Most of us are well into a month of social distancing and learning to optimize team meetings with video chat tools. The cast of Saturday Night Live had fun with this topic over the weekend, highlighting the challenges many workers face when video chatting. As a manager, it’s your job to keep your team focused on work, and to do that, you may need a different approach when running a meeting on a video chat system.
Encouraging Equal Participation
You’ll probably find that the team members who are chatty during in-person meetings will have a tendency to dominate the video chat gatherings too. The less vocal team members might even try to get away with not having their camera on or muting their speakers. They may think that nobody wants to hear their fighting kids or see their messy kitchen. That strategy almost ensures their nonparticipation in the meeting. To avoid that issue, insist that everyone appear on camera. Find a polite way to stop the big talkers and ask the quieter folks to weigh in with their thoughts and opinions. After all, if a person isn’t contributing anything to the meeting, they probably shouldn’t attend, whether it’s in person or on video chat.
Stop Talking and Start Listening
If you sense that your staff is nervous about your company’s viability or who is supposed to be handling which tasks, open the meeting with a few prepared statements. But don’t drone on. If you’re just delivering information, there’s no need for a meeting. You can just send out an email.
As Johnny Warstrom points out in his Forbes article, too many leaders fill silence with ‘managersplaining.’ To avoid the awkward silences, and to cut down on the number of folks who are checking email instead of paying attention in your meeting, set some ground rules in advance. You can give each participant an assignment and let them know that they’ll be responsible for speaking on a specific topic during the meeting. Encourage them to use the screen sharing facility to give other team members great visuals to look at while they’re speaking.
Despite your best efforts at trying to optimize team meetings, people’s attention will wander. It won’t be easy for some folks to stay focused if they aren’t accustomed to working at home. Do them the favor of running an efficient meeting. But you can also have a little fun. Wastrom suggests you use the interactive features available on many video chat tools. Use polls to get respondents to answer questions such as when they think social distancing will end, what they miss most while they are stuck at home, or who their favorite customer is.
Optimize Team Meetings
Holding a video chat meeting with employees who aren’t used to gathering in this way can be a challenge. Managers who plan ahead and infuse the meeting with a little fun will be able to increase productivity and engagement.