Thanks to COVID I think we all overdosed on virtual meetings!
For the majority of us having NO face to face meetings during lock down was a new phenomenon.
In the past we’ve all complained about the number and frequency of meetings that we were having in the office and now they were all conducted virtually. I’ve got to admit the number of meetings I was “attending” reduced drastically because people were now asking if a meeting was really necessary.
Those meetings that were necessary were all taking the form of online virtual meetings whether they were used to discuss a particular work issue, an idea or to just check in with your team during these unusual times. It’s also something that we started to include and address in the Management Training Courses that we were delivering. It was all change for sure!
Now that you’re relying more on virtual meetings you need to make sure that they don’t go a little stale especially if you’re having a daily check in with your team.
So how can we introduce a little more fun into our virtual meetings and at the same time create some connection and emotion with your team?
Well, I’ve had my own brainstorm, I’ve asked my contacts for ideas, I’ve also searched the internet and I’ve come up with a list of 25 virtual meeting ice breaker ideas and activities that you can steal.
I didn’t want to include any ideas that took long here.
The purpose of this particular list is to inject some short, sharp energy into the meeting either at the start, middle or end without you having to take an hour out of your day to work through it all.
You’d have a coffee and a natter in the office so why not have a virtual coffee? This is a favourite in my team. I’ll receive a quick chat message with “Fancy a coffee?” and I’ll reply with “I’ll put the kettle on”
A few minutes later we’re chatting via video having a drink together. This can be on a one to one basis or a group coffee. We love custard creams so there’s normally a few floating around on the screens amongst sips!
This is a useful mindfulness activity. Start your meeting by having everyone share 2 roses – these are things that are going well, any positives in your life right now, what’s making you happy or what you can be grateful for.
Ask them to also share a thorn. These are challenges or issues you are facing. They can be work or non-work related for both.
You then finish with a bud. A bud is what you have got to look forward to. These can be new ideas that have blossomed, new things you are going to try or experiences you want to have.
Having a discussion around these can be a really positive experience and they create a lot of energy and optimism.
Irrespective of what kind of week you’ve all had you can schedule a virtual meeting “down the Nags Head” for a drink after work at say 5.30pm or 6.00pm. This can be a local “virtual pub” or “virtual wine bar”
Get a glass of wine, beer or a soft drink and just chat and have a laugh.
Not one of my favourites I have to admit. That’s only because I don’t know where the cooker is in my house! (or so I’m told anyhow) But you agree as a group to cook some kind of cake and then during one evening you do so.
You report back at the start of your virtual meeting with the finished product. Just don’t ask me how you’ll taste them. This can create some great banter and is not too heavy. For those that can’t cook it can actually be a lot of fun especially if you beat everyone with your creation (looks wise at least!)
Someone acts as the host for this game and asks everyone to email a baby photo of themselves. Say between 12 and 36 months old. The host then gathers all of the baby photos together and pops them into a grid layout and annotates a number next to each.
The host then shares their screen with everyone and each participant jots down who they think the baby is.
Normally you only see the same background behind everyone when they are on a virtual call with you. If they’ve got a dedicated work space at home then they normally use that for all of their calls. Well, welcome to virtual cribs! Just like MTV cribs, you show people around your house! With this your team members can start to visualise the environment where you are working and people love to be nosy too! 😉
This is quick to set up and to play. Someone creates a 3 x 3 grid and within each grid puts something that the participants could have done. Here are some examples:
• Went to bed after 11.00pm last night
• Ate more than 4 biscuits the day before
• Did not shower until after 9.00am
You get the picture. Try and use statements that are realistic. Send the bingo card to everyone and see if anyone can make a line or a house!
Someone acts as the chair and selects 3 unusual emojis. They then share their screen and meeting participants have to guess the emoji! Simple, quick and fun!
For the brave and mad ones. You take it in turns across a number of weeks and someone plays a song and you all have to dance to it. Watching others dance on the screen as you’re dancing is a weird thing to do. Yes, I’ll admit it, I have tried this and the song that I chose was “Everything she wants” by George Michael!
