Five ways to be more intentional with virtual meetings

Screenshot from the end of the recent Adapting to Covid webinar, hosted by me and Emma Proud

1. Have a clear purpose

A purpose is not the same as an agenda. A good purpose will tell you not only what you’re trying to achieve, but also what you won’t be discussing.

Photo by Gabriel Benois on Unsplash

2. Work as a team of co-hosts

One of the pleasures of hosting Adapting to Covid (a workshop about how the international development sector might respond to Covid-19), was working with Emma Proud to plan and co-facilitate the workshop (see her tweets about how we designed it).

3. Experiment with break-out rooms

  • At the beginning of a session, split people into pairs for a few minutes to respond to a prompt together. Then rinse and repeat with different pairs. This is the essence of impromptu networking and gets people used to being whisked away in breakout rooms.
  • Give a group of 4–6 people longer to talk and go deeper into a topic in a ‘Conversation Cafe’ format. For this one, you’ll need to give clear instructions in advance in the chat and/or on a slide.
  • Give groups a task to do together and ask them to record their ideas on a slide.
  • You can even replicate an Open Space session (or a party) by making everyone a ‘co-host’ meaning they have the ability to move themselves between breakout rooms.

4. Consider the medium of the conversation

In a normal face to face conversation, the medium is air. Sometimes we might write on sticky notes or a whiteboard, which helps us have a common understanding of what ideas are emerging and where we have agreement or disagreement. Often one person will be taking notes that are shared afterwards.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

5. Expect things to take longer

A delay while someone installs Zoom. A poor internet connection when housemates are watching Netflix. Confusion from instructions not quite being clear. There are all sorts of reasons for delays in virtual meetings. Rather than feeling anxious that the time you’re spending together isn’t ‘productive’ — remember that there is plenty of spaciousness in in-person meetings too.

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Jamie Pett

Facilitation, complexity, learning and network weaving. Board Co-chair @ RESULTS UK. Founder @ LondonLIDN. Associate @ Curiosity Society. he/his/him