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November 5, 2020

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culture & behaviours

Putting the Vavavoom into Zoom… 5 tips to better virtual engagement

Engaging in a meaningful way with your employee teams is more important now than ever before, especially when the topic is about keeping yourself and colleagues safe and well.

Clare SolomonTo many of us, video calls have become a lifeline for workplace engagement. Even while working from home or in socially distanced workplaces we can keep our teams connected and provide much needed eye contact for one to one interactions.

There are many benefits of course. We can fit more meetings into our day and there’s no time wasted in travel. But more meetings don’t necessarily mean increased productivity, because one meeting can merge into the next and it’s too easy to get distracted. So how can you make sure that your virtual session really makes an impact and engages & motivates people… especially when the topic is critical to the safety and wellbeing of your team.

The BBC has put together an article entitled, ‘The reason Zoom calls drain your energy‘, which you can read here.

Rethinking engagement

Businesses are now prioritising the safety and wellbeing of their people more than ever before. This means re-energising their employee engagement plans and culture programmes.

Clare Solomon, Founder and Creative Director of Tribe Culture Change, explains more: “At Tribe we’ve been completely re-thinking the way we approach the development, design and delivery of our culture change workshops and training.

“In almost every case, our clients are asking for a virtual learning experience for their teams. It makes sense from a COVID point of view and is an excellent way to join up disparate teams who rarely got into the same room before COVID. That’s all with the added bonus of huge savings on expenses normally associated with venue hire and travel.

“However, with everyone getting tired of ‘Zooming’ you really have to think about how you can still make an impact and keep people’s attention when you’re just a head and shoulders on a screen.

“A session that was designed for face-to-face delivery will almost certainly not land as well on a virtual platform and, as a rule, people’s concentration starts to wain after ten minutes. It’s not such a problem when the facilitator is in the room. They’ll manage this easily by using white boards, asking questions, reading the room and changing the tone. But when talking to a computer screen full of faces, it’s a lot tougher.

“Delegates get distracted. Emails arrive, half-finished reports sit on desktops, cats walk across screens and deliveries get delivered. For an online session you have to work much harder to keep delegates involved.”


David Mansell, is a Creative Consultant at Tribe with a background as a TV scriptwriter and director. He says, “Storytelling is an important way to drive engagement. TV show writers will tell you that in any 45-minute episode, there will be five ‘interest tent-poles’ designed to keep people hooked.

“Every 10 minutes there is a build up to a mini climax so viewers don’t switch off when you go to an advert break and to make sure people tune in for the next episode. It’s what’s known as the Eastenders ‘duff duff’ moment.”

Improving your online engagement

When designing an engaging online workshop for our clients, we draw on our experience in the art and science of culture change and engagement. The first thing we think about is the learning journey we are taking people on.

What do we want people to do, say, feel at the end of the session that they couldn’t do at the start? Keeping that in mind, we break down the session into micro-learning moments. For us it is about keeping the pendulum swinging between art and science. Let’s discover, learn, engage.

Embracing technology is helping companies stay compliant during the COVID-19 pandemic

5 tips to better virtual engagement

video conference1. Get the tech right

Before you start, check the technology. Do you have a good broadband connection? You’ll need both a fast upload and download speed if you plan to share films, for example. Ask a colleague to let you know what you look and sound like. You may need to upgrade your camera or microphone.

2. Look good

There are some simple things you can do to improve how you look online. Make sure a light or window is facing you, rather than behind you otherwise you may appear as a silhouette. Better yet, invest in a selfie light to brighten your face on-screen.

Consider your backdrop, make it professional and appropriate, take the time to find the right space or upload a virtual one. Create and share a branded backdrop or use a photo of the office you used to share. It will save you having to tidy up at home and help to bring you all together as a team.

3. Be time appropriate

Design your session so it’s broken up by lots of opportunities to engage with people. Keep it short at no more than 55 minutes before a break and break it up with micro-learning bursts. Use break out rooms, polls, questions and discussion prompts. There are plenty of apps that you can use to help you do this.

Be practised and prepared. Know the design of your meeting inside out, exactly how to share material and stick to the timings. Make sure a colleague has your presentation and can take over if you lose your connection!

4. Consider your employees’ wellbeing

Have your team been online all morning? Have they had a break? Are they really present? Include a ‘wellbeing moment’ at the start of each sessions where you check in with your team, see how they are and remind them to switch off distractions, close documents etc.

Encourage everyone to turn their video on. Eye contact is one of the most powerful ways to feel recognised, understood and validated.

5. Perform!

As the presenter, make sure you look and feel the part. You need to be energised and enthusiastic. You’re a small square on a computer screen so you need to think about how you are coming across.

You will need to be bigger in your performance and easy to watch so try raising your laptop up (a pile of books will work) and delivering the session standing up! If you need a quick confidence or energy boost, consider a ‘Power Pose’ before you jump on screen. Give yourself a 1,2,3 and jump into a strong superhero stance that projects you into the mental space required to motivate and engage people.

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