You can't run a good virtual meeting without engaged participants—and with much of the U.S. workforce working from home, knowing how to grab and hold their attention is Job One. Howard Tiersky shares some simple "plot twists" to keep your audience on the edge of their seats.
It's not easy to keep participants engaged in meetings, even when you're sitting across the table from them. But when everyone is sitting in their individual houses—often with spouses, kids, and barking dogs in the next room—it's even trickier to pull this off. With much of America working from home now, Howard Tiersky says it's crucial that we make "meeting engagement" a priority.
"You want people on the edge of their seat, listening, questioning, offering up ideas," says Howard Tiersky, coauthor along with Heidi Wisbach of Impactful Online Meetings: How to Run Polished Virtual Working Sessions That Are Engaging and Effective—Zoom|Webex|GoToMeeting|Skype|Google Hangouts (Spiral Press, 2020, ISBN: 978-1-734-41534-6, $14.99). "You don't want them emailing, checking Facebook, or just being a passive listener.
"The good news is, there are some simple things you can do that skyrocket engagement," he adds. "Some of them are common sense. Others may be kind of surprising." In his book, Tiersky offers a wealth of tips for making online meetings as impactful as possible. He also refers readers to his website, impactfulonlinemeetings.com, so they can be notified of book updates and also access other helpful supplemental resources.
Read on for some practices that will keep people focused and tuned-in.
Ask people to share a funny or embarrassing story. When facilitating introductions (which you should always do when people don't know each other well), help participants get to know each other by sharing a brief fun fact or a funny story. According to Slack's Ultimate Guide to Remote Meetings, "one study found that workers who shared a funny or embarrassing story about themselves with their team produced 26 percent more ideas in brainstorming sessions than workers who didn't."
Don't be shocked if you find people love working together virtually, says Tiersky. "It's not unusual to find that you get more done than ever before," he says. "Great things can happen when everyone is present and focused, even when it's from the comfort of their own homes. When the pandemic is over, you may not want to go back to the old way of working."
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