Tuesday 22 September 2020

Easy socialising in tight video conferences

How to recreate a sense of a "real life" team event in a video conference? In real life (IRL, as nerds put it), people usually linger near the coffee/tea kitchen or in the hallway for a quick chat - one reason why it tends to be so hard to get participants back from "real" breakout rooms. 

"Random" virtual breakout rooms - if they don't come with too burdensome assignments - can recreate this atmosphere.

Like most facilitators I know, I have facilitated more video conferences in 2020 than ever before. I have discovered that participants tend to hijack virtual breakout rooms: Before getting started on the small group assignment, they'd have an informal chat on totally different subjects. Or, in other cases, they'd get the assignment done as fast as possible so as to spend the rest of the small group chat on their own agendas.

That is a wonderful opportunity. My suggestion to convenors and facilitators: Let's make this a regular feature in video conferences! Every couple of hours, one can fit in a quick bout of socialising, assigning participants to random groups of three or four persons, for some five minutes. This can be scheduled just before or after an official break, so that participants can choose how long they stay in the informal chat, or even as an opportunity for informal exchange after the official closure of the event. 

Technically, this could work on any platform that works with breakout rooms - Slack, MS Teams, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Big Blue Button - you name it. Try it out in your next event!   

1 comment:

  1. I love this suggestion, Michaela. This issue has come up for me in several meetings recently and I have been wondering how to recreate informal networking spaces virtually.