • Take a survey. Go around the “room” and check to get everyone’s opinion regarding an option, their biggest concern, etc.  Use this information to schedule the next meeting topic, invite a guest speaker, etc.

Make virtual meetings more fun!

  • Pick a theme and decorate! Have participants create their own (homemade) video background based on the theme of the discussion. Let everyone vote on the winner.
  • Dress up for fun! Have everyone wear a hat illustrating the theme or the topic of the day. (Fire helmet. Police cap. Ear muffs for bad weather. Headlamp. Hard hat.)
  • Bring something to illustrate the topic! For example, people could bring and share “the one thing they would HAVE to have in their Go-Bag!” You’ll be surprised . . .!
  • Celebrate a holiday or a birthday – or an “un-birthday.” Share a photo of a past birthday, or a wedding. Or a holiday. There’s a holiday of some sort every day! Today, for example, it’s National Chili Day! See https://www.calendarr.com/united-states/observances-2021/
  • Grab a screen capture of your group so you’ll have something to share on a completion certificate, or in a church newsletter, etc.

Be confident in your personal “look.”

  • Wear real clothes, not your PJs. You may have to get up and “reveal” yourself. No use being embarrassed.
  • Set up lighting so your face is clearly visible. Your remarks will be more effective. And people want to see that you are paying attention! (See lighting hints here.)
  • Avoid annoying and disconcerting glare from eye-glasses by further adjusting lighting. (Here’s an excellent and energetic YouTube video to give you help with avoiding eyeglass glare!)
  • Know how to mute and unmute yourself. Practice.
  • Stay “in the frame.” Make sure you, your hands and your props stay “in the frame” that everyone else sees. Rule of thumb: your head should take up 1/3 of the screen. You may have to practice holding your props at the proper distance from the camera, pointing to a specific feature using a pencil, etc. (You can go to Zoom before your meeting and test your audio and video.)

Whether you’re hosting a meeting of neighbors, family or business colleagues, I hope you’ll find some suggestions here that will work to make virtual meetings more engaging. If I were responsible for facilitating a meeting, I’d try to fit in an “activity” like one of those above every 6-10 minutes.

And don’t be shy. You can use items from this list to make virtual meetings more fun and more effective even when you’re not the person in charge!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

Send a copy of this Advisory to every one of your team (along with the list of Best Practices) so they each will have some good ideas with which to start their next virtual meeting!