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Just say no to sleepy meetings.

Low energy. Distracted. Slow-paced. Lacking depth.

The problem with remote meetings…over and over...and over and over...can be captured in one word.

Sleepy. Keeping the energy in the room is no small task!

If you're finding yourself in a remote-meeting rut, here are six ways you can breathe new life into your virtual conversations, whether formal or informal:

1) Drive it home

Slow virtual meetings feel 10x slower than slow in-person meetings. If you (or someone on your team) has the virtual floor in a meeting, set the pace. Know your point, know where are going, and drive through to the point. It takes a little extra effort, but your team will pick up on this energy. Be clear, be focused, and get straight to it.

2) Call people by name

“Anyone…Bueller…” If that’s you some days, don’t dismay, it’s not just you! People don’t jump into a virtual conversation in the same way they do in real life. We hesitate because we always seem to jump in at the same time as someone else (you go ahead…no you go ahead)! Once you’re asking good questions (see #4), don’t be afraid to ask, wait a few seconds, and then call a name. Then, ask them to pass the torch when they’re done!

3) Story tell

Got a great customer story? What about a great employee story or a great industry story? Stories invite us in. Stories engage and captivate. Stories have a way of showing instead of telling. The key is to tell stories with a purpose. Use them to reinforce your core values or your vision. Stories don’t need to be epic or outrageous to engage. I’ve never been a Master Chief of the Navy or had a near death experience, but I’ve have brought a roomful of people to tears telling a story about waterskiing. Ordinary is relatable. Story is compelling.

4) Ask better questions

Generic questions spark generic answers. Specific questions spark specific answers. A generic “how are you?” will almost always get a generic “Fine.” Specific questions like “What’s been the best part of your day so far?” can’t NOT be answered with specificity. You can’t NOT learn something when you ask specific questions. Here are a few you can try:

- what’s challenging you about this information?

- what did you learn from this?

- what was most useful from today’s meeting?

- what one word would you use to describe this [meeting/presentation/discussion]?

5) Leverage breakouts

Breakout rooms foster depth of conversation, and also add contrast. Using breakouts to debrief a presentation or come up with ideas is doable in pretty much every technology platform these, and can get you through discussions much more quickly. Don’t forget to jump around from room to room if you’re the meeting facilitator.

6) Cameras on

I once attended a conference where the host said it this way: You would never show up to a live meeting with a paper bag on your head and your name written across the front. Why do it virtually? There are exceptions, of course, just ask for them to be exceptions.

7) Try a 60 second Presentation

I recently joined a networking forum called M3Linked. The forum is by far the best virtual networking I’ve ever experienced, for one reason: 60 second presentations. Every member gets 60s to answer three questions: What have you mastered? What’s your mission? What motivates you? What if you started your next manager’s meeting with these three questions, followed by 10 minutes in a breakout room?

8) The Bottom Line: Incorporate Contrast

When it comes to keeping things interesting, we humans need contrast. Variety really is the spice of life. The sameness of life over the last 12 months (in so many ways) that has worn thin. Remote meetings are no exception.

With a little bit of planning and creativity, you can significantly shift the energy in the Zoom Room, for more productive, invested conversations.

At the end of the day, meetings are where the leadership work gets done. Let’s make them lively!


Looking for another way to jump-start your management meetings, Laura has a 20-minute keynote created specifically for the purpose. Click here to have it delivered straight to your inbox. Play it "as is" or Schedule a Planning Session for a customized, live, version.

Here's to leading well!

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