2021

Maximizing Virtual Team Engagement

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We’ve all seen the funny social media videos that depict people, at home, in their pajamas holding their cat while they crack open a spiked seltzer at 5PM on a Zoom call. That’s because the engagement level when managing entire teams in a virtual setting can be a challenge, now more than ever. Sitting in a conference room with coworkers forced engagement – if you grabbed your phone to send a text, your boss would see you. This held people accountable by force.

Today, however, people don’t have to be accountable in that way – and you will never know on the other end of your computer. That’s why this ‘new normal’ needs to allocate particular time and resources to maximizing team engagement in a virtual learning development setting. Catching people’s attention and holding it while sitting in their living room with their TV on in the background is critically important. But, fear not, it’s also very doable if you focus your efforts on the right things.

Are your people 100% focused on what you’re saying and presenting, or are they really standing in their kitchens making lunch? Are they 100% focused or doing their emails or other tasks in the background?  Are they 100% focused or drifting their thoughts elsewhere?  If you do not have their attention, they are not retaining the information shared with them. There will be no engagement and application of what tasks need to be done down the line after the presenting is done with no information. Therefore the most fundamental mission of whoever is presenting in a meeting gaining attention.

Step 1: Holding People’s Attention as the Presenter

The first line of defense in losing attention is reflecting on yourself, the presenter. If you want to hold people’s attention, then you need to look like it. Dress for success and pretend that you were heading to a physical presentation room, just like pre-COVID, pre-virtual working times. Turn your camera on and sit up straight – slumping will communicate lethargic energy that is anything but captivating. Have proper lighting illuminating your face so that viewers can see your expressions and eye connection. Clean up the view behind you, make it look nice, and appear like you actually want to be giving the presentation.

Step 2: Refining the Presentation Itself

Your presentation itself needs to be made in a way that holds attention. It can’t just dive right into intense details that are hard to follow and overall dull. You need to take a step back and reflect on basic adult learning principles: global versus specific. There are people who are global learners and there are people who are specific learners. There is very little crossover between the two. Global learners are people that need to see the big picture and where something is going. Specific learners are people that need details, lists, or a step-by-step action plan on how to get to the big picture, the end goal.

To appeal to both learners, you need to start off with the big picture in a presentation to catch the global learners. Simply creating a slide of the meeting agenda, for example, and provide an overarching view of what will be discussed. There needs to be some big picture framework before you throw thousands of details at the global learners.

For the detailed specific learners, think about making the presentation interactive in some way focused around the details, stepwise process, or task list. Have questions in the slides that you ask people who are attending the meeting. This will make them feel like they can’t leave their computer as they don’t want to miss any details.

Step 3: Adding in Something Surprising

You don’t have to perform an entire magic show to catch an adult’s attention. But, think about your non-work life to provide a human connection via a metaphor or example in your presentation. People will appreciate your creativity and one of the most techniques to increase the memory of new information is storytelling. A fun or light-hearted element can make a presentation go a really long way, primarily if it is centered on an overall dry topic.

Conclusion

Virtual learning, virtual presentations, and virtual meetings may come with new challenges and obstacles. Still, follow these three steps above. You will be much more likely to catch the majority of your team member or participants’ attention when you embark on any training and development or virtual team meeting.

For more information on learning development for virtual teams and leading virtual teams, please visit our website to learn more.