Image by Brian Cragun from Pixabay

Covid 19 brought a whole new situation to most of us — staying home to work, learn and meet. We used to go ‘places’ where things happened. 

Places included church buildings, retail shops, offices, conference rooms, schools, gymnasiums, schools and retreat centres. We’d actually go to them. (it’s’ not just a legend) Going was part of our day. 

But not now. 

Now, we stay. 

Now we  stay home to work, worship, learn, meet, retreat and on and on. And so we stare at a screen.

The novelty of watching other people do everything on our little screens wore off REALLY quickly. It’s not like TV, there’s no intriguing plot to hook us. You might say life has become a spectator sport but there are no sports involved! There’s a real lack of cheering for what’s onscreen.

We’ve needed to do something about this for some time.

Churches, schools, bosses, and businesses need to get us to engage. We need to be actively involved. Engaging isn’t just watching or listening. It’s too easy to tune out unconsciously or consciously.

In going to specific places, we depended on certain people to take a lot of the lead, the responsibility for making things happen. But on screens, they need to engage us more. Things have to keep us interested.  

Okay, I am an introvert and sometimes I’d rather just sit back, quietly and let others do the talking. But over time, it’s not very satisfying. I am more likely to sign out, make excuses or do something else while I listen. This is not helpful in engaging. It certainly reduces the impact of whatever it is we’re watching. (replace “watching” with “zoning out” in front of)

We don’t actually need to wait for the dispensers of online content to change (some never will because they don’t know how). We can step up and do things on our own to engage better with online meetings or events. We can still just watch sometimes — introverts unite! 

Image by Armin Schreijäg from Pixabay

We can step up and do things on our own to engage better!

But there are ways we can engage more and get more out of our online experiences. 

  1. Do the prep. Read the case study, check the advance notes/questions, highlight parts that struck you. Come up with one good question for the event. 

2. Ask leaders to engage us by enabling interactive aspects of their platforms rather than just talking at us like we’re watching bad TV (but be polite). Explain that they will get better results if they do. (even explain that you personally need the help because it helps you be productive)

3. You, YES YOU use the chat feature, engage in breakout rooms or interact when the leader gives opportunity. Resist the urge to be quiet (preaching to myself here, my default is too often letting others talk).

4. React to what is happening. Look for reasons to use clap or thumbs up features to encourage presenters. Raise your hands in the air and spin your desk chair around while you cheer for your presenter (okay for some that’s over the top). Offer encouraging words in the chat. Look for things to affirm (look hard, there must be some)

5. Take a break (hopefully your leaders call one or just turn off your audio and video and do it yourself if necessary)  to walk around, grab fresh coffee, do some stretches, sing, jog around the house, dance or shout. Wake yourself up and get refreshed for the adventure (I’m being optimistic) to continue. And this is important, GO BACK ON TIME.

6. Take notes of what is happening. This not only keeps us involved it helps us to remember what we hear and see. (some of us have the attention span of a bar of soap, work to make your retention better)

7. Before the online event starts take time to set your learning/working space to make it better for you. Have a beverage handy in your favourite mug (I have a selection of mugs — the Starship Enterprise, some with animals, one with inspiring quotes, a Star Wars cup with light sabers on it that light up when there’s a hot drink inside — yeah I’m a geek). Get a candle, flowers, comfy footwear, a good chair for your posture, an organized non-distracting workspace, various colours of pens, highlighters, paper, notebooks to make the process more colourful and fun. Set the heat at a comfortable but not sleep inducing temperature. Be near an open window for fresh air and sunshine — don’t do this in a cave . That won’t help you!

8. Let your dog, cat, bird, or porcupine wander through the space. We all need moments of surprise and one of the highlights of online sessions is when someone’s pet wanders across. Now it shouldn’t be constant because then it would be distracting. But it is fun when it happens briefly. It also humanizes the online experience.

9. Plan your background so it’s interesting. Pictures, knick knacks, bookshelves (we can read your titles you know), antiques, and bright colours make the meeting more interesting. (I’m so sick of beige backgrounds. But if beigianity is you then own it!) Choose an unusual but appropriate room to be in. You’re likely to get comments on your setting — the book titles, photos or scale models of the Millennium Falcon. This is fun and brings more of who you are to the meeting. Just avoid being creepy, megalomaniacal or offensive.

We’ve all become veterans of online meetings of all kinds , way to go, you deserve a medal!

We’ve all become veterans of online meetings of all kinds and even as the pandemic ends (it will right?) we will likely still have them. So, let’s encourage  those who lead to find ways to engage their people instead of letting them just be an audience. 

But don’t rely on them. You improve your experience and engage.

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9 Ways to Make Online Meetings Work Better for You