The world has evolved rapidly in the last year, with sudden transitions to virtual versions of life, work, ministry, and socializing. It's a challenging time to lead a group, but there's a lot of opportunity as well. Leaders working to improve their communication abilities will find there are many creative and exciting ways to do so while strengthening their organizations at the same time. Here are a few ways to be a better leader and strong communicator in a virtual world.
Keep things virtually "face to face." While nothing can replace the energy and connection provided by in-person meetings, video conferencing can help foster a real sense of connectedness. However, video conferencing becomes difficult when the total number of attendees in the meeting starts to increase.
As a rule of thumb, try to limit the number of people actively participating in a video conference to no more than seven. If you have more than seven people attending a virtual meeting, use breakout groups to split the meeting up so everybody gets a chance to participate. Some video conferencing software has breakout session functionality built in, like Zoom and Google Meet. Depending on the nature of your meeting you might assign groups the same task, such as discussing a recent shared reading, or provide each breakout room with a different task, such as filling out agendas for your future meetings. Then you can reconvene as the larger group.
When meetings are large, remember to use the "mute" function for individuals who aren't currently speaking to eliminate background noise and distractions. As the moderator, you may have the ability to control the "mute" functionality for others in your group.
Create virtual opportunities to connect. Informal virtual activities are a great way to foster connection. Try putting together a trivia night, or a virtual guess-the-baby-picture game. Use a Watch Party browser extension to watch a movie or TV show together. Or, help your team members get to know each other better with one-on-one conversations facilitated through an app like Donut. You can also set up video chats where team members share their knowledge and passion about a topic that's not necessarily related to the main purpose of your group, like a "lunch and learn". Creating fun and varied opportunities for the members of your group to connect helps deepen everyone's relationships.
Meet people where they are. Communicate in the ways your people communicate---methods like text and email. A program like Unison.io makes it easy to send out personalized email and text messages. You can even send out the same info as an email and a text message in one shot, in case you don't have the full contact info for some of your volunteers. Text in particular is a very effective way to get your message through. Open rates greatly exceed those of emails, so it's easier to ensure that your team gets your latest message about a new meeting time or changes to an event.
Leading in a virtual world presents a series of new challenges, but they're not insurmountable. In fact, as we've touched on here, there's a lot of opportunity to use these new ways of interacting and engaging with each other to keep your group active and bring your members even closer together. With programs like Unison.io, managing communications with your team is easier than ever. To learn more about leading in a virtual world, stay tuned to our blog. To learn more about Unison.io, sign up for a free account today!