Meeting and learning online is here to stay. What used to be a slight annoyance, a temporary situation, is staying with us long term, and even preferred by some. But are we learning anything online? And are we listening to each other, connecting with new people or simply talking into the camera and hearing our own voice?
Here are some tips to lead or facilitate an online meeting:
1. Define your meeting occasion and set the rules. If you are not sure which words to use (online meeting, workshop, course, get together, standing meeting, meet up, etc.) use a headline to define what the objective is and what you expect participants to do. Should they participate? Camera on or off? Will they learn something from an established expert? Or is it about knowledge sharing? People should know what to expect when they sign up or receive an invite to your event. Do not be afraid to set the rules.
2. Control the level and time of participation. Instead of telling people how important it is for them to participate, make sure to identify exactly the moments where participation is expected. Then, as much as possible, identify people you want to hear from ( if they know in advance, even better). Also, try to all people by their name (not an easy feat, but make sure you know their first names!) and get them to respond (if participation is what you expected in the first place). In summary, don't just hope that people will be proactive: create opportunities for them to say something.
3. Start your online meeting with a bang. In any new situations, our brains are scanning the environment wondering whether what you are presenting is relevant. Is this content worthy of my staying around for the next couple of hours? You need to get my attention from the beginning! After the introduction, which sets out of the event's objective, we want some good quality content and to learn something from the start. Use what works in any presentation: an attention getter like a story, an anecdote, a fact or a striking image. If possible, avoid video at the very beginning as it changes the pace and takes away attention from your objectives.
4. Always introduce yourself well at the start. Remember one important point- this is not show business. You are not there to be entertaining, fun and happy. If you are the facilitator or even a trainer in a participatory workshop, your role is more of in the background. But there needs to be some reason why you are leading this event and not someone else. So some info on your skills, qualification, knowledge or interest are key. If you are presenting some expert knowledge or information, it's even more important to establish your credibility. Also, a good idea is to practise the art of introducing others. Introducing oneself is a bit awkward but knowing how to introduce others effectively will help you when introducing yourself effectively as well.
5. Quicken the pace! In an offline setting, pace can be adjusted by the many cues you get from your audience. It is easy to feel if people are restless and adjust accordingly. So, be ready with loads of content. Have more slides and activities that you would if this was an offline event. In addition, whenever possible, have one person present the content and another deal with messages in the chat, questions of all sorts, technical issues and logistics. Of course, certain questions and issues may need to be responded by the presenter or facilitator, but make sure to know which information is relevant to all, and which is highly individual and therefore not needing an immediate reply!
If you want to learn more about the my training and coaching programmes to help you or your team become a great virtual communicator, book a session with me here.
I get emails from people every day, telling me about their communication woes. Now that you are ready to do something about it, drop me a line and I will tell you what we can do next.