The opening few minutes of an online meeting can often be the make or break, helping to set the tone and flow of proceedings for those in attendance. From the get-go, as host you want to make sure attendees feel comfortable with the set-up, and are energised to contribute their thoughts and ideas.
Too often virtual meetings open with floundering, laboured small talk, dispersed with awkward silences and confusion over when the real conversation should begin. If that’s the case for you, here are some top tips you can put to work immediately, to help get your online meetings off to the right start…
1. Start with a thought for the day
Inspiring quotes and thoughts for the day are very on trend at the moment, via social networks such as Instagram and Facebook particularly. So why not tap into this movement with a welcome slide containing a thought-provoking, motivational quote which will get people thinking, and help spark conversation. Keep it current and tie the quote into something that’s zeitgeist or in the news, so that attendees are likely to have an opinion on the subject, and be confident in asserting their views.
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/deeplifequotes/9258871354
2. Invite an unexpected attendee
We all love a good surprise, right? Tap up a good personal contact or guest speaker, and ask them to help you open the meeting. They might like to share a personal anecdote that is relevant to the meeting, a recent business success story of theirs, or just some simple words of wisdom, which will help to inspire those in attendance.
3. Share something that’s grabbed your attention this week
Encourage attendees to make use of the meeting’s video and screen sharing functionality, by inviting them (in advance) to share something to camera at the start of the meeting, that’s recently roused their interest. It could be a book they’re reading, an innovative website or blog, a stunning piece of photography, a place they’ve visited or even bring your dog to work day. The options are endless!
4. Use a light-hearted icebreaker
To spice things up and get new colleagues talking, or teammates from other time zones more familiar with each other, it can be fun to propose a quick icebreaker. Think about whether you need people to think creatively or solve a problem within the meeting, and the icebreaker should reflect this, and get attendees in the right frame of mind. Don’t forget the goal of an icebreaker is to forge team spirit and empower your online participants. They should never be used to undermine team members or their professionalism.
Here are some simple icebreaker questions you could pose:
- What was the best movie you watched last year?
- If you could only read one book, what would it be?
- What single item would you take on a desert island with you?
5. For those in different time zones
Online meetings for businesses operating in locations across the world, can often involve participants from other countries and time zones. In such scenarios, there is often the need for at least one participant to join in a meeting at an unsociable, out of office hour. So how about firstly thanking such attendees for working out of hours and letting them know the next one will be scheduled within their working day and outside of yours; thus sharing the inconvenience and making your employees feel valued.
6. Start with the positive outcomes from the previous meeting
For regular monthly meet-ups, open the meeting with a round of virtual ‘high fives’ to individuals who’ve secured successes, or reached their targets, since the last meeting.
Positive sharing can be a great way of piquing interest in a meeting, and encouraging everyone to get involved. It can provide a nice incentive to join the meeting, if individuals know that their hard work and contribution will be rewarded.
7. Try a brainteaser or riddle
The majority of attendees will join a meeting distracted, thinking about an email they need to send, or a presentation they’re in the middle of creating. If you want your group’s full attention, one great idea is to start the meeting with a mental exercise that’s fun and calls on as much of the attendees’ brainpower as possible. It will help them to take their mind off other work worries, while getting their creative juices flowing.
So research an appropriate brainteaser in advance of the meeting, and have it prepared on a welcome slide, for when participants arrive. If you’re in need of some inspiration, check out this post for three clever brain teaser ideas.
For more tips on how to host exceptional meetings, download the free eBook: The Insider’s Guide to Better Meetings