Fostering Inclusion & Collaboration in Virtual Meetings

Fostering Inclusion & Collaboration in Virtual Meetings

As “Zoom fatigue” takes over, you may find yourself between a rock and a hard place – what do you do when everyone is tired of Zoom meetings and video conferencing, but you still need to talk “face-to-face” with your teams to collaborate on upcoming projects? Maintaining a good group dynamic when everyone is in the same office is tough enough, but doing so in a virtual platform can require some extra work from the leaders and participants in every Zoom meeting. Here are some tips for fostering inclusion in virtual meetings.

Realize and Address the Challenges of Each Member’s Environment

As a virtual meeting host, it is good to start with manageable expectations and a great way to do this is by addressing the fact that everyone is working in a diverse environment right now.

Before the meeting, it’s always a good idea to let participants know about the date, time, and expectations for the meeting.

Living situations can complicate virtual meetings and cause unnecessary interruptions – giving your team some heads up can allow them time to make arrangements and create a comfortable meeting space in their home or remote office area.

Roommates, children, spouses, pets – all are distractions that can annoy or even embarrass team members during a virtual meeting. Giving everyone time to plan for the meeting can help foster inclusion by allowing them to create a place that is comfortable for them to join the meeting from their diverse remote environments.

Counteract Isolation by Offering Micro-Affirmations

Micro-affirmations are comments employers and team leaders use to recognize the achievements of others and to increase general professional interest in team members’ accomplishments and expertise.

Take some time to focus on and draw attention to those great ideas and inputs that come up during meetings. It creates an open space for others in your meeting to do the same and allows each team member to see the value in their teammates and also encourages feedback and participation in future meetings.

Build Structured Participation and Leverage Technology to Foster Inclusion

It’s relatively easy to build some structured participation into your virtual meeting. You can prepare specific discussions and have different team members start them or you can incorporate some round-robin strategies. An easy way to do that is to state outright that you would like to hear from everyone in the meeting. Prompt people to take the space they need to voice their opinions in whatever way works best for them.

You can also include other technology, like polls, anonymous Google feedback forms, and other applications and websites that give team members the space to submit opinions in a low-pressure way.

Looking for Ways to Optimize Your Team Meetings?

Need help organizing or educating your global team? Switching to a better collaboration tool? Meet Me In The Cloud is your go-to resource for white-glove support and training of collaboration services and tools.

Whether you need training and education, event assistance, or other collaboration-based support and service, contact us today.

Tips to Foster Technology Adoption

Tips to Foster Technology Adoption

No matter what stage of technology or collaboration tool implementation your business may be in, there are ways to prime your employees for change and increase adoption. Here are some helpful ways to foster technology adoption in your workplace.

Communication

There’s a lot more to communicating a technology change with your employees and coworkers than just sending an email announcement that reads “Effective January 1, all employees will need to have XYZ training completed for [new technology] implementation. On January 15, we will be removing [old technology].”

There are plenty of ways to communicate plans and prime your employees for these changes in ways that don’t stunt progress at the utilization stage, without reaching full adoption.

One of the first things you should communicate to those teams that will be affected by the change is the in-depth analysis that can help them understand why this new technology will be better, smoother, or more helpful than the current technology or collaboration system.

As you progress through the process, you can maintain that high level of communication by keeping your team in the loop about training days, any helpful resources you may have for them, and upcoming deadlines for testing and implementing the new technology or tool.

Conversely, this communication channel needs to flow backward. If your team members or employees are concerned about skill gaps they may have in regard to learning this new tool or apprehension about losing vital functions in the transition, make sure you are available to hear and address these concerns as they arise.

Identify and Boost Early Adopters and Enthusiasts

Before you start the implementation or training processes, you should identify those within your workforce who are eager to start using this new tool, and those who may have prior experience using the tool at other jobs or for personal reasons. These people should ideally be from different backgrounds and departments so they can more easily spread their enthusiasm to all corners of your business.

Once you’ve identified these people, you can use them to build anticipation for the training sessions and the new tool launch, assist with troubleshooting and after-training questions or issues, and encourage others to use and make the most of your new tool.

Determine Your Approach

There are a few different ways you can launch this new technology to fit with your company’s culture and to ensure your employees are more easily encouraged to dive into learning and using the tool.

You can create a big bang, approaching the launch as a huge celebration where decision-makers in your company will have a chance to address questions and concerns while keeping the atmosphere exciting and positive.

You can keep it more casual and organize an informative company-wide meeting to present the changes and plans you have for the new tool launch.

For a fun approach, you can decorate office spaces and come up with interactive game-based incentives for learning initiatives and activities.

