I think it’s safe to say that we all have a lot on our plates right now. What with juggling our careers, family, running a household, job hunting or starting a new job, navigating the many online platforms we must now use and working remotely alone in our homes.
All this and much more and with the backdrop of a global pandemic.
It is not surprising that everything can become a bit overwhelming at times to say the least.
So, the way that we communicate with one another has become even more important. We need to be more mindful of the way we connect and interact with one another more so than ever before. And the way we are communicating these days is predominately online.
How do we make sure that when we are communicating online, we still feel connected with one another on a human level?
The following three examples answer this question. I encourage you to read to the end because I will share 5 top tips on how to ensure your online meetings are connecting and energizing!
I am a learning facilitator, and I facilitated a workshop for a group of fourteen participants over two days. We were focusing on tools that can be used to make business writing more effective. One participant had only been with the organization for five months. I ended up speaking to her in the break. It was nice to get to know her a little more; even nicer because this was something we hadn’t planned or expected it just happened naturally. She was from India, had spent two years working in Paris, and had come to Singapore five years ago. In those short, light conversations we learned a little more about each other; nothing too personal but we connected.
That same lady stayed after the workshop and shared that she hadn’t wanted to come to the training. In fact, she kept asking her manager to cancel her registration. Her manager said: “Are you certain?” and at the last minute she changed her mind and came to the workshop. She shared that she was really glad she had changed her mind because she really enjoyed the workshop and learnt a lot. This made my day!
What did I learn?
Make that extra effort to engage in light conversation during the break times and get to know those participants as people. The learning experience is not just the content you are presenting or the activities you are getting participants to engage with. The spaces in between are just as important to build that rapport and get to know the learners more. This of course doesn’t just apply to a learning environment; it applies to any online meeting in any organisation.
Key Learning Takeaway: Spend time connecting as people first before getting down to business.
When Covid-19 began, like many organisations, we had to get our products online quickly. This meant for us that all the face-to-face workshops we had been used to delivering had to be converted to online delivery. However, none of the trainers had done this before. So, I led an initiative of Weekly Zoom Labs. All the team would meet every Wednesday and choose a topic that they would deliver to the rest of us over Zoom.
There was a deep sense of camaraderie created in these Zoom Labs; we were all in the same boat, not confident of delivering in a virtual space. But this was a place where we could come together, voice our difficulties, explore, and make mistakes without judgement.
On reflection, of course we were picking up the technical skills, but these labs were so much more than that. It was a space where we could connect and communicate openly and honestly. We looked forward to them, it was a high point in the middle of the week where we could see familiar faces and check in with everyone. After the session, I always felt re-energized and more positive about delivering online.
What did I learn?
I learnt the importance and value in creating a learning community and this was an initiative that reflected the words of Helen Keller: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
The importance of creating a safe space to allow for exploration, experimentation, and making mistakes along the way with others that are cheering you on.
There is power in meeting every week at the same time and on the same day that creates a momentum of positive energy and a routine that is comforting in times of great change.
In this example, I was the participant. The facilitator was someone who I had been connected with on LinkedIn for quite some time but had never met in person or online. I was looking forward to seeing her and more energized when she had remembered something I posted about a week before on the fact that butterflies had a special meaning to me. She acknowledged this by saying something along the lines of “now something will appear on the slides that Lisa will appreciate.” It was a butterfly! This comment made me smile, it was a nice feeling that she had remembered this about me. This brings me to another key point about connecting with people in a meaningful way, try to remember what they have told you about themselves and refer to it at a later point; this makes people feel special.
In summary, my top tips for ensuring your online communication is connecting and energizing:
1. Identify the spaces where rapport can be developed and take the initiative to reach out, ask a question to connect with others.
2. Spend time connecting as people first before getting down to business.
3. Create a safe and supportive space where everyone can experiment without fear of making a mistake, encourage and cheer people on.
4. Schedule regular weekly meetings to create a positive momentum of energy.
5. Acknowledge and refer to little bits of information that people share with you and be curious. Ask open questions and get to know each other more; you may be surprised at all the things you have in common!
Imagine if we were all a little more intentional in our online communication so that every interaction was more connecting and energizing, what a difference that would make to people’s lives in these very challenging of times.