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It’s easy to think of participation in virtual meetings or events as second cousins.

And often it is. Sound quality is poor and made worse by people not muting their mics. There are no informal spaces for serendipitous conversations. And worst of all – people transport poor meeting or event practices into an online space where they are amplified by unfamiliarity with the technology.

I would like to share when I like online participation.

Note that online participation can be synchronous (all in same time e.g. conference call) or asychronous (at different times e.g. a discussion group). For the most part, it is a mix of both.

Feeling connected with people I might otherwise not meet

  • This happens in meetings where there are small group conversations – for example in breakout rooms, discussion forums, on Twitter…
  • It takes place at events where there are spaces to find out more about other people beyond their work personna and discovering I have something in common with them e.g. online café, informal introductions e.g. in a google doc
  • It’s more likely to happen with an agenda/program where a small group of us are solving a problem or preparing for an initiative together
  • I feel it most when there is a place where there is cheeky banter and we can be playful

Learning from reflection and feedback

  • I learn so much when there are regular moments and spaces for everyone to take notes in a shared document (e.g. google docs). There is time in the agenda to write down our key insights and ongoing questions from the previous session/conversation and read and comment on what others have said.
  • I love asynchronous conversation more generally. I’m more of a ponderous person who finds quick quips and clever replies only after everyone has generally gone home (!) so having time to interact someone’s words in my own time helps me express myself better
  • It’s easy to take the temperature in or at the end of an online meeting, through a chat channel, a tool (e.g. mentimeter). That’s great for making iterative adjustments to group dynamics, agenda design, and for future events.

A shared memory on the go

  • It’s great having a record of the meeting/event: a recording of the whole thing or parts of it; the conversations, reflections, questions, and insights; analytics data of who was there, their device, and other info that helps you plan for the next meeting.

Distributed leadership

  • There is a lot to do in an online event and it’s an opportunity to share out the leadership – taking care of the tech, looking out for people wanding into the wrong space, gathering the different issues and ideas into one shared space, reaching out to people who can’t get in. It’s really an opportunity to reach out and build a sense of community.

Am I the only one who enjoys these things? What else do people like, appreciate or even love about virtual meetings and events?