Work to Foster Technology Adoption with MMITC

Will your team need training or support as you implement a new collaboration tool? Meet Me In The Cloud is your go-to resource for white-glove support and training of collaboration services and tools.

Whether you need training and education, event assistance, or other collaboration-based support and service, contact us today.

Running Your Business in a Virtual World: 3 Tips

Running Your Business in a Virtual World: 3 Tips

How do you run a business in a virtual world? In a normal year, your business faces challenges related to performance, collaboration, and management. The emergence of COVID-19 likely meant your business had to make some big, unexpected pivots this year.

The scramble for quick remedies is over, but the effects of these changes are now a part of the global workforce permanently. So what does the virtual workplace look like and how can you take advantage of these technologies?

New Virtual World and Workplace

The unprecedented shift to remote work across nearly all industries has not only created communication challenges, but it highlights and exacerbates the pitfalls in collaboration that were just as present in the office a year ago.

It is common now for employees who frequently collaborate to be located in different time zones, with different workspace and internet setups, and widely displaced work schedules. So what can you do to lead your business to success?

Practice Transparency to Increase Communication

First and foremost, re-establishing trust between the employer and the employee should be a top priority. With great flexibility comes great responsibility, but creating a rigorous or strict set of protocols or procedures can lead to resentment on the part of your team, many of whom didn’t ask for this situation any more than you did. And the first thing those resentful employees will do is pull back on their communication efforts.

Much of this trust can be built through transparency – if you are open and communicative with your team(s), they will be more willing to use those communication channels more frequently and effectively.

What does transparency look like? It means checking in with your team in less formal ways – some ways you can do that include creating short, weekly video calls with employees to really listen to their issues, and to provide feedback on the items that need to be addressed.

If you create these opportunities through less focused means, like a group or team chat or forum, you’ll likely get less valuable feedback, and some members may not participate in the forum discussions at all. With a video call, you are able to read body language and vocal cues to really hone in on those employees who are struggling with parts of their new virtual environment.

Promote Informal Conversations

It seems counterintuitive, but creating spaces with the sole purpose of facilitating informal interactions can also help boost virtual collaboration and communication.

Informal and spontaneous interactions are a vital piece of the work-life balance puzzle. There are many ways to do this. You can create video meetings to catch up on the current events in your coworkers’ lives – commiserate about the difficulties of working at home while your children are also doing online schooling, talk about seasonal plans or other current events.

Try hosting a virtual “happy hour” meeting, or even creating a “Q&A” forum, where you can post questions as prompts – say, every Friday – and allow your team members to discuss.

And don’t give up on the purposeful socials – while you can’t have a Christmas carry-in remotely, you can still find other engaging ways to celebrate milestones and holidays.

“These activities increase the ‘surface area’ of your interpersonal relationships at work and drive a faster rate of action,” according to an article by the MIT Sloan Management Review.

Make the Most of Your Technology

Collaboration tools can open new lines of communication, but they can also do so much more. Many tools like Webex and Microsoft Teams can help you build rich project- or team-based platforms where you can share data, multimedia files, videos, meeting notes, and more.

In-person project meetings use a host of technologies to help all team members see the big picture – financial forecasts and other data analytics, slideshow or video presentations, memos, Q&A sessions, brainstorming, and other creative exercises.

These things do not have to be reduced to long emails with lots of confusing attachments that you will send and hope everyone reads before the conference call. You can help your team create virtual ways to make the most of each individual’s abilities and contributions by training everyone on the vast functions of your collaboration tool and also by using these functions yourself.

The Virtual World is Yours – We Can Help You Optimize It

Meet Me In The Cloud is your go-to resource for white-glove support and training of collaboration services and tools.

Whether you need training and education, event assist, or other collaboration-based support and service, contact us today.

Will Corporate Conferences Make a Comeback?

Will Corporate Conferences Make a Comeback?

2019 may be the last year that will seem “normal” for quite some time. Industries, institutions, governments, countries – the whole world will be feeling the effects of COVID-19 for years to come. But what does that mean for corporate conferences?

COVID and Conferences

Professional, annual, and corporate conferences of all shapes and sizes were hit hard this year. Those that had the misfortune of being scheduled near the beginning of the pandemic shutdowns in March were simply canceled. Later events were postponed, sometimes more than once, in the hopes that things would get “back to normal” soon.

As the summer months came, businesses, schools, and governments started pivoting away from “getting back to normal” in favor of creating a “new normal”. And corporate events were no exception. Those professionals hosting and planning conferences who had decided to wait it out to see if the later months of 2020 would be better for their events have realized it’s not going to happen. At least – not in the way they happened pre-COVID.

