Short bursts of content, followed by engagement opportunities, also work well for online meetings. According to Cohen, research suggests that meeting leaders should introduce a new problem for participants to think about or solve every five minutes to maintain attention in an online environment. “You have to incorporate engagement opportunities at a much higher rate than in a traditional setting,” said Cohen.
Not to be overlooked is the need for people to decompress and interact. “Virtual coffees or happy hours mimic the type of closeness we feel in a social environment and help retain and foster human connections,” observed Cohen. In addition, the use of anecdotes and personal recognition is vital to creating balance in a virtual environment, he added. Addressing people by name makes a difference, as does asking quieter participants for their thoughts and opinions. All of this, he noted, increases the audience’s interest and participation level.
Cohen recommends spending about the same amount of time in your online meetings as you do for those in-person. Don’t micromanage in the absence of face-to-face interaction. “Especially in challenging times, you want your team to feel trusted and supported,” he said. “Communicate your expectations in advance, and schedule regular check-ins to resolve issues and keep people motivated.”
Lastly, this difficult time should not deter people from continuing to develop professionally, said Cohen. Indeed, he suggests that team leaders schedule virtual meetings to discuss articles or books, host interactive workshops, and exchange best practices. “Now is the time for all of us to grow and improve our skills,” he said. “These online discussions will benefit organizations and lead to a stronger workforce once the crisis has resolved.”