Now more than ever before, we are challenged with transitioning the typical in office day to a virtual day at home. Whether it’s a team standup or a late night sales call, you now have the pleasure of seeing everyone’s home office desk with the occasional baby crying in the background.
The part I miss most with virtual meetings is the absence of human interaction with the people you do business with. As a leader, it was extremely insightful to see body language in one-on-one meetings. Understanding the emotions of the people you work with is an underrated skill that is now much harder due to the virtual setting we are in. This gets especially hard in the case of meeting new people virtually. And even harder for the case to find someone who is an expert in a particular area without ever knowing them previously.
But luckily, we use Sift. A whole platform to better understand who you are working with. This eliminates the awkward introductions and quickly finds people who have the answers that you are looking for. So in an effort to make meetings flow better and company culture fun, here are a few ways to better humanize the virtual experience when using collaboration tools like Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams and Zoom and how Sift makes connecting with people easier at a large organization.
Scheduling before the virtual meeting
Scheduling time with people outside your team can be a challenge. Have you spent days finding the right people to answer your question? Or on the contrary, have you ever been in a meeting that you shouldn’t have been in just to say, this other person has the answer you are looking for? Sift eliminates this zig zagging through the company network by empowering you to find people based on particular skills, their location, who they work for and so on. You will find the person you’re looking for without email chains or a series of phone calls. This blows through all the random introduction emails and phone calls and allows you to get straight to the point in solving the problem.
Kick off meetings on a good note
For some, it is common business etiquette to start off a meeting with a hearty “How’s everyone doing?”, in an effort to get the ball moving. This is usually followed by the expected monotone “Good” to fill in a gap of the silence. I find that in the remote setting, this question becomes the natural go-to due to the lack of quickly finding a common connection in the virtual experience.
A better way to make a common connection during your virtual meeting is to ask specific questions about team member interests or use that information to run icebreakers that build rapport. With the Sift modern people directory, users have the ability of expressing themself deeper than any other company directory. Leaders running meetings can have access to their skills, interests, education, work experience, languages, who they report to and even their pronouns to better connect in a virtual environment. This proves to be extremely useful for large organizations with lots of people from different teams working together. It helps the team members at Quicken Loans make meetings more memorable and it’s one of the reasons why people rave about our product - because Sift empowers you to better connect with people.
Take back what we lost from using collaboration tools
1. Eye contact
Many of us are very new to this virtual setting. It can be easy to become distracted without some sort of eye contact in a meeting. A simple action like moving the video chat browser underneath the camera to simulate eye contact can go a long way of humanizing the remote experience.
2. Natural flow of conversation
I have always found it reassuring to hear a verbal form of agreement from your colleagues. A simple “yeah I agree” while elaborating on an issue is helpful for communication flow or even to prevent someone from rambling too long. We have lost this subtle form of agreement when everyone in the meeting is on mute and all you're left with is the sound of your own voice (and perhaps your echo from that one person who doesn’t mute themself... ). I try to make sure that my environment isn’t noisy and encourage others to do the same so we can unmute ourselves in an effort to have a natural conversation flow.
3. The ability to interject politely
And lastly a virtualized setting can make it challenging for some to ask questions or interject in a meeting. Many times have I heard the “oh sorry, what were you saying” and it kills the pace of the conversation. With the combination of eye contact and unmuting yourself, it allows you to speak up more easily.
Take the lead. Set the pace.
Let’s not let technology limit our ability to be human. Instead let’s make an effort to bring back what we used to have before having to use these collaboration tools. And Sift can help provide the information team members need to to connect as humans while working virtually. Sift empowers people to represent themselves how they want to be represented and become discovered in organizations regardless of size. Distributed and remote work is here to stay for many companies and we need to embrace it by getting teams the right tools and training to provide humanized interactions—digitally.