Facilitating Remote Team Meetings with Empathy
Leadership Tips and Actors Tricks for Remote All-Hands Meetings
“The medium is the message.” Marshall McLuhan
By transitioning our meetings to video calls, we’ve lost our social cues. A direct eye line with a human being, seeing them move in their body, and hearing the inflection of their voice and exhale of their breath are all lines of communication the medium sabotages.
Do video calls make you tired? Are you distracted by your reflection? It’s not just you! There are filters between you and the connection to your teammates and leaders.
How do we build empathy with teams on Zoom?
Being brazenly intentional will help you run more inclusive and engaging meetings and reduce the chance of interruptions, distractions, or a few individuals dominating the discussion.
Before the meeting:
- Create an agenda to set expectations for discussion topics and ask people to prepare to contribute. This is helpful for the more reflective and introverted leaders.
- More data-filled slide presentations mean less time for discussion. Consider assigning reading before the meeting.
- The more people invited, the less “airtime” each person gets. You may want to limit meetings to 10 person groups. If you must invite more people, leverage technology for breakout rooms.
- Designate a facilitator to keep the conversation moving and ensure everyone has the chance to speak.
During the meeting:
- Assign a note-taker to capture information and share their notes where others can see them afterward.
- Introduce attendees and open with an icebreaker or check-in. Model that it’s okay to point out what could distract team members (yes, Zoom-bombing kids are completely normal).
- Review meeting objectives and how you want people to contribute (raise a virtual hand, or jump in?). Decide whether everyone should be on mute when not speaking, and whether you want to encourage conversations in a chat window.
- If you ask a question, give everyone time to write or reflect on answers. Be prepared to moderate constant interrupters.
You don’t have to apply all of these tips at once. Start with what’s easy, and work up from there.
Actors tricks for leadership development during all-hands meetings
If you’re a facilitator or senior leader, accept that you’re now a part-time actor.
If performance doesn’t come naturally to you, now’s the time to work on it. Look at the camera, NOT the screen. Practice with the camera close and further away from you for variation.
Have a script if it’s critical to land certain points. Practice, practice, practice. This is a big part of what we do during executive coaching and leadership workshops with senior leaders and critical managers. Coaches can provide valuable feedback to make sure you have the impact you want with your team. We can’t see our own eyeballs, after all!
As a leader, your job is to hold space. Before a camera rolls on a movie set, actors are keenly aware that they need to compose themselves with a bunch of eyes staring at them before the first take—it’s just part of the gig. Get comfortable with silence.
Get emotional and name your feelings. If you model these behaviours, it gives others permission to do the same and creates more opportunities for connection.
If you need more support, ask us for more tips and training on facilitation.