How to Make Virtual Meetings Less Robotic and More Human

 Have you struggled with connecting to people during an online meeting? 

  • Virtual meetings come with a new set of obstacles.
  • Ways to help virtual meetings become more human.

With virtual meetings occurring more often, we have been faced with a new set of obstacles. Learning how to develop a personal connection with an audience, how to feel natural, make people laugh and feel at ease, and have them fully engage are big obstacles we have had to face. But there are a few things to help make virtual meetings run a little smoother and not feel so robotic; making it personal, convey warmth and presence, get used to delayed feedback, and make it interactive. 

Oftentimes, a virtual setting can feel impersonal due to a lack of physical and psychological distance. Making little changes such as getting onto the meeting earlier to greet people as they pop up on the screen, engage in small talk prior to the meeting, and encourage people to turn on their video function to enhance that personal connection. Setting expectations prior to the meeting is important to help prepare everyone for the meeting.  Don’t forget to use people’s names when referring to them, invite them to participate, smile, laugh, and have an engaging tone.

Virtual meetings tend to make us feel less like humans and more like robots, therefore we need to bring a bit more warmth and presence.  Making sure to make eye contact with each participant to show that you are engaged and listening attentively helps to show you are engaged.  In-person settings have a distinct set of cultural rules and norms and not all settings are the same. Understanding what is appropriate and when is just as important as the context in the meeting. You still have to be very aware of your surroundings and what would be acceptable in a “normal” meeting, will still apply in a virtual meeting.  If a virtual meeting is more formal, make sure to start with a personal story, a poll or question, or ask people to write in where they’re calling from – allowing you to create a personal vibe within the setting.  

Learning new ways of receiving feedback is another obstacle that we face while presenting virtually. Oftentimes in-person meetings give us feedback visually to show us that people are engaged with the content we are providing them; nodding of the head, laughs, and certain types of engagement.  In an online environment, there isn’t often a way to move around a room to present and make sure people are engaged, therefore you don’t typically receive feedback until much later when you speak with event organizers. 

Making online and in-person presentations interactive are key to having a successful meeting in both worlds.  Using the chat function in an online setting allows viewers to interact and comment in real-time, allowing them to participate in the discussions.  Oftentimes you will find that those who normally wouldn’t participate in-person are more willing to provide their thoughts and insights online.  Another way to make an online meeting more interactive is by using the polling function at the beginning of the session – it helps to open up the discussion and get people involved and engaged early on. Utilizing the break-out rooms on Zoom allows you to instantaneously beam small groups of students into their own virtual chat rooms to discuss a case or problem before reporting to the larger group. 

While we are most comfortable during in-person meetings, online meetings still have many advantages, and learning how to adapt to using it is key to holding successful meetings. We are very fortunate to have the ability to stay connected and engaged during a time where fifty years ago we wouldn’t be able to do so. Link to Article