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Maintaining Focus During Corporate Virtual Training & Meetings

Remote training and meetings are becoming increasingly common as remote work continues to gain traction. Consider these statistics:

  • As of 2019, more than 26 million Americans work remotely at least part of the time.
  • Between 2005 and 2015, remote work increased 115%.

To say the world is changing at a fast rate would be an understatement. Not only is the way we work changing, but where we work is in constant flux. Information comes at us from all directions and multitasking has become the norm.

As virtual meetings and trainings become more widely utilized, distractions will present additional challenges for holding the attention of participants. Below are tips for maintaining focus, effectiveness, and productivity during virtual events—both for participants and coordinators.

For Meeting Participants

Optimize Your Workspace. To maintain concentration, different people need different things. While some people only need a coffee to maintain concentration, others require more support to stay focused, such as noise cancelling headphones. Determine what you’ll need to stay in the zone before the meeting begins.

Step Away from the Phone. Texts and email can destroy productivity. To avoid temptation, put your phone out of reach, or better yet, completely shut it down. Give yourself a fighting chance to remain focused.

Clear Your Workspace. Virtual and physical desktops should be organized in advance. If you find yourself working remotely more often and are consistently plagued by distraction, consider creating an entirely separate desktop that you use strictly to attend meetings.

For Meeting Coordinators

Double Check Meeting Necessity

Managers can easily make the mistake of conducting unnecessary virtual meetings in order to maintain connection with their teams. Meetings—even when in person—aren’t always necessary, so check the reasons for calling the meeting and err on the side of “less is more.”

It’s understandable to want more face-to-face communication opportunities when you work from home. Remote workers want to feel part of a team. However, rather than scheduling a meeting for the sake of checking in, build in time to socialize with a virtual meetup or a watercooler page on your intranet.

Keep Technical Difficulties at Bay

All meetings are not created equal—each require their own unique preparation. Determine which materials and technology make the most sense for each event. For example:

  • Consider the technology. For example, dual monitor screens will enable you to view meeting materials on one screen and interact with participants using the other. Communication becomes much more seamless when you avoid the need to toggle back and forth.
  • Test your audio and video prior to the meeting. This advice is for all meeting participants. Prior to the event, attendees should double check their devices are operational, they have the proper equipment to participate in the meeting, and they are familiar with the controls. There’s nothing worse than watching a colleague try to figure out how to turn on his/her camera while everyone else waits.
  • Check your platform’s capabilities. Ensure your platform can support the number of expected attendees.
  • Support is key. In case of technology failure or difficulties, make sure you have someone that can help. Enlist a production assistant who is tech-savvy and can help attendees who have connection issues. A technical support team is especially important for larger meetings, with multiple presenters, breakout room, and many attendees to coordinate.

Always Use Video

It's quite obvious that remote collaboration is much easier and more effective with video. As the meeting coordinator, you should set the expectation with attendees that video presence is a requirement. Lead by example by arriving to the virtual event early, turning on your camera, and ensuring you have proper camera framing and adequate lighting. Greet attendees as they arrive to the meeting, and if necessary, discreetly ask them to turn on their their camera. 

The importance of video cannot be understated. Here are more great reasons to promote video during meetings:

  • Attendees feel more connected
  • Improves engagement
  • Allow you to see the reaction of others, check for understanding, and know when to redirect
  • Helps to maintain attendee attentiveness and keeps them accountable

Overtly Discourage Multitasking

Multitasking is the silent killer of virtual meetings. Here are some ways to prevent attendees from multitasking:

  • Require video presence. Again, when attendees know they can be seen and heard, they are more likely to stay engaged.
  • Establish a “no multitasking” expectation. Prior to the start of the meeting, politely ask meeting members to refrain from multitasking during the event. Without sounding condescending, detail what you consider as multitasking, such as looking at phones, answering email or DMs, surfing online, etc.
  • Assign team members roles. For example, one member can be responsible for taking notes, another to help with engaging participants, etc.
  • Use icebreakers. Make participants feel comfortable and engage them from the start with an icebreaker. Open the event with a personal story or a funny video to keep attendees engaged.

Model Proper Etiquette

As the meeting coordinator, you should be aware of video conferencing etiquette and set a good example for the rest of the attendees to follow. Here are some best practices for a successful event:

  • Look directly into the camera when speaking.
  • Follow the non-verbal cues of others, and make it a point to engage everyone in the room.
  • Allow for longer pauses than usual after asking a question.
  • Practice extra patience and avoid interrupting others.
  • Polish your presentation skills. Practice once or twice in the virtual environment to iron out any kinks.
  • Keep an eye on the clock and end the meeting on time.

Meetings With a Purpose

To reiterate, don’t have a meeting for the sake of having a meeting. Ensure that all attendees are clear on the purpose of the meeting by:

  • Circulating an agenda in advance. Draft and share the meeting agenda just before your meeting. Delegate ownership of certain agenda items to create a more dynamic event.
  • Sharing prerequisite materials in advance. Distribute material that needs to be read, studied, or requires feedback before the meeting. Participants be more prepared for a productive discussion.
  • Preventing the “report out.” Speaking at each other from a bulleted list is not an engaging way to communicate. Move that kind of information to the pre-reading material.
  • Sustaining positive energy. To avoid problems outnumbering solutions, consider a rule like this one: when a problem is raised, a proposed solution must accompany it.