How non-profits can keep their teams engaged with virtual meetings

We recently just passed the one-year “anniversary” of COVID-19 taking the world by a whirlwind. Despite non-profits being resilient, each glimmer of hope keeps being met with a lockdown order, with Ontario currently being in its 3rd state of emergency.

The world of online fundraising events has been an inevitable part of life. Students won’t know when schools reopen, with schools announcing they are currently closed indefinitely since the onset of this stay-at-home order. Non-essential workers are working at home and are urged not to go to their office unless necessary. It seems the only interaction we have with our colleagues, friends, and family is all virtual in front of a screen. 

I start my day at 6:30 am with a workout video using YouTube, then I call my friend for a little bit on a video call, and at 9 am, I sit in front of my computer until 5 pm. Somedays, I sit through 3-4 hours of video calls, one after the other. I won’t be the first or last person to say that I hate being in front of my computer for what seems 24/7, but I know there is no way around it. Despite this, I appreciate how my colleagues have gone the extra mile to help make meetings more engaging. Here are some of the things I’ve seen my company and other companies incorporate into meetings or events that have made the virtual world feel less virtual. I think two of the most important things to include are multimedia and collaborative tools.

Incorporating multimedia 

What I’ve appreciated in meetings is when the presenter incorporates videos and photos into their presentation. It helps to break up the text on the slides, and it often helps to deliver the message better. 

In my workplace, we have a flexible work schedule, so we create slide decks called huddle boards. The purpose of huddle boards is to keep our team updated on each other’s progress on deadlines and inform each other of our commitments outside of work. One team I was on had one slide that looked like a corkboard, and some shapes looked like push pins that the team members could move. This slide was called “personal accomplishments,” and I loved seeing my colleagues’ wins throughout the week.

One individual was an artist, so she posted the art she created on the weekend on the board Sunday night, and it was something I looked forward to every Monday morning. Another slide had a whiteboard background, and the team members would put a funny photo of themselves.

Beside their photo, they would insert sticky notes with their commitments. I loved this idea as it simulated the in-person office, allowing me to see my colleagues in a more personal way. Also, it encouraged setting work-life boundaries (i.e., every Thursday 6-8 pm, I have a virtual yoga class and dinner). By showing employees you care about their work-life balance and making an effort to let them communicate their personal commitments will help your employees feel refreshed and ready for work when they are needed.

What’s also great about multimedia is that information-heavy workshops can be delivered both asynchronously and synchronously. Instead of requiring participants to sit through 2-3 hours and have them lectured at, recording multiple shorter length videos will allow participants to retain the information better and watch them that works for their schedule. Then once participants have some initial knowledge, they can come to the synchronous video meeting, and that call can be testing the application of the knowledge and an engaging conversation. 

If your organization uses lecture-style meetings and little multimedia to engage employees, try the above suggestions and you’ll see it makes a difference in the workplace. 

Encouraging participation

I also love online collaboration tools that sync in real-time. A tool my friend’s firm has been using is Miro. Miro is an “online collaborative whiteboard platform” that mirrors colleagues brainstorming together in office breakout rooms. As a tool, it is visually appealing, easy to use, and it integrates with standard services like Dropbox, Box, Google Suite, Slack, and many others. Other similar tools would be Google Drawings from the Google Workplace, Stormboard, and MURAL, to name a few. 

My friend works for a startup, and they recently used Miro for a focused ideation sprint with his team, and he loved how the experience mirrored how he would work in person. He also loved how with this virtual whiteboard, he could link in sources and external inspiration he wouldn’t be able to on a real whiteboard. Finally, once you have something you’re happy with, you can take a rough cloud map and make it into tasks that can be assigned to individuals. This list can then be shared online, with your company, or exported into another file format. 

So what are the pros of using an online whiteboard? Well, it depends, if you want more engagement from your team, this is a fantastic tool. I recently found out that an optional feature MURAL has is allowing users to vote and engage anonymously. A problem workplaces have always struggled with is getting candid feedback on ideas and getting everyone to voice their opinions. This feature would enable everyone to have a voice without the worry of retaliation. Another feature that makes online whiteboards unique is that they can be pulled up on any device, from your laptop to your cell phone, allowing collaboration on the go. 

A virtual whiteboard also will enable teams to have unlimited space. The whiteboard will have no space limitations, which means big ideas and complex visualizations are no longer an issue. Ideas can be built upon over weeks, allowing refinement and more key stakeholders in the firm to contribute to the initial brainstorming process. I think it’s amazing how tools like this make collaboration easier than it ever was before!

Other ways my meetings have become more engaging and collaborative is with the use of polls and Kahoot. 

Polls can be used for a variety of purposes. Polls can be used to create icebreakers to get interaction started. For more interactive and educational workshops, polls can help the audience pick the content that matters most to them. By allowing the audience to pick topics that interest them, they will be much more engaged. This could also be a great idea for quarterly updates. Polls are also a great way to make sure your participants understand the content. This will allow the presenter to identify where gaps are so they can spend more time addressing these gaps. Finally, polls are great ways to get instant feedback. This could be feedback about a topic discussed in the meeting (i.e. making a decision where there are supporting or veto votes) or providing the impact of the presentation and content (1-10).

Kahoot is a game-based learning platform that allows individuals to create multiple-choice quizzes. Once they are created, these quizzes can be accessed through their web browser or the Kahoot phone app. Kahoot is a great way to gamify training and onboarding sessions and any meeting a workplace hosts. Kahoot ensures key information sticks with their range of assessment question types and gives everyone a voice with audience participation features. I love Kahoot because it allows me to be competitive with my colleagues and engage in friendly competition. What’s great for my managers is that Kahoot will enable them to identify the player behind the nickname, track progress and participation, and spot knowledge gaps with Kahoot reports.

Gamification and friendly competition is a great way to liven up meetings and help colleagues bond in this virtual environment. Kahoot and Zoom polls are free to use, so try incorporating one or both into your next meeting!

In closing

Developing a winning fundraising strategy starts with getting your team involved. Even though we’re in a virtual world, diverse views, collaboration are still important, if not more important than it ever was before. By incorporating technology to make your meetings more engaging, you can utilize these same tools to make your virtual events more engaging and fun!

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Wendy Jing
Wendy Jing
Wendy Jing - Media Manager, Green Apple Pay. Chuyue (Wendy) Jing graduated with a Bachelor's of Commerce from Queen's University. She has a wide array of experiences from auditing, consulting, and marketing and she is passionate about the startup and nonprofit sector.

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