Virtual meetings, workshops, and conferences can make participation and engagement really challenging. What has worked for us for in-person events—like meet your team bingo, scavenger hunt icebreakers or breaking a large group into smaller activity teams—is much more difficult when we are presenting virtually. It’s especially important for HR leaders to have a few tricks up our sleeves to share with our company leaders and make meetings and workshops engaging for a virtual workforce.
Making online meetings engaging is a challenge. Research from MIT Sloan suggests that as many as 50% of virtual meetings are ineffective at holding our attention, accomplishing the goal, and helping move your program, project, or goal forward.
5 Virtual Meeting and Workshop Activities You Need to Try
Here are just a few tips for turning your virtual meetings into engaging sessions that will hold your online audience’s attention:
- Show Your Face. This is a change because in the past during demos, meetings, and webinars we haven’t shown our faces, but now it’s expected and really helps make the online event personal. With so much happening virtually these days, participants in video conferences find it easy to check out when they’re only taking auditory cues. Seeing visual cues like smiling or hand gestures from a presenter can be the difference between dull and dynamic.
Bonus: Showing your face encourages others to turn their video on as well. Depending on what platform you’re using, you can have a Brady Bunch-style visual so everyone can see everyone. Because video mimics the experience of in-person meetings, it feels more personal and engaging than a meeting where all you can see are screens and not faces.
- Make Learning Interactive. Use polls and other tools like text messaging to make the event interactive. My favorite tool right now is called Kahoot. It’s a live quiz show or polling system that interacts with Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts and you can program the questions and answer choices. I use this for our HR Quiz show using HR practice test questions. Text messaging is another great way to make things fun and interactive.
- Breakout Rooms. This is a little known Zoom feature and it’s a lot of fun. You can choose to split the participants of a meeting into separate sessions automatically or manually, or allow participants to select and enter breakout sessions as they please. I love this as a great way to liven up the meeting and allow people to break into smaller groups to get to know each other.
- Virtual Icebreakers. Using a quiz game like Kahoot, you can create a fun group activity that breaks the monotony of virtual meetings. If you’re presenting a session on open enrollment to a group within your company—teams that work with one another on a regular basis, for example—send out a questionnaire ahead of your meeting and ask 10 fun questions (your favorite animal, favorite movie, favorite quote, what are you best known for, fun fact we wouldn’t know about you). Then use the questions and answers to create a “how well do you know your coworkers” quiz to start your meeting off. You can even create a points system and offer prizes to the winners (online gift cards!). It’s great for team building and morale, especially if it’s been months since your teams have worked in the same office for several months.
- Drawing board. Who knew we would ever miss our whiteboard meetings? You can still have virtual brainstorming meetings by using a large sticky notepad or set up the area where you’re presenting in front of an actual whiteboard and use it to demonstrate what you’re discussing or list out participant ideas.
If you have a touchscreen monitor (or iPad), Zoom Rooms for Touch is equipped with a whiteboard. You can start a whiteboard session, and then invite others to view and annotate. You can also save the whiteboard image and annotations at any time by sending the image file to email recipients you specify.
Driving engagement and helping reinforcing the learning and conversation is a challenge especially online. A study found that 23% of managers gave their full attention to online meetings. We are constantly being bombarded, distracted, and loosing focus which is why we need to be intentional in our virtual engagement, learning, and communication efforts.
Most of us are spending a lot of time presenting online, or trying to keep things interesting for our employees who are teetering on the edge of Zoom burnout. All of these can make your virtual meetings interactive and more engaging.