Another day, another meeting, and sometimes several in a row. Even if in-person meetings were never your cup of tea, at least there was the slight chance of finding a decent snack spread or maybe some donuts. What used to be a little break from being chained to your desk, when you could walk down the hall and commune with your co-workers, is now all too often a brain-draining downer. Now with virtual meetings being the norm, the monotony can be mind-numbing. Zoom fatigue is real, and can affect all of us – and hear about it all the time when Clean Comedians performs at virtual events!
In addition to the physical distance that working from home adds to interpersonal communication difficulties, there’s also the problem of meeting ID and pass-code purgatory where we’re often stuck awaiting emails with new information, or finally figuring it out but showing up late and annoyed. So now that we’ve painted such a pretty picture, where do we go from here?
We can’t hold up the work that needs to be done and there are inevitably discussions between team members that should be had, so we must move onward! Lucky for all of us and our sanity, there are multiple ways to work against the Zoom and gloom that casts such a shadow over our work week. You can fight virtual meeting fatigue by creating an environment where people feel free to share, making sure you respect everyone’s time, and trying to insert a little fun wherever and whenever possible. We’ve compiled some stellar ideas that can use to help you fight online meeting fatigue and make sure remote work works for you.
See Related: 5 Ways To Effectively Lead Virtual Team Meetings
#1 Check-in Before They Check Out
As Depeche Mode noted in the mid-80s, people are people. We’re not just automatons checking off boxes on To Do lists, and mindlessly completing tasks. We need to feel seen, have a purpose, and connect with others in order to be and do our best. So next time you schedule a virtual meeting, think about how to kick it off in a way that gets people engaged in a more meaningful way then “what do you have on your plate this week?”
Since there’s no standing around the water cooler these days, how do we recreate the small talk that undergirds the social side of our working relationships? Well, even just sharing a fun fact – such as what you watched over the weekend – can convey a bit of who you are and what you enjoy doing. The importance of a quick check-in is that it enables everyone working from home to have their first few sips of coffee before having to list their goals for this week or accomplishments from last month.
We all appreciate a moment to arrive and acknowledge who we’re sharing a space with before doing the deep dive. So start off your meeting with some low stakes sharing. It could be something as simple as asking “what’s your favorite breakfast?” or “who’s your favorite musician?” Any semi-personal question will suffice. If you want it to be related to the content of the conversation you’re about to have, feel free, but it’s basically just a way to start people talking freely and engaging with each other before any of the more difficult or involved conversations occur.
#2 Look (at) Who’s Talking
A meeting via video call with Zoom generally means you’re staring at an overwhelming set of squares with little faces looking back at you. The tendency for most folks is to participate in meetings using the gallery view, but it’s important to focus on the facial expressions and really pay attention to the person speaking. And when you work from home you may need a little extra help with focus. So to avoid Zoom fatigue and overstimulating those eyeballs, encourage everybody (yourself included) to use speaker view. If you’re the host, you can also change up the settings and spotlight a speaker for all participants. This is one of the tips we’re taking from those who have had a lot of experience with remote meetings.
#3 Getting to know all about you…
In a traditional office environment, you’ll grow to know your teammates over time – and to a different degree – depending on proximity, roles, personal preferences, and more. Relationships are formed through quick jokes in the kitchen, casual sharing of stories, and sometimes deeper bonding moments that occur over months or years.
For those companies bringing in new employees during these remote working days, there’s an added challenge of welcoming and integrating them effectively. If your team members have already gotten to know each other in real life, then you’re at a great starting point, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. It’s still necessary to nurture relationships online now, just as you did in “real life” before (AKA IRL B4).
A fun way for folks to come to know each other a little better is to play a quick round of Two Truths and a Lie. If you’re not familiar with the game, Two Truths and a Lie is pretty much just that. Each person takes a turn and shares three things about him or herself (two of which are true, and one that is not). Then, everybody can hold up their finger (no – not that finger!) or fingers to indicate which one they think is the lie. For example, let’s say Gina states three things:
1: I was a cheerleader in high school
2: I once danced with Patrick Swayze
3: I can clap with a single hand
If people think she’s lying about the dance with Patrick Swayze then they would hold up two fingers. Gina would reveal which statement was the lie (“Number one was the lie” she’ll say as she claps with a single hand, “I actually did dance with Patrick Swayze!”). Everyone will remember that super fun fact about Gina and be able to say “Nobody puts Baby in the corner” for the next several weeks. It’s a fun way to see how creative your co-workers can be.
#4 Break it up…Break it up
Timing is key in so many situations, whether it’s comedy or counting to the beat. When it comes to virtual meetings timing is important in a couple ways. First off, you want to be respectful of every individual and all your teams’ time. This means you don’t let meetings drag on for hours (or even an hour if it only needs to be 15 minutes). You want to start on time and end on time. This shows respect for all the teams with which you work, and sets a good precedent.
If you do expect to touch upon several issues in a meeting and you think it will go long, this might mean you require some breaks. The good news is, everybody loves a break! Also, there’s some science that suggests taking breaks can help lower stress. And while there may be more than one person that can’t get behind a dance break, that doesn’t mean you can’t play some tunes. Even if someone doesn’t dig dancing, most everybody likes music. Next time, instead of saying, “Okay, take a five minute break,” how about blasting some Beatles or Bieber and letting folks know they can stand up, stretch, or disappear for the next three and a half minutes. When the song stops it’s time to be back in a seat. Sort of like musical chairs but everyone’s a winner, including you, because you just made break time a tad more festive.
#5 Captivating your crowd
Holding the attention of an audience is an asset that several professions spend time studying and practicing in order to perfect. So what exactly does it take? Well, it involves a number of factors, such as modulating your voice, making a personal connection, and employing solid storytelling techniques. Being a master of ceremonies or a seasoned emcee goes a long way in keeping the room or zoom energized! Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail.
Remember that expressing yourself includes using the full capacity of your voice, and you should be aware that slowing down can help punctuate your points, just as talking fast might take the energy up a notch. Using your volume wisely is another way to make sure your words reach your audience. Just remember nobody is a super fan of shouting.
When it comes to that personal connection, it may feel like more of a challenge over Zoom meetings, but never underestimate the power of name calling – wait – we mean that in a good way. There is increased activation in several areas of the brain when we hear the sound of our own name. So when you call out a colleague by name, it’s almost as if you’re tapping into some interpersonal superpower. They are instantly attentive and the wheels in their brain are already spinning.
Whenever you have the chance to tell a good story, take it! We’re wired to respond to stories in a way that helps us relate to and remember the content better than when it’s not in narrative form. Storytelling is an art in and of itself, and a skill that has been honed for generations. It’s just now instead of gathering around the warmth of the fire to listen, we meet ‘round the glow of the screen.
#6 Let’s Get Visual
As much as humans respond to storytelling, we react even more immediately to an image or video. While it’s hard to read the room when looking at a screen during remote meetings, as a speaker or presenter you can be sure to make an impact when you include visuals. Pictures or videos that change up the tempo of our meetings always seem to capture our attention.
Studies have shown that visual learning outperforms auditory learning in several studies. Visual cues connect to our emotions and lead to better recall. The more you can engage the senses, the more you engage the person. So consider including information in a visual manner. If there are details you’re afraid will slip through the cracks, just share that information via email before or after meetings, and let the chart, photo, or video be the focus during the meeting.
#8 Let the Games Begin
Sometimes teams require a reset. After work happy hours or office karaoke parties aren’t options that are currently available, but we still need team building. Of course it’s going to look a little different than it did before, but we should still try. Games can be a way to inject a jolt of joy in the work day. If it’s a trivia competition, try out this virtual buzzer option, which enables individuals to buzz in before they answer a question. It’s free for up to 8 people, and even then you can create teams to come in under the wire. It adds to the fun and makes it seem more official.
Or you could join the latest trend and try Among Us. A virtual meeting calls for a virtual game, after all. If you haven’t had the chance to check out this addictive, action packed app, just ask any nearby child about it (preferably one who won’t run away from you screaming “stranger danger,” so you know…maybe a kid you know). Among Us is a multiplayer murder mystery game that takes place somewhere in space. Players take on one of two roles, a majority being Crewmates, and a smaller number being Impostors. Then you either have the task of taking Crewmates out, or deciphering who the Imposters are. Once everybody has downloaded the app on their phone, you can stay on Zoom and start playing. Put a temporary ban on business-related comments and help your team focus on fun.
Check out these other options for helping teams have fun together online, whether it’s five or fifty people:
Keep Reading: 5 Ways To Effectively Lead Virtual Team Meetings
Adam Christing is a professional virtual magician, virtual entertainer, and the founder of CleanComedians.com. He is a member of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood and a popular virtual comedian, magician, and virtual speaker.