20 May Nine tips for better virtual meetings!
Last week I was on a four hour virtual meeting, it was a new record. The other day I was “Zoomed Out” after spending seven and a half hours in virtual meetings.
The four hour meeting was meaningful and well worth the time, but being in person would have been better and less exhausting. Being in the same room with people engages more of our senses and I find it a lot easier.
With social distancing most of us only have physical in person connections with those we’re living with. We’re social animals and thrive with social connection. Our move from physical to virtual has mostly been optional until now, with the pandemic it can feel forced upon us. We can resist or do the best with what we have, it’s an adaptive blip where our mindset will significantly shape our experience.
I’ve used virtual technologies for many years. They come in handy whenever I need to have face to face meetings with those more distant. Now working from home I only see my colleagues on my computer. At home my family has virtual meetings for school, yoga, dance, business groups, meditation, Pilates, Psychodrama, friends, medical appointments, art projects, family, and clients. Most of my social connection outside of the household has gone virtual. Teams, Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Skype have come front and center and have scaled up to meet the demand while smaller players are gaining market awareness. Even Discourse, a platform used by many gamers to communicate while playing, has added virtual meetings.
Though our lives have changed dramatically our minds try to run the old programs, it’s how the brain conserves energy. While we’re adapting we’re subconsciously trying to have connections the “in person” way, but virtually. It’s exhausting because that doesn’t really work. Shifting our mindset into a creative space of curiosity and exploration helps us to create new models of interaction for our virtual connections. We move from a mindset of trying to recreate what we’ve lost, to discovering what is new.
Here are some techniques that I use to have a better virtual experience:
•Consciously remind yourself that things are different and to treat virtual connection as something new. Experiment and find new ways of interacting in the digital environment. For instance play with speech cadence, physical gestures, and movement. How you frame yourself in the camera affects how others experience you. This is an opportunity to explore and play with a new way of connecting.
•Imagine that you are sitting with people rather than looking at a screen. Our imaginations are powerful in shaping our experience.
•Move around. And if using a laptop move the computer out of your normal workspace when you are doing social connecting.
•Be in a quiet space and if you can’t, then mute your microphone when you aren’t talking. A headset is another option when noise is an issue. The microphones on headsets are usually more localized and less likely to pick up extraneous noise.
•Have a good internet connection and equipment that will give you a good experience. When things don’t work well it is exhausting and the connection with others takes a back seat. If you are using new equipment test it out with a colleague or friend before getting on a group call.
•Good and consistent lighting helps others in the meeting connect with you. Generally you need more than room lighting, a small video light helps a lot. And turn it on early for evening meetings so that as it gets darker your lighting stays consistent.
•Having good equipment and a good connection is also part of being a good virtual host. When things work seamlessly, yes that does happen, the experience is far better than when there are constant technical difficulties. Be a good virtual host.
•If you are doing a group, start the virtual meeting early and leave it running after the meeting. Whether it be a class, support group, or work meeting, it allows for some of the relaxed interaction that often happens before and after a meeting. And let everyone know that’s going to happen so they can take advantage of the social time.
•If it’s a long meeting schedule in breaks. It encourages everyone to move their bodies and use the restroom if needed. We tend to be less embodied in a virtual meeting than in person, taking a break brings us back.
When social distancing is over, part of its’ legacy will be our experience of virtual connection. I’m confident our future is going to be more virtual. We’re adapting and doing medicine, therapy, workout classes, dance classes, and schools virtually. Nearly all forms of classes have gone virtual, there’s no going back. When this is over we’ll have more meetings in person again but far more will be virtual than before.