**With so many meetings taking place virtually, how can you help people connect and maintain team performance?  We are sharing effective strategies to boost engagement taken from our online Minding the Gap Master Class that are just as helpful in virtual world, where the “Gap” is often very evident.

Without a doubt, the most common mistake we witness with educators, managers or facilitators happens within the first 10 minutes of working with a group.  Quite simply, they start too fast.  We know from research and our own 25+ years experience that it takes time for people to join in and get on the same page with you.

You may have heard it referred to as the difference between getting there and being there.  Just showing up does not necessarily mean ready, and all that entails.

We train people to use strategies to help themselves and their group participants become more available and to focus on using those strategies especially in the beginning of working with a group – whether the group is made of students, colleagues or community members.

Taking just a little more time in the beginning can make a huge difference.  Especially in how it shapes and orients people towards the work.

This post and the previous two others specifically identify some of the aspects of what we refer to as the First 10 Tools™: a variety of practices, contexts and processes that anyone can use in the beginning of a class or meeting to help people become more available, which we define loosely as that experience “when the guidance systems of an individual align on the current moment.”  When you help others become available, they are more willing, open, on point, considering and flexible with new ideas.  They are less attached to expectations, less likely to stay removed from the conversation and more ’round-minded’ as one trainee called it.

Take a read through two more of the First 10 Tools™ below and think about how they might work for you:

  1. Provide Information: Our brains hunger for information, especially in the midst of uncertainty.  Take time in the beginning of your meeting or class to simply provide information that you think people are hungry for.  This could be as basic as how long the call will be, who will be on it, or where they can find the agenda.  Or it may include information about what has been happening “behind the scenes”.  Think through what information needs could be occupying people’s thoughts: until you answer those needs, your participants will remain distracted and disconnected.  An added tip: Ask people “What else do you need to know about?”  You may not be able to provide the information, but you can make sure it gets validated and may be able to return to them later to answer their need.
  2. Everyone Participates x2: This really works to get people into the spirit and habit of participation right away.  As you think about the first 10 minutes of your online class or meeting, what are at least two opportunities for everyone to participate or respond to?  Instead of a random icebreaker, see if you can connect it to your Intention (see more here).  Maybe you could…

Ask questions that require a verbal or a signaled answer from everyone (“Raise your hand if you…” or “Rate your level of excitement from one to five and hold up your fingers to represent your rating…”)

Add a response to a different question in the chat room.

Use breakout rooms for pairs or groups of no more than four to answer a short question, followed by sharing a synopsis of the conversation to the whole group.

Have people respond to a verbal fill-in-the-blank question: “I have been surprised by__________ “; “I really miss __________”; “One thing I have liked about the current reality is ________”

Take part in some ritual group beginning: share a ‘high’ and a ‘low’, appreciate someone in the group for something, etc.

Whatever you do, your goal is to establish a ‘participation bar’: the level of engagement you are looking for/expecting and this helps get it in place to begin with.

If you start too fast and don’t give people time to “be there”, the participation bar will stay low as people keep their orientation turned away from the relational space you want to create.

The First 10™ are easily transferable to the current environment of work and school online and they really help create relational environments in challenging times, that promote participation, learning and collaboration.  If you would like more information, you are welcome to schedule a free chat, get more information on the Master Class, or just check out boldleaders.org!