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The four main reasons for holding a meeting are – to solve complex problems, to create influence, to make decisions, and to form strong relationships – all of which are active processes. And since virtual meetings are passive in nature, they do not provide the best milieu when it comes to increasing employee participation. This article elaborates on the top 5 ways to encourage employee participation in virtual meetings.
1. The first-minute rule
Before you start talking about the problem at hand, you should make your team realize the gravity of the situation. There are three ways of doing this – statistics, anecdotes, and analogies. You can make virtual meetings very effective if you employ one or all of these strategies in the first minute. You can use the statistics strategy by providing a comparative graph displaying sales percentages of your competitor vs. yours. Or you can share an anecdote of how your customer service department failed to provide globally competitive prices that led to the loss of a huge chunk of customers. Or you can make an analogy of how wild dogs can kill a hyena, which is about twice as big as the former when they hunt in packs. The three strategies mentioned above will help you to make your point clear and ensure that your team empathetically understands the problem.
2. Counteracting the implicit decision-making rule
When people enter a social setting, they implicitly take up many roles. For example, when they enter a cricket stadium, they become an observer – they are there to watch the game. Or when they enter an e-gaming studio, they become an actor – they are there to play the game. The same happens when they participate in virtual meetings. They implicitly take the role of an observer. This is where you need to exercise restraint. But you cannot do so by simply saying “I need this session to be more of a conversation than a mere presentation.” No. This will be futile. Instead, you can encourage better participation by creating opportunities where your team members can take meaningful responsibility.
3. The diffusion of responsibility rule
Research indicates that if a thief steals your wallet in a subway, you are less likely to get help if the train is crowded. The diffusion of responsibility rule suggests that the more people are responsible for a task, the less each of them feels responsible to accomplish it. And virtual meetings are prone to this rule. Following are a few things you can do to break free from it:
- Break down teams in size of 2 to 3 members max.
- Assign engaging tasks to the team.
- Define problems in a way that doesn’t give your team reasons to hide rather allows them to collaborate and engage actively.
- Tell them about the apps they use to collaborate for the given task – Skype, Slack, Zoom, etc.
- Assign a limited time to the team to complete a given task.
4. The minimum slide rule
This rule suggests that you should prepare presentations with minimum slides. This helps improve team engagement by filtering non-important information. On the other hand, if you put slides after slides of data, statistics, and figures, it leads to passive engagement and defeats the purpose of the virtual meeting. Thus, if you have twenty minutes in your hand, you should try making your case in not more than 3 slides. Extra slides can be used to accomplish the objectives discussed in rules 1 to 3.
5. The 5 minutes task rule
To drive maximum employee engagement, you should employ the 5 minutes task rule. It will help your team to avoid procrastination and avoid them to implicitly take up the role of an observer as described in point 2. This rule suggests that you should divide an important task into subtasks of 5 minutes each. For example in a 20 minutes presentation, after every 5 minutes, you should ask your team members to do the following:
- Ask them to provide suggestions on the matter discussed
- Create a poll and ask them to vote
- Ask them to list down the most important problems they face on a daily basis
Since virtual meetings lack physical contact, they can turn passive and boring if due care is not taken. To avoid this and to encourage employee participation, the 5 ways discussed in this article will help you make the mark.
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Disclaimer: All the information, views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and their respective web sources and in no way reflect the principles, views or objectives of Sage Software Solutions (P) Ltd.
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