Ever get bored at an improv show? Perhaps the stand up routine was too long?
Now transfer the above questions to a meeting environment, specifically to an online meeting. With the increasing use of presentation slides, webcams, timers and great apps popping up into the virtual meeting environment (think countdown and the “tortoise and hare” icons in Adobe Connect) you can easily apply some simple rules used in stand up comedy to your virtual meetings in order to liven them up. It may be reassuring to note that renowned public speaking groups such as Toastmasters apply similar standup comedy techniques in their own group sessions.
Here are six simple guidelines for running online meetings – three of which are hard rules for when you are “in the zone”:
Keep it Professional
This is work and your meeting has a purpose. The delivery of your subject can be enhanced with humor but maintaining a business tone is essential. Including humor in your meetings does not mean behaving like a clown or goofing around. Be known for running humorous meetings not frat house ensembles.
Enjoy Yourself – If you are having fun with your subject and openly enthusiastic with your presentation then chances are your audience will not only be engaged but they will be enjoying themselves too. Use online tools such as webcams smartly – You could use a picture of yourself smiling instead of using a live webcam if you suffer from “bobbly head syndrome”. A genuine smile paints a picture of sincerity and enjoyment, so use it.
Use Positive Humor
Make your jokes positive and inclusive. Avoid prejudices and stereotypes, as they may isolate members of your audience. The purpose here is to bond with your audience and build positivity – not to isolate anyone.
Mind Your Anecdotal Relevance
If you opt for storytelling, keep the stories on-subject and related to the online meeting topic, the audience, and yourself. Nobody wants to hear a second-hand tale that’s inaccurate and off-topic for the sake of a joke. Understand your audience – I have mentioned this in every blog I have ever written. Same applies here. Know who’s in your audience – their backgrounds, roles, interests, concerns, temperaments, etc. and connect with THEM. So after preparing your content, practicing in front of the mirror, formatting and re-formatting your deck (not too much Arial BOLD) you’re ready to go. The audience is hungry, the clock is ticking and the virtual stage lights are on.
And When You’re “In The Zone”…
Be Aware of Time not Timing
So I’m not talking about “comic timing” Ricky Gervais (Oscars or not?) I’m talking watch the clock – if you have assembled a group of engineers for a 20-minute web conference, ensure that the meeting runs for 19 minutes and 50 seconds. If you sense the meeting is running over, be respectful of your audience, acknowledge your time is up and re-schedule or come back tomorrow night.
If you have a panel of speakers or a guest speaker, ensure they know what is expected ahead of time; six slides, two minutes and talk only about Q1. Have a signal – it could be an alert on the web platform you are using. In stand up it’s a flashlight from the side of the stage.
Be in Control
Be prepared to take back control, cut off your speakers (politely) when their time is up, keep the agenda moving along and be respectful of everyone’s time. This will ensure for a positive meeting environment and make your job as facilitator a lost easier.
So that’s it, relevant humor, professional and timed to perfection. This is not a radical overhaul of your meeting style and it may or may not work but I find that more and more in meetings the mental agility of the standup mind is akin to what I am striving to achieve.