This week, because of the current situation, I held the first virtual meeting with my Toastmasters club. Being forced to move a meeting that has always taken place face to face, and moving it to virtual, is not always easy.
Members of my club had not been very enthusiastic about it. Some had never used zoom, some others were wondering how we would interact with each other virtually.
There are obviously things we could no longer do:
- We could no longer shake hands when introducing someone of thanking them for their speech or evaluation
- Look around at the audience was no longer possible
- We could not really move around the ‘meeting room’
However by using a few ‘tricks’ you can ensure that everybody feels involved, part of something and that everybody enjoys their time during these virtual meetings (have a look at my previous article for general tips on working from home).
Spend a few minutes explaining the tool
Make sure you explain the basic functionalities of the tool so that first time users do not stress unnecessarily. In my case, when we used zoom, I shared my screen and showed people where they could mute and unmute themselves. I also showed them the different views they could have (gallery view versus speaker view). I also explained them the ‘Chat’ option and how they could message everyone or one single person.
Look at the camera
This is counter intuitive but when you are speaking in front of our computer, we have a tendency to look at people. However, to really connect with people, you need to ensure you look into the camera, and NOT at the participants. It takes a bit of practice to think about doing so every time, but it works. People feel like you’re talking to them when you really focus on your camera, and not on the people who are on your screen.
If someone seems a bit lost or is not engaged
When you are the host and you see someone who seems to be struggling with something (they cannot mute themselves, or they do not remember where the ‘Chat’ button is, make sure you help him/her via chat and guide him/her. If nobody is talking, you can take over and talk the person through explaining the steps he/she needs to take. Make sure you keep the conversations going whenever possible, asking questions and/or making jokes in between.
During our first virtual session, we got very creative.
In Toastmasters meetings, there is always someone keeping track of the time. In face-to-face meetings, we usually use green, yellow and red cards (or some clubs use mini ‘traffic lights’) to let the speakers know how much time they have left. Virtually in our session last week, the time keeper used different backgrounds (green, yellow and red) to show the time left.
To vote for the best improvisation and the best speech, each of us sent our vote to the Toastmaster of the evening privately, That is how participants got to understand and put in practice the use of the chat option.
Before closing the meeting, I did a round table to ask impressions of participants.
Everybody was very positive. Some even said they did not expect the meeting to be as good as it was. We also identified a few areas for improvement, which we’ll implement during our next virtual meeting.
Virtual meetings do not have to be bad. You simply have to make sure everybody is involved and that they have all the necessary knowledge to use the tool properly.
This article was also published on Linkedin.