They were left with two choices: cancel the 2020 corporate conference and try again – hopefully – in 2021, or host the conference online.

Can We Afford to “Wait It Out”?

One of the biggest problems with “waiting it out” to see if COVID-19 will go away is there are no clear timelines for this pandemic. Just like those events that were rescheduled – and then rescheduled again – there is no way to know for sure that waiting until 2021 will guarantee your conference of 1,200 people will be feasible in a single physical location.

Many of the businesses hit hardest this year failed to pivot their offerings and business practices to account for social distancing and shutdown guidelines. Those who did pivot, while many still experienced losses (especially in the early months of the pandemic), are hoping to keep their doors open for another year.

The big question is: if you wait it out and next year looks much the same as the last few months, have you missed an opportunity to salvage some of your conference business this year and be ready for whatever 2021 brings?

Migration to Digital

Necessity has driven many events to online platforms this year, but why was this not a more popular option in the past? The technology has been around for years. 

An interview by Brink News with Tony D’Amelio (a 50-year veteran of the corporate event industry) cites “lack of user comfort” for the slow adoption process.

New technology is divisive. You have people who want to jump in and use the tech right away, and there are others who think the well-worn path is best. All that changed this year when jobs, classrooms, and even grocery shopping had to jump ship and grab onto that virtual hosting life raft to stay afloat. Out of necessity, virtual platforms and online meetings are now a common, trusted tool for conducting business.

Corporate Conferences in the Digital Landscape

Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams – these platforms are now the forefront of communication and virtual conferences. As these tools evolve, they continue to add features that enhance the value of online or virtual conferences.

Some benefits of online conferences can help offset costs and increase attendee engagement. There’s no need to spend thousands of dollars on a venue – participants can attend sessions in the comfort of their own home or office.

Big-name presenters are still just as sought-after, but now, everyone has a front-row seat. There’s no rush to get a good seat in the auditorium, no straining to hear the speaker in a room with too many chairs and bad acoustics.

Even networking events can be hosted on many of these platforms. While nothing will beat those in-person mixers and trade show conversations, many software developers are creating virtual rooms that can mirror these big gatherings.

Take Your Event Online with Meet Me In The Cloud

Hosting an online event, like hosting an in-person event, will never be without its difficulties. But with the right guidance and training, your virtual corporate conference could be just as good as your last physical event.

Need help organizing your online conference? Let Meet Me In The Cloud help with their collection of event assist services.

Virtual Events You Should Be Hosting

Virtual Events You Should Be Hosting

Through the summer, we’ve seen a massive migration from in-person meetings and conferences to online or virtual events. Unsure if your event can be successfully held online? Here are some examples of the many events you can host virtually.

Corporate All-Hands Meetings

An all-hands meeting is a company-wide event that promotes transparency, celebrates milestones, and encourages alignment of goals and strategies. Whether your team is in-house or spread all over the world, having an online all-hands meeting can keep everyone on the same page, no matter their current work environment.

All-hands meetings tend to have many moving parts like multiple speakers and slideshow presentations. You could consider hiring an event services business to help you with the planning and execution of this crucial event.

Large Conferences

Concerts, large conferences, wedding receptions – who knew these would be a bad idea to host in-person in 2020? Large gatherings have been discouraged for the rest of the year and beyond, but if you are a professional conference host, you likely can’t afford to lose your audience for this event. And your audience likely can’t afford to miss the event for professional, educational, compliance, and networking reasons.

Large conference events are perfect for online platforms if you have the right tools and knowledge. Virtual events can be customized for any audience, any time. Create conference sessions in much the same way you’d do it in a convention center or hotel – set up a schedule of events and create online “rooms” for attendees to join.

Make your session itinerary available early for attendees and let them pick and choose what is of interest to them. There are even conference apps that can foster networking, note-taking, and conversation.

Virtual City Council Meetings

The work doesn’t stop, even in a disaster or pandemic. And city council meetings are necessary for the function of every community. You can plan all city council meetings virtually, which can help boost attendance and alleviate commute-based conflicts. Virtual meetings can also garner more participation from the council, as each member can be highlighted through video feeds and chat options. Everyone can speak up in whatever way is most comfortable.

By hosting online, city councils can offer chat- or email-based real-time question and answer sessions to directly address citizens’ issues.

Webinars

Are you a little nervous about hosting your biggest annual conference online? Why not break the sessions out into webinars?

Webinars are short online events, typically done for classes with specific topics. You can do a single webinar, or host a small series that focuses on the same theme. This is a great way to add some flexibility to your online offerings. You can schedule the same webinar at different times, and since the information and presentation are the same, you know what to expect each time you host. It’s a great way to test the waters of virtual event planning while still providing valuable information and training for your customers.

