With social distancing here to stay, a new challenge is emerging for internal comms leaders, how do you create bigger scale virtual team events? Handling an hour-long briefing is all very well, but what of bigger brainstorming sessions that in the old days would have involved a day or half-day all together?
Here are ten effective ways to connect with your colleagues:
1) Create a clear structure.
A well-thought out plan is vital for flow and professionalism. Your audience will lose interest if you’re wasting time deciding what to do next. Physical events taking planning, virtual events even more so. You can’t hold the attention of the room in the same way through a screen. So, planning is key to success – and as part of that be on top of the technology and make sure your audience is on top of the tech too.
2) Provide a guide.
Once you’ve planned your event, creating a clear guide is vital. Giving colleagues information in advance will boost engagement and interest. We created a Radio Times-style guide for one of our clients, which was eye-catching, useful and helped to successfully promote the event. The team need tools beforehand that signal the point of the meeting, what will happen on the day, what their input is expected to be and what the benefits of the day will be.
3) Be visual.
Consider sharing videos and using images to help illustrate what’s being said. (Nobody wants to watch Bob scratch his nose for an hour.) Again, this is an area where you probably need more content to make the meeting engaging than you would have if you were all in the same room. Visual stimulation will keep energy levels up.
4) Give people a voice.
Communication shouldn’t be a one-way street. Empower colleagues by encouraging questions and thoughts (whether that’s in advance or on the day of the event) and make it clear what you want them to talk or ask questions about. (If you want to know what people really think, use the new anonymous comment feature on Teams Live Events. It can be effective, some might feel too effective.)
5) Factor in screen breaks and consider splitting the event.
People can only spend so much time in front of a video conference screen. So, factor in some screen breaks where people rest or work off screen before rejoining. And if you are looking to do a day-long event, maybe consider splitting it into two half-day sessions.
6) Include something fun.
With most physical events a key ingredient is the time spent networking around the main talks and presentations. Try to replicate that. For instance, include a breakout yoga session or a quiz to help shake things up. (One of our clients included a HIIT workout as part of their event).
7) Include the leaders.
Colleagues want updates straight from the horse’s mouth and hearing directly from leaders helps them to feel valued. Getting leaders involved helps add a sense of purpose to a virtual meeting. But take time to get the choreography right in advance. For instance, avoid showcasing leaders’ homes – people may not react well to seeing their boss’s vast garden when they’re stuck in a cramped flat.
8) Use peer-to-peer interactions.
While hearing from the leadership is good, showing the team doing the thinking is key to building ownership of the messages. When deciding who should speak or present, encourage people of all levels to participate. Colleagues often pay more attention when it’s their work mate speaking. But alongside that, remember that not everyone needs to speak or ask a question to prove that they’re engaged and listening. Forcing people to speak when they don’t have anything else to add is uncomfortable.
9) Be positive.
The quickest way to lose colleagues’ attention is by bringing them down when they’ve been working hard. By celebrating the wins and focusing on new exciting possibilities, you’ll boost morale and inspire confidence and creativity.
10) Have clear outcomes.
We’ve all got stuff to do, and if your team is going to devote time to an online event, it needs to be clear what the outputs are. Recap on them as the event unfolds and follow-up with learnings and actions afterwards so the team can feel the ongoing relevance.
Need more expert advice on how to create great internal communications? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
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