Schedule a meeting. Get your lunch. Eat together. Simple! This can be at your desk, in the kitchen, in the garden, your dining room – wherever you want to each lunch. Have a good chat and eat at the same time.
Says exactly what it does on the tin. Simple and effective. Groan value is 10 out of 10 with most of the jokes I’ve heard (I won’t admit to the ones I really love which is most of them!)
Ask participants to get their mobiles out and to take a picture of something. Whoever is “in the chair” selects what that is.
Here are some ideas:
• Your view right now looking forward
• What’s on the wall to your right
• Your desk
• Outside your house or flat
• Your fridge
• Your TV
Share what you’ve got with everyone else and you’ll naturally chat and have banter about them.
With this you select something at random. For example it could be “Show a random item that is on your desk or within reach right now”
Or “Show a random item that people would be surprised that you have it”
This always creates plenty of interest and a few surprises!
Most people have a bucket list of goals that they would like to achieve or experience in life. Ask team members to share one item or more from their list with the rest of the team.
You might be surprised with some of the answers or indeed you might be able to help them achieve it.
Share with your team members what’s on your desk right now. This helps them to build up a picture in their mind of the environment around you (plus how messy your desk is!)
“Your Song” might have been written by Elton John but was it the last song that you listened to? With this icebreaker you play the last song you listened to with the rest of the team. It might throw up some surprises and some memories as well.
I’m a massive movie fan so I’m always up for this one. Just like with a book club you all take it in turns to select a movie, you all watch it independently and then spend say 10-15 minutes having a chat about it.
A couple of days before a virtual check in, ask your team members to brainstorm their ideas for a particular topic that will improve the team, the business or a process. Have a discussion around these.
Some examples could be:
If you could watch only one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?
If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?
If you could only talk to one person for the rest of your life who would that person be?
If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life what song what it be?
Get the picture?
Select a couple, go around the team and see what comes up!
This is a useful exercise to share some of your anxiety and worries. You can feel a little isolated working from home and with everything going on it’s useful to share your emotions. Chances are, most people will be feeling the same way so in some respects it can make you feel a little “better” knowing that it’s just not you and everyone is in the same boat.
Be careful for it not to end up a doom and gloom session but it can really help from a well-being and mental health perspective to share your emotions with everyone.
Share with everyone what you wanted to be when you “grew up”
It might throw up some surprises. People look gobsmacked when I say that I wanted to be a professional snooker player. That’s all I ever wanted to be (sighs)
This sounds a bit odd but it isn’t. Imagine that you are speed dating with yourself and you had to describe yourself in just one sentence. That sentence had to describe who you are and what you are all about. What would you say?
That’s the task that you would set everyone before the virtual meeting. It’s a really useful exercise to complete actually. It really gets you to think.
It’s great to hear from everyone in your team and how they describe themselves because you are always comparing that to how you would describe them in your head.
One of my team came up with this during a recent away day and you can easily replicate it in the virtual world. For every team member on the call you write down 3 positive qualities that they possess and you share them with each other.
Watch as their chest puffs out. With all of the negativity and worry flying around the moment it can be a much needed confidence booster for everyone.
Being isolated means that we can bottle things up or feel like we’ve got to tackle things on our own. This shouldn’t be the case. Ask team members to reveal an area that other members could help them with. It could be a task or a piece of advice. Personal or business.
If there are going to be 7 people on your virtual meeting then ask each member to email a question to the “host” beforehand or you can just go for it and take it in turns to ask a question to everyone on the call.
It’s got to be something where it helps you to get the other person better.
So questions like the following could be used:
If you’re looking for additional help in terms of virtual working then we have a great guide on How To Listen To What People Don’t Say On A Virtual Meeting and also How To Manage Homeworkers.
I hope you can use some of those ideas to help inject some life into your virtual meetings? Running effective online meetings is a very popular topic with the Management Webinars that we run and also the Online Management Training options that we provide.
When the dust settles I wonder if we will go back to the old ways of cramming as many face to face meetings into our days that we can or whether online meetings will be the new norm?
Only time will tell!
Originally published: 11 April, 2020
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