Online Fundraisers

Do you normally host a benefit for your local children’s hospital? Throw a gala to raise money for your town’s library, fire department, or place of worship?

Moving fundraisers to an online platform means a larger audience reach. Those who can’t or won’t come to the physical event may feel more comfortable watching and participating from the comfort of their home. You can showcase musical acts or skits, give speeches, or even offer silent auction and chat- or phone-based donation opportunities.

Plan Your Virtual Events with Meet Me In The Cloud

Meet Me In The Cloud’s Event Assist Services are perfect for online events of any size or type. Check out our different packages and enjoy these benefits: pre-session planning, content review, in-session technical support, and post-session follow-up. For more information, read our datasheet or contact us today. Let us help you make the most of your next online event.

 

10 Quick Tips For Your Online Event

10 Quick Tips For Your Online Event

Thinking you’ve forgotten something is one of the worst feelings, especially in a professional setting. There are so many resources out there to ensure you never have to feel this way, and you want to make sure the advice you’re being given is helpful and correct.

Migrating event solutions to a digital platform offer unique opportunities and challenges, so here are 10 quick tips for your online event that will help you make your experience a good one.

1. Check Your Connections – All of Them

Technology is multi-faceted and optimized for the user experience, but accidents and issues can still happen. Make sure all of your tools are connected and set up correctly. This means all elements: video (webcams, screen sharing, projectors), audio (test microphones through your event platform to check for feedback or other issues), and internet (wifi, hard connections, VPN, etc.).

2. Remember You Are (or Will Be) LIVE

Remote work offers a lot of freedom in terms of desk and office setup, wardrobe, and general atmosphere. Set reminders for yourself and your event participants to take a hard look at their surroundings and optimize them before the event to minimize unwanted distractions.

Check your outfit and your surroundings. Large jewelry could jingle, strange things in your video background could distract listeners while you’re talking, and having inappropriate or strange items on your shared screen will, at best, cause some embarrassment and at worst violate company policies or codes of conduct.

3. Send Out an Agenda

Give participants an agenda so they can follow along and have an idea of what to expect before the meeting starts. This can help them prepare and will also discourage wandering eyes or cellphone gameplay during the event.

4. Embrace the Tradition of Pre-Show Announcements

Do you know the pre-show announcements at the movie theater telling people to please silence your cell phones? Along with sending an agenda, be sure to give a brief statement at the beginning that outlines the expectations of the meeting or event. This is an important online event tip because each attendee is in a wholly different environment from you. Outlining these expectations first can help you enforce them when you notice someone has stopped listening and started texting or petting their cat.

5. Take Advantage of the “Mute” Button

In line with tip #2, there will be things that you don’t anticipate happening, so take advantage of the “mute” button. This is a great reminder to add to your pre-show announcements. Remind yourself and your participants to mute those mics when someone else is talking or presenting.

6. Increase Engagement by Assigning Roles

In presentations or meetings, you can assign roles to ensure more people are actively engaged. In your agenda or at the beginning of the event, assign roles like note taker, timekeeper (to keep any one participant from monopolizing the “stage”), and chat mediator (this person can monitor a live chat feed by weeding out redundant or off-topic comments and voice questions and comments participants don’t feel confident voicing themselves). Take some time to come up with a list that makes sense for your event.

7. Don’t Forget About Eye Contact

It is very easy when you are speaking and on video to look at your notes or fail to initiate virtual eye contact. Though it will feel odd at first, remember to move your eyes up from your screen and look directly into your camera lens so listeners are compelled to pay attention.

8. Keep the Speeches Compelling

As you are thinking about the goals and information that will populate your event, remember that no one likes to watch someone read PowerPoint slides word-for-word. Make notecards or jot down some talking points, and practice speaking to your virtual audience. Framing information in a story format is usually more compelling than listing statistics or jargon-laden objectives, so take some time to add a few anecdotes to your presentation.

9. Don’t Play the Waiting Game

If your meeting or event is set to start at 9:00 a.m., keep to that schedule. Waiting for “just a few minutes while everyone gets on” only serves to disengage all the participants you are currently talking to. Start right away with your content and maintain a steady pace to keep energy and engagement high from start to finish.

10. Mix in Fun Polls and Practices

Break up the monotony a bit by sending out polls or creating interesting practices to keep people on their toes (think about all those “jumbotron” games that can be played using your video conference software). They can be icebreaker-style games or questions that let participants learn a little bit more about each other.

Still on the fence about your upcoming online event? Let Meet Me In The Cloud help with their collection of event assist services.

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