We’ve all been hearing how happy folks are to get back to work onsite and meet with colleagues face-to-face, IRL. But it’s not looking like Zoom is going away anytime soon—and with good reason. Done right, virtual meetings can save you time and resources, and naturally promote inclusion by accommodating folks who wouldn’t otherwise be able to participate in person.
Caryn Ginsberg, a communications strategist who helps nonprofits make change using creative analytics and visual thinking, spent much of 2020 focused on virtual meetings. Through her company, Priority Visions, Caryn taught many clients how to make their smaller meetings more productive. Here’s a fast and easy-to-implement tip she shared with them that you can try, too.
What: Show & Tell
Why: “Having people share images to communicate ideas, like the show & tell we did as kids, engages participants, supports understanding and promotes creative thinking,” says Caryn. “Though this activity may bring back memories of your youth, there’s nothing childish about it.”
How: Alert people in advance to bring an image that represents their response to a question you plan to discuss in the meeting. “For example, in an online strategic planning meeting I co-led,” says Caryn, “we asked staff and board members to bring an image that represented why they were part of the organization. The visuals and discussion grounded everyone in the mission and provided an inspiring start to the day.”
In another retreat that Caryn led, participants shared images reflecting how they intended to be their best selves for the session. An image of a bird “showed how one person wanted to be relaxed with any ups and downs, just as birds ride wind currents.”
Have participants print or cut out images to hold up to their cameras, or they can share their screens. (Make sure anyone planning on screen sharing has tested how to do that before the meeting.)
“If everyone has hardcopy images,” suggests Caryn, “having them all share them again at the same time at the end and taking a screenshot is a great way to capture the experience.”
Alternately, you can instruct attendees to look for images during the meeting. Add this exercise to the agenda, and everyone can turn off their cameras and mute during this break.
“Thinking about which image to bring back can give people new perspectives,” explains Caryn. “The time to reflect individually also provides a much-needed change from group work, increasing energy. If time is tight, you can share images you’ve chosen in advance and let participants choose which one best represents their response to a question.”
Tried it? Liked it? Leave a comment and let us know if you’ve done something similar.
Download Caryn’s 30-page Virtual Meeting Excellerator guide (pdf.) to using visuals in your virtual meetings.