Have you ever been sitting in a virtual meeting, trying to listen to the speakers, but keep getting distracted? Your phone won’t stop buzzing. Or your cat keeps purring to be petted. Perhaps it’s late on a warm Friday afternoon, and your eyelids are beginning to sag. In the office, you’d have social etiquette to keep you alert, but now with virtual meetings, you find yourself phasing out. ‘Sorry, could you repeat that last bit,’ someone interrupts.
You’re not alone. And while you should be paying attention, it’s not always your fault. The meeting isn’t compelling enough, especially when it’s online, and we don’t have to feign interest. It can be frustrating for presenters, though.
But how do you create voluntary engagement? What can you add to a meeting to ensure it’s compelling enough that everyone stays engaged?
The 10% Rule
No matter what you say, no matter how much content you cover, people forget around ninety percent of your presentation within forty-eight hours. Worse still, the ten per cent they do remember is purely random.
Therefore, you need to grab your audience’s attention. What are the salient points, and how can you simplify them into stand out take-home messages? The clearer the message, the less distracted people will be. Use interactive visuals to display each message, and then give a short explanation to provide further detail. Videos, pictures, and virtual whiteboards are all useful methods for creating engagement.
When you’re speaking on video, you want people to look at you. It’s not egocentric. If they’re not looking and listening to you, then they’re paying attention to something else. While it’s essential to be as exciting as possible, removing distraction can’t help.
A virtual background is a fantastic method to remove the distractions in your backdrop. At Hello Backgrounds, you’ll be able to select from over a hundred different pictures and videos, see for yourself. They have everything from a swish and swanky offices to a calming garden.
Creative and Interactive
People like to be involved. One of the main problems with virtual meetings is that people see themselves as an observer. But this isn’t a webinar: create a dialogue, ask individuals a question. Establish an interactive tone, but do it through action. Use chats and polls. Have each member present a section of the meeting. Don’t just ask that everyone interact. That’s a guaranteed way to ensure they won’t.
There are also tons of tools available, from screen sharing to virtual whiteboards. A virtual meeting doesn’t just need to be one person droning on, while everyone else listens.
Breaking up the meeting into chunks will stop people from falling into a slump. People will stay engaged because they need to be engaged. One method for creating interactivity and engagement is through breakout groups. Group people into twos and threes and ask them to complete a task or discuss a concept. Use messaging services like Slack, Microsoft Teams or WhatsApp to complete the task. Then, when the breakout groups return, pick a person from each group to summarise their discussion.
As a rule, do not spend longer than 5 minutes on a single point or problem. Any longer and people’s attention will begin to falter: their minds will wander, to their dinner, to the weekend, to the show they watched the other night. Instead, keep your points punchy. As we discussed, it is crucial to have a few key messages; each message should comprise a five-minute block of time.
In this time, explain your point, using the interactive tools available. Get feedback. And then move on. If the meeting is 40-minutes long, make sure you have eight points to cover. But don’t make each point one slide in your presentation. Adding lots of simple slides, each containing a salient point, will boost engagement, and help participants better remember the points you make.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to give people a quick break. It lets people pop to the toilet, make a drink, or answer a message, ensuring they come back refreshed and ready for more.