Meeting Expectations: Working Digital Engagement Platforms to your Advantage

nailing virtual meetings 1

The Great Room invites communications strategist Tan Shou Chen and voice and presentation coach Petrina Kow to share insights on nailing those virtual meetings.

Video-conferences and meetings seemed like the perfect solution in the age of social distancing. But are they? Slow servers and poor internet connection can easily kill the momentum of a discussion; a whirring fan in the background of one attendee becomes a distraction for everybody; and let’s not even start on “Zoom fatigue”, which has become a trending topic. This isn’t to say that we cannot interact and engage as effectively virtually though – we simply need to work the medium to our advantage. Over a series of three Webinars, communications strategist Tan Shou Chen and voice and presentation coach Petrina Kow showed The Great Room’s co-working members exactly how to do that.

Here are some of their insights:

Know the medium

Do you find yourself speaking louder when faced with a larger Zoom room group? That’s because our brains are wired to tell us to do so in group settings. Yet, there is absolutely no need to do so in virtual meetings , regardless of the number of attendees. “You don’t have to do a stadium emcee shout out – because your audience is alone,” says Petrina, illustrating one of the many ways virtual meetings are different from conventional ones. “Whether there are three attendees or 25, the message is still being delivered to the attendees as solo individuals.” Being aware of the differences such as this is critical, for only then can you adapt and adjust to its quirks – and work it to your advantage.

Minimise distractions

“Unlike physical meetings where the environment is controlled and purpose-built, virtual meeting rooms are mediated by technology, and has a lot more distractions,” highlights Shou Chen. “For example, whenever a participant in a Zoom call says something – and it could just be an unconscious ‘OK’ – everybody else is cut off.” While distractions from other meeting participants are not within your control, you certainly can help yourself still: “But don’t let technology sabotage you: invest in better equipment, have somebody give you feedback so you know how you sound, or if you tech is not working,” shares Shou Chen.

Structure for success

Given that the interruptions in virtual meetings are a lot more pronounced, having a clear agenda and meeting plan becomes especially important. This helps everybody to focus, and also allows the host to think about how to leverage on the tech tools to make the session more effective. “For example, at a presentation-heavy Zoom session, the host could mute all participates during the first part; and then unmute-all when proceeding to the discussion after the presentation,” illustrates Shou Chen.

Ways of seeing

“Use the right medium for your goal. If you don’t need to do a video call – don’t,” says Shou Chen. So, if the objective is just to download information to a group, hold a webinar. And let’s not forget the good old phone call either – in fact, Shou Chen facilitated this interview over a three-way call. Petrina also highlights that appearing in front of a camera can be a source of anxiety for some. “While seeing somebody on the screen gives that extra warmth to the interaction, there are many reasons why some people might not want to turn on their camera. If possible, give people options about what they are comfortable with,” she says.

More than ever, virtual meetings have also made us more aware of how we look and sound – and some of us might not be exactly happy with what we see and hear. “Some people literally cringe when they hear themselves, but you have to be kind to yourself and not judge yourself,” says Petrina. “Rather than get more self-conscious about how you look or sound, be more concerned about how you feel when you are presenting. Your emotions feed your voice, so you should be feeling good while making a presentation, rather than be in a state of heightened stress.”

Be authentic. Be human.

“The camera does not lie. In fact, it enhances the truth,” says Shou Chen, illustrating the heightened need for authentic communication in virtual meetings. This is an impetus to hone your charisma – not just as a presenter, but also as a person.

“A crying child might be seen as an interruption because of the boundaries we used to draw between work and our private life. But with people working from home, that line is blurred. While it is the employee’s responsibility to commit to their work in this new setting, that an employee can’t even take two minutes out from a meeting to settle a domestic issue says something about a company’s culture,” says Shou Chen. “If you are in a position of leadership and you are positive with how you deal with the distractions, it sends a strong message across,” echoes Petrina.

Just as the human approach guides the design of every of The Great Room’s venues, it takes a human touch to transform meetings over digital platforms into meaningful sessions that connect both hearts and minds.