How to encourage participation during virtual meetings

Remote working presents unique challenges for leaders. Here is how leaders can ensure that employees stay positively engaged through virtual meetings.

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While managing and working as a remote team, communication is critical and mostly takes place in the form of virtual meetings. Leaders often complain about employees not paying enough attention during physical meetings. Imagine how annoying and difficult the situation would be should this happen in a remote working scenario! Virtual meetings have plenty of pitfalls as they come with their own unique challenges.

With remote working being the new normal, let’s find out the real deal with virtual meetings and what it takes to create an exceptional virtual meeting environment.

Break the ice

In large organisations, it gets difficult to catch up with everybody individually. It will be apt to start the meeting with questions, such as, “How would you rate the past week?” or “How are you managing things at your place?” Ice-breaking questions will compel the employees to participate and help employees stay connected virtually.

Prem Singh

Once the target has been assigned, employees take this as an opportunity and also find themselves accountable for it

 

Venkataramana B, group president-HR, Landmark Group, makes it a point to keep the conversation as informal as possible. Right from greeting to introducing each other in virtual meetings, Venkataramana believes that breaking the ice at the beginning of a conversation ensures active participation of the attendees.

Share the agenda in advance

Gathering together for a remote meeting takes effort, so do not waste time during the meeting. Have a plan in place, with specific items to cover and stick to it. It is better to share the agenda ahead of time with the participants, so that everyone can prepare.

Praveer Priyadarshi, HR specialist, believes that the agenda should be circulated beforehand with all the roles and responsibilities stated clearly. This will let the employees know exactly what the objective is. The discussions should have a proper agenda, which should be adhered to as per the deliverables of each of the participants.

Venkataramana B

The communication has to be strong enough to keep the employees engaged. A monologue will certainly not serve the purpose. Instead, a two-way interaction will help engage the participants and prove to be helpful

Clarify the objective

Remind participants of the objective of the meeting, the moment it begins. Setting a meeting goal or what needs to be achieved at the end of the meeting provides the participants a clear picture. As a result, the chances of being lost or getting distracted during the meeting diminish.

Ravi Mishra, SVP – HR & admin, Birla Carbon, takes this aspect very seriously and  thinks that setting up a clear objective gives a meaningful direction to the meeting. “If you don’t share the objective prior to your meeting, you’re asking your team members to go on a journey without a prior knowledge of the destination,” he explains.

Ensure a dialogue

In virtual meetings, if everybody is speaking at the same time, or someone is starting to dominate the conversation, there is chaos and confusion.

“The communication has to be strong enough to keep the employees engaged. A monologue will certainly not serve the purpose. Instead, a two-way interaction will help engage the participants and prove to be helpful,”says Venkataramana.

Praveer Priyadarshi

The discussions should have a proper agenda, which should be adhered to as per the deliverables of each of the participants

 

Assign roles and set targets

Splitting the roles between participants increases the likelihood of their involvement in the meeting. Along with involvement, the employees also treat it as an opportunity and pay more attention during the meeting.

Prem Singh, CHRO, JK Group, considers it essential to identify specific business areas or processes to be addressed, and accordingly assign leaders to each area, giving them a target. “Once the target has been assigned, employees take this as an opportunity and also find themselves accountable for it”, Singh added.

Motivate and maintain positivity

In tough situations, as being faced today, every individual is in a state of distress and seeking ways to stay calm and positive. For those working from home, it is far from being a blessing. It is a lot more difficult to bond with the co-workers, stay engaged in remote meetings and feel like a part of the team. Leaders should step forward and extend their support to keep them positive and motivated.

Ravi Mishra

If you don’t share the objective prior to your meeting, you’re asking your team members to go on a journey without a prior knowledge of the destination

During the lockdown, keeping employees engaged is even more critical than ever. According to Mr Singh, while the external environment is under lockdown, the internal capability, thinking capacity, creativity, ability to think out of the box, capacity to challenge the status quo, ability to ideate and innovate are not under lockdown – and leaders must continue to remind people of these inherent capabilities they possess. This then, opens the whole world of possibilities.

Be polite

It is not uncommon for employees to feel afraid to speak up if their leaders are impolite and offensive in their behaviour. This becomes an even bigger problem when it comes to remote meetings, as the chances of miscommunication increase.

Mishra truly believes that leaders should have a polite attitude towards their employees, as it will make them feel cared for. It will also ensure they remain calm and stress free during these difficult times.

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