Bringing New Life And More Human to Video Meetings

“People see things according to their own conditioning, through the lens of their past. This is why patience is an essential part of communication, together we work to get beyond the filters and layers that misinterpret each other. Patience opens to the door to mutual understanding.”       

Yung Pueblo


Now that the focus of setting up employees to work from home has been tackled, the new focus is how we conduct our virtual meetings as effectively as possible in order to fulfil the goals of the organisation and ensure the wellbeing of your employees (and if your focus is not on the wellbeing of your people, then this blog is not for you ;)).

I know this may sound obvious, but we don’t pay attention to boring things.

According to molecular biologist Dr John Medina, we use previous experience to determine where our attention needs to be. So, if your usual face to face work meetings have had your team daydreaming after a few minutes, chances are remote meetings could turn them into a bunch of disengaged observers instead of participants as quick as you can say ‘am I muted?’. 

Add to this mix, leaders who are conducting remote meetings the same as a face to face meetings without any consideration of the barriers to communication and things quickly begin to go downhill from here.  

Not to worry though, help is here. Then it will be up to you to bring this new awareness into your remote meetings and not simply rely on old habits. 

Read on ….

At the risk of being repetitive….. virtual interactions are extremely hard on the brain.

As we have all seen by now, video conferencing software such as Zoom & Google Meets has given the workforce a place to connect and thrive remotely like never before (even if some organisations thought this was not possible). However, the social networks of our brain are designed for face to face interaction so we have to work harder to focus on non-verbal cues, which makes it even more difficult especially if the video quality is poor. 

In addition, using the ‘patchwork quilt’ gallery view can make everyone feel connected and part of a group, but having everyone on the screen at once is also forcing the brain into overdrive to try and decipher all this information.This includes the unusual sight of seeing yourself reflected back to you which you do not experience in face to face meetings.  

So here are 5 suggestions to help with our new way of connecting together at work/home.

1/ Address the elephant in the room

Acknowledge that it may be difficult for some people to focus and adapt to this new way of working. Ensure that everyone has a basic understanding of how the brain operates within this type of environment as we discussed above, which may also include having more compassion & patience with each other. 

I know we need minimal distractions whilst we are on a video call, but something you may not be aware of is the amount of brain power you use trying to block out other distractions and noise while trying to focus on a remote meeting. Ensuring that your home or workspace has minimal noise and distractions is really helpful (easier said than done with children, animals and the washing machine going off I know). I myself had music playing and was checking my social media whilst typing this (insert facepalm here). 

2/ Set the expectation

Get clear on your intentions for the meeting and state it explicitly at the start, along with time frames. Are you trying to solve a problem? Give everyone an update? Work together on a project or build stronger relationships?

Setting expectations and clarifying outcomes gives the meeting direction and provides everyone with certainty and focus (especially for high detail and high certainty orientated people).

3/ Do something fun to create psychological safety

Psychological safety is one of the most important factors that contribute to effective and successful teams. When teams can feel free to express their ideas and feel that they are heard it promotes trust and psychological safety. 

Relationship experts at The Gottman Institute recommend doing a fun activity together that is out of the ordinary can often bring everyone closer together. 

Begin the meeting on a personal note, you could share something personal or even your most embarrassing moment. This sends the message that you are being vulnerable and that I trust you.

4/ Create connection to improve listening, empathy and wellbeing.

Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in his latest book Together: The healing power of connection in a sometimes lonely world states that when we feel connected to one another we are more able to listen and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Being more connected with one another helps to create empathy, a practical skill as well as a soft one. Empathy builds more resilient teams, stronger collaboration, less stress and greater morale.

And, according to Happiness researcher Shawn Accor, having strong connections is one of the biggest contributors to long term happiness!

5/ Create voluntary involvement

Creating structured opportunities for employees to engage is a way to create more involvement and according to an article in HBR, by Justin Hale & Joseph Grenny, most meetings are not great because they have zero accountability for engagement. 

“When people enter any social setting, they tacitly work to determine their role. For example, when you enter a movie theater, you unconsciously define your role as observer — you are there to be entertained. When you enter the gym, you are an actor — you are there to work out. The biggest engagement threat in virtual meetings is allowing team members to unconsciously take the role of observer”.

Hale and Grenny offer 5 ways in which to encourage voluntary participation such as giving people tasks to actively work on during the meeting and if using slides, use as little as possible and instead weave facts and stories throughout the presentation.

Another great way to create more engagement especially if you are problem solving, is to pose one question in chat and ask every single person in the meeting to submit their answer in chat as well. During this time no one is talking until all answers have been received. This is what creativity researchers call ‘brainwriting’ which has been found to be empirically more effective than brainstorming.

It is not going to be perfect.

If you really do want to bring more life and connection into your virtual meetings then trying on some of these new ideas may take some time. Exercise some self compassion and allow yourself and your employees time to adjust to a new way of doing things.  

If you need some help to kick start some fun into your meetings then sign up for our FREE 5 Day Connection Challenge for remote meetings. Small daily activities to do with your team for 5 days. 

As neuroscientist Rick Hanson says, “Bad experiences are like Velcro, good ones like Teflon”, so it may take a few goes at doing things differently, creating more positive experiences in your meetings to make it stick.

Always be learning. Always be growing. 


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