The pandemic forced companies to switch to remote work or introduce hybrid work models to adapt and lead through the trying times. After the massive transition to virtual meetings, best practices and training sessions for managers on how to boost employees’ daily productivity have topped the Google search list. Moreover, proactive leaders constantly use icebreakers for virtual meetings to clear the air and establish deeper connections. And when 83 percent of employers say the shift to remote work has been successful for their company, it’s clear that virtual meetings and effective communication have played a vital role.
So, how can you continually improve communication and ensure everyone is actively speaking up during online sessions? Below we’ll detail some tips for virtual meetings to ensure transparent communication and help you better connect with your team.
Top 3 factors that make virtual meetings successful
Managing distributed teams has become the standard. As a leader, you should analyze and assess your approach to online communication if you wish to strengthen engagement and productivity. As more employees report struggles finding work-life balance to support their mental health, motivating them to speak up and creating deeper connections with them can make a critical difference.
The following are essential virtual meetings best practices that will help you improve planning and effectiveness of online communication.
- Purpose. Having a clear meeting objective and ensuring all the participants know it is one of the ground rules for proper online sessions. When everyone knows what should be addressed and accomplished, they will be able to contribute to the desired goal making the meeting productive. With no purpose, people will mostly be confused or lost during the session and have zero motivation to engage.
- Agenda. Avoid becoming a lecturer who only gives information and discusses bullet points from a document or email. Although having bullet points to remember specific topics to analyze is helpful, try adding ideas you’d like to present that will keep team members in active thought with you. Always keep the questions coming and encourage sharing ideas. As part of your agenda, make it a habit to recognize accomplishments and make them as detailed as possible. People will be more engaged when the agenda becomes an actual roadmap to guide valuable conversations.
- Focus. Unfortunately, after online calls, over 42 percent of remote workers think, “This meeting could have been an email.” Virtual sessions can be challenging, especially when topics unrelated to the agenda are brought up and take minutes away from the essential point of discussion. Maintain the conversation efficiently and briefly touch upon the tangent subjects. You can ask team members to set reminders and make notes to discuss those topics in a different call. Set a time limit for the meeting and stick to it, remind colleagues of the time left to discuss the most critical matters.
The most effective icebreakers for virtual meetings
Remote and hybrid work models have proven that as individuals spend less time commuting, they become more focused and productive. However, besides measuring individual productivity, companies also need to measure team performance.
Virtual meetings’ best practices show that teams can do more than individuals alone, and managers should have the right tools to start and promote participation. But how can icebreakers for virtual meetings help, and how can you implement them?
Icebreakers are activities that help team members get to know each other and create a sense of community; being physically located far from their jobs, such techniques help people connect more personally. The following are the most common icebreakers for virtual meetings that will help you foster an environment where everyone wants to participate and speak up.
Icebreaker questions for virtual meetings can be the easiest and most common way to get to know one another and help people open up and build friendships. It’s essential to determine if this activity fits the size of your group or if other dynamics may be more effective depending on how many people are in the meeting.
There are hundreds of options and below you can find several examples to give you a general idea:
- What’s your go-to karaoke song?
- What is your favorite film, tv series, or book?
- What are the last three emojis you typed on your phone?
- What was cool when you were younger but isn’t cool now?
- What was your very first job?
- Describe the past week in one word.
Activities can create an informal environment where bonding time can be helpful and fun. When a team works together more lightheartedly, they tend to connect better. Here are some ideas of what you could do to surprise your colleagues:
- Avoid verbal participation and ask everyone to draw their current mood on a Zoom whiteboard.
- Ask everyone to share their own highlight of the month.
- Request everyone to nominate and leave notes of appreciation to their silent hero of the week/month and acknowledge their effort during the meeting.
- Invite everyone to share a part of their workspace that’s important to them.
Can games also fall under the virtual meetings’ best practices category? The answer is a resounding yes. Friendly competition is a fantastic way to build fellowship and help people feel more comfortable, so they’ll be more likely to participate in a conversation. Take note of the following game ideas and break the ice once and for all.
- Run a weekend photo contest and invite everyone to vote for their favorite picture.
- Play a little piece of a song and see who can guess it first.
- Collect curious facts about each team member, then have a fun quiz to let other colleagues guess.
- Play two truths and a lie. This game is a classic for virtual meetings.
Indeed, various interactive tools for virtual meetings have video applications, like video conferences, chats, reactions, and screen sharing, to help bring people together.
Platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Webex, Skype, Lifesize, and others are effective for real-time interactions. We encourage managers to use them to their advantage and full potential.
Improve teamwork in a virtual environment
Whether in a virtual or in-person environment, teamwork can only improve and be more effective when there’s a connection. When teams have a strong bond, it becomes energizing. Connection helps to get a glimpse of who is beyond their name or title. During virtual meetings, best practices also include meaningful collaborative experiences.
For example, Agile dashboards can give you a panorama of what the team is working on or has finished and even show some metrics. As you effectively understand where everyone in the group stands, you’ll be able to design opportunities for everyone to speak up in virtual meetings and find ways to focus on individual and team performance.
Strive to create genuine connections and foster a sense of community.