By Keith Wilson, MBA, B.Comm., PMP, MCP, MCT, CSM, CSPO, KMP, CDA

Virtual meetings/teams can be new territory for many of us. It can be especially difficult to be sure all attendees are getting the most out of the meeting. Sometimes, you can be left questioning if you have their full attention or if things are getting lost in translation.

Are you new to virtual teamwork? In this blog, I will share engagement techniques that I have used for years when training or consulting with teams virtually.

First, remember to be prepared and test your audio and camera beforehand. If you’re the facilitator, arrive an hour early to ensure everything works and advise other attendees to connect 5 minutes early so you will be ready to start on time.

Ice Breakers

If your web meeting app has icons that the team can use, start by asking everyone to “Click the green check or ‘OK’ icon” when they are ready to go. You may have to ask for this several times until everyone has clicked the icon. Unlike an in-person meeting, we may not have had a chance to socialize easily before the meeting begins, so take the first few minutes for a brief ice breaker. For example:

If your team has members from different parts of the world, select a word and have everyone share how they say it in their language. (For example, “beer.” I just know two other ways to say beer: “bière” (French) and the only word I know in Spanish, “cerveza.”)

Have people share an interesting factoid about the area where they live or a colloquialism. For example, I could ask people if they know what “I am going to the dépanneur and will stop at Timmy’s on the way back, eh” means. (If you’re a fellow Canadian ,you know that I am going to go to the store and then stopping at the donut shop on the way home. This can add a bit of fun to your meeting and also be educational.)

Introductions

If this is the teams’ first meeting, try this technique for introductions:

Have each person select a partner and interview them. This is easy if you are using a meeting app that supports break out groups; if not, perhaps they can send emails, texts or call each other and determine the following about their partner:

  • Who they are
  • Where they are
  • What they do for your organization
  • How long they have worked at your organization
  • 2 things you have in common outside of work

Now instead of each person introducing themselves, they introduce their partner. By sharing commonalities, it will help the team relate to each other with realizations such as, “Oh, she has young children as well”, or “ I didn’t’ know he also likes cooking.”

Frequently Ask Questions

If the questions are close ended, instruct attendees to hit the green check mark icon for yes and the red “x” for no. But don’t forget to ask open ended question that start with the 5 W’s or how. If no one responds via chat, text, phone or VoIP, try this technique: first call upon 2 people, “Ann and Amit.” Now you have their attention to ask the open-ended questions; this is better than singling out one person. Do keep in mind one of the top fears people have is public speaking and this can be compounded if they are unfamiliar with the meeting app.

Whiteboards

Use the whiteboard frequently and ensure that everyone can type or draw on it; do not just have “death by PowerPoint.” My tool of choice is Adobe Connect and when people write on the whiteboard it doesn’t show who typed the comment. The anonymity helps people participate without fear of embarrassment. Also, let people know they won’t lose points for a misspelling.

As per an in-person meeting, you should also be sure to:

  • Start and end on time
  • Have an agenda with desired results
  • Document Action Items and have people assign themselves to the Action Items

I hope this blog helps you work successfully with your virtual teams. Stay tuned for more blogs.

Through June 30, 2020, we are offering free registration to our on-demand course on Virtual Agile Teams (regularly $850 USD). Learn more and register here >>


About the Author 

Keith Wilson is a Senior Consultant and Trainer with IIL. His background includes over 25 years of successful coaching, training, management, and consulting experience. He is well known for his public speaking skills and enthusiasm, and has been a welcomed facilitator at numerous Fortune 500 corporations, universities, and associations worldwide.