Meetings can be rough, let alone boring Zoom meetings – and I’m willing to bet most if not all people have experienced the dread and tediousness that often accompanies them. We’ve all experienced a meeting that we wish would just end, eyes glazing over and waiting for the clock to hit 5:00 PM to move on with the day, or wishing that the two-hour meeting you just sat through had been passed out as a single paragraph memo instead. Working from home and having these meetings as video conferences serves to act as a double-edged sword: one gets the benefit of being in their own environment and more comfortable, but it also serves as a creation of distractions, pulling away one’s attention and engagement. These issues aren’t solely related to work-based calls – seminars, classes, and schooling can all be equally dry, and this is compounded by exhaustion, stress, and unforeseen issues at home, whether it be poor connectivity or problems with kids or pets.
Gaining and maintaining engagement in virtual meetings requires creativity and planning, and there are a variety of techniques to keep attention up and minds focused. While creating the agenda, consider enlisting a co-host to help with the technical aspects of the meeting and to survey the chat or question box, assign people to break out rooms, and so on. As a host, the start of your meetings is critical to gain attention and set the mood. Rather than jumping right into your content, rely on the first few minutes as a sort of ‘warm-up’, allowing your audience to orient themselves into the right headspace and ease into what you have to present. Informal discussion, coupled with a roadmap for meeting activities gives the audience a rough idea of the meetings agenda and provides a gradual transition into business. Consider slicing up the meeting into 5-10 minute chunks and alternating between presenting and audience interaction to keep participation up – this also helps you plan ahead on time constraints, ensuring you can go through your content while being respectful of the audience’s time.
Asking questions is a great way to make individuals feel more involved, and more attentive as a result. In addition to small talk or icebreakers, ask more open-ended questions and allow your audience some time to write out answers, encouraging active participation rather than passive listening. Asking your audience how they are, what they anticipate to gain from the meeting, or even open-ended questions such as inquiring what activities they’re doing for their mental well-being are all great springboards and make participants feel like important parts of your meeting.
During Zoom calls, even something as simple as requesting video feeds be turned on puts a face to all of the individuals in the audience, and also helps form better social interaction as those individuals can put a face to the voice and relate on a more personal level than a black screen. While the majority of your audience may have experience using the Zoom interface by now, it could still be useful to give a brief tutorial at the beginning to explain how to turn on/off video, microphone, and some of Zoom’s interaction abilities. Zoom’s hand-raising feature allows for audience participation and break-out rooms, further social interaction and allow for all voices to be heard, even in larger audiences. Facilitating discussion in this way is a good way of keeping those with short attention spans in the loop as it forces them to converse and discuss the material, rather than being lectured to.
To spark further interest, consider the usage of external tools that allow for maximizing audience engagement. A personal favorite is Kahoot – masking engagement as a game further interests your audience by creating a competition. Apart from increasing motivation, these educational games are easy to get caught up in, making time pass quickly for participants while the host gets to see continual input and interaction. This ‘gamification’ helps to promote interest and leaves the audience with a better grasp of material compared to simply talking at them. Slido provides even more features, including simplified meeting polls, brainstorming, and post meeting analytics to allow you to see which parts of the presentation drew the most audience interaction. Introducing these external tools requires a bit of pre-planning, making sure they fit smoothly into your meeting progression and are integrated in a natural manner.
How you end a meeting can be just as impactful as starting one. Aim to be finished with your content a couple of minutes before the end of the scheduled meeting so you can connect further with your audience and gather input. Asking questions about the material presented or how your audience feels you did can give valuable insight into tweaks to make for future meetings. These few minutes also provide a chance to address any questions or concerns that may have been raised during the call, and setting aside a clear time for this leads to less disruptions throughout. Further, by planning to set aside a few minutes you give yourself some breathing room in case certain segments run a bit long – nobody likes being stuck in a meeting past the scheduled end time, and as a host you need to respect your audience’s schedule. Having a well-run, smooth meeting leads individuals to be more optimistic coming into the next one, rather than dreading it. Finally, end the meeting with a single hand wave – apart from being a polite farewell, it allows you to use your other hand to smoothly exit the call without fumbling around!
Now that you’re prepared to run engaging, useful meetings – consider the location while you host. If you need affordable meeting rooms on an hourly basis, consider stopping by! With blazing internet speeds, a professional environment, and no distractions, Workzones could be your optimal hosting solution!