Categories
online meetings

10 Games and Icebreaker Activities to Engage Virtual Meeting Attendees

There was significant uncertainty during most of 2020 about how long employees would need to work from home, with many people anxiously awaiting their return to the office. A year into the pandemic with vaccinations on the rise, workers hope to keep these flexible working arrangements, ushering in the era of hybrid work.

As we navigate this transition, companies will increasingly focus on combining the in-person and remote working experiences and improving the remote work employee experience. Notably, loneliness is one of the top three challenges for remote workers, meaning there is an opportunity for companies to connect their teams and build genuine and fulfilling work relationships. 

Online Team-building Games and Activities for Virtual Meetings

There is no single way for companies to effectively address the range of concerns for employees associated with returning to office work. However, an excellent place to start is to assess how your team can build and reinforce a positive culture in both physical and digital environments. 

Consider implementing these simple team-building games and activities at the start of your video conferencing calls to strengthen your team dynamic and lessen feelings of loneliness for your remote workers. Here are ten virtual meeting icebreakers and team activities to consider:

  • 20 Questions: Provide a series of creative questions for guests to get to know each other better. Compile your list in an easy-to-access document that all team leads can access ahead of their meetings. Realistically, 20 questions are too many for any single call, but you can aim to explore at least one or two questions each meeting.
  • Ad-Lib Games: Similar to Mad Libs, you can play any variety of free online ad-lib games, like Mad:)Takes. Simply select your word game theme and have meeting attendees contribute words to fill the story. 
  • Desert Island Scenario: In this game, team members must choose three of seven optional objects for them to use if they were stranded on a deserted island. This is simple to play, and you can share the list of options in your video conference platform’s chat box so everyone can quickly