Seven Tips to Improve Virtual Team Building
Sure, in-person offices are mostly on hold right now, but that doesn’t mean we all get to take a break on building vibrant cultures that retain our top talent. As we turn to a bigger virtual presence in everyday life, we’re redefining culture, both personal and professional.
Technical solutions for remote gatherings is the easy part that we’ve mostly got a handle on by now. Our next step is to ensure virtual events are engaging.
Let’s face it, we’ve all used conference calls as a chance to do dishes, laundry, or basically anything else other than deeply listen and connect. As we shift to this new virtual ecosystem, that practice will cost time, money, and morale.
Luckily, you don’t need a big budget to create a transformational experience for your remote team, just a bit of creativity and courage. Here are seven quick tips that you can apply today that are only limited by the creativity of you and your team.
1) Activate beyond sight and sound.
The more senses involved in any activity, the easier it is for our brains to learn and retain. During a virtual event, provide attendees with some guidance around this so everyone can share a co-created experience.
Depending on what tone is most appropriate, you could ask everyone to wear their fuzziest or most outrageous shirt for the call, giving some texture and whimsy to that white wall behind them. In the meeting invite, ask that everyone have a favorite food on hand that they can share a 60-second story at the top of the call of when they first fell in love with Vegemite.
Adding just a tiny bit of sparkle and wonder can make the mundane magical.
2) Engage through story.
The human brain is hardwired to learn best through story. Take your attendees on a journey.
How can you create a narrative for the event with a beginning, middle, and end? Storyboarding the major points of the virtual event, even if it’s just sticky notes on a wall, can help to ensure the gathering will feel closer to an adventure than a prison cell.
A simple story structure you can create is:
- A character encounters a problem that piques everyone’s curiosity.
- The problem continues to escalate, which builds tension.
- A solution presents itself in some way.
- The event ends with a positive outcome and a feeling of resolution.
3) Be clear on the exact purpose.
As we’re all finding out exactly which meetings could have been e-mails, be specific on what the overarching purpose of your virtual event is and use that as a guiding principle for content and logistical choices.
If there is no clear purpose to the meeting, perhaps it really could be an e-mail or screencast video. For quick screencasts, Loom by Google is best in class, and if you want a higher quality screencast, ScreenFlow is the way to go.
4) Be multimodal.
Communication is much more than the words we say and hear. Multimodality as a discipline examines the many ways in which we communicate. By appealing to the widest variety of learning and communication styles, you offer attendees the most chances to stay engaged.
For your next meeting, think about how you could guide your attendees through facilitated opportunities to build with their hands. Simple LEGO bricks and the LEGO Serious Play methodology could skyrocket the creativity and innovation of your next meeting. The more participants can engage in a comfortable and meaningful way, the bigger the takeaway will be.
[Related: Five Pro Tips to Run More Creative Meetings]
Simply adding an element of game play to an activity – scoring, competing, and having rules of play can add a structured, yet playful, element to any virtual event.
Like story, our brains are hardwired to learn through play. Even just a few minutes set aside at the beginning or end can make a deeply positive impact, since our brains usually remember what happened first and last in any event.
6) Nourish the human desire to belong.
We all want to be part of something, particularly in times of stress. Be sure to create an environment that allows equal participation.
This could be around a larger team or by creating in-the-moment sub-groups. Zoom allows this in an easy-to-learn breakout room format.
7) Make sure there is just one captain per ship.
Designate one specific person to be the host that will lead the event. This doesn’t always have to be the most senior member of the team. In fact, it’s an easy way to empower junior members to be more actively involved.
Like any good event host, they will steer the action, present and enforce the rules of engagement, and ensure every person feels seen and included. If this responsibility isn’t designated to a specific person (or a few people for large events), then the gathering can quickly go adrift and ultimately crash on rocky shores.
[Related: The Power of Engagement]
Mary Poffenroth is a biology lecturer and fear researcher for San Jose State University. She advises growth-driven individuals and organizations on how to reshape their relationship with fear to cultivate better decision-making and deeper cross-discipline collaboration.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
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