There are too many ghastly remote meetings. Let’s make it stop! In this occasional series I share my six top tips for making your remote meetings not suck.
3. Use Breakouts
One way to find out more about your colleagues, as well as to get lots of people
involved in the conversation, is to use small-group conversations: “breakout groups”
as the online meeting tools call them.
For example, I was asked to run a live online session for the leadership team of a
tech company, to generate innovative ideas for hitting their ambitious sales targets.
I structured the session around a series of small-group activities from the Liberating
Structures toolkit. Liberating Structures are designed to maximise participation
across a group, so that all voices are heard. As a result, the conversation becomes
more diverse and thus more interesting and more useful… sparking more diverse
ideas and even more interesting conversations.
The team were delighted with the innovations that emerged from the session. But
even more importantly, they ended up feeling more connected. They also had a
better understanding of the challenges each person faced, and had developed plans
to work together more often.
4. Crowdsource Ideas
I heard a new phrase recently: “Different is better than better”. It makes me think
about how innovative ideas really happen. It’s not a linear process, where one idea
“builds on” the one before. The reality of creative conversation is that having lots of
different, perhaps competing, ideas on the table will make for a more innovative
I recently worked with a team of Scrum masters and Agile coaches in a series of
online training classes about better online meetings. I was doing lots of different
activities in which they were in pairs or threes, in breakout rooms of the video call,
talking about challenges they were facing.
I got them taking notes in a different online tool each time – we used a Google doc,
and then a free sticky-note tool – Lino.it – and then finally the all-singing, all-dancing
design thinking tool, Mural.
The participants were excited – but by the end they were worn out! One of them
came up with a better – potentially competing – idea. They asked, “Next time, can’t
we just bring post-its and sharpies to the class and use those?”
So we did that, and they held them up to the camera. It worked just as well for
sharing ideas, and was less distracting for the participants.