Let’s face it – almost everything is being handled virtually right now. Even virtual meetings.
In-person meetings are obsolete, and we are all being asked to conduct meetings on various virtual platforms. Some of us might be struggling to stay engaged while staring at our computer screens all day. Others might be challenged with figuring out how to keep their audiences focused and connected during their presentations.
The unfortunate truth about the digital world is it’s harder to keep people engaged. When we’re in an in-person meeting or presentation, we stay in our seats and give others our attention. However, during a virtual meeting, we can get up and walk away whenever we want. We are not stuck in a room with others who will be judging whether we are paying attention. In fact, we could be working on eight other tasks at the same time and still “look” like we are engaged with our virtual meeting.
So how do we possibly navigate this challenging time in an era of mandated virtual meetings? Some say that the first 15 to 30 seconds of your presentation is key to captivating your audience and keeping their interest. Some people try to warm people up for the first minute or so of a meeting – asking, “how are you?” or “how was your weekend?” But when in a larger group, those not participating in these quick questions tend to lose focus almost immediately.
Try to start out your meeting with an interesting story or fact related to the topic of your meeting. Let your audience listen and think about what you just shared. This technique encourages you to start with the problem or the task at hand that you hope to solve during your meeting. Everyone will have an immediate, distinct understanding of what needs to get done and why. Don’t launch right away into the solutions to your problem, rather, try to build up a clear understanding of the problem.
Let your audience try to synthesize what solutions are available and share their ideas on how to solve the problem. If everyone feels like their opinion could make a difference, then they will be more engaged and willing to participate in the conversation.
Instead of pausing and letting an uncomfortably long silence derail your meeting, ask for others to speak up and share their thoughts. This will keep everyone alert and ready to speak if they know the meeting leader is calling on people. Another way to keep everyone interested is by asking for a video-enabled meeting. Once the focus is on us and we are being broadcasted to everyone else in the meeting, we are more inclined to listen and “look engaged.”
We will all inevitably be conducting virtual meetings for the foreseeable future. It’s critically important that we keep our staff partners and clients engaged throughout the duration of our meetings. By creating a space where everyone plays a necessary role in the completion of our problems or tasks, we will all feel more inclined to stay focused and alert during our virtual meetings.
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Derek Rundell, is a successful business leader, operator, and serial entrepreneur. Derek has founded, managed and sold businesses in the technology, media and finance industries. He sits on several boards and serves as an advisor/investor to numerous established businesses and startups. Startups are Derek’s real passion, and in addition to building his own portfolio of technology, media and financial ventures, he invests in and mentors startups and entrepreneurs. He is passionate about sharing his knowledge and helping other businesses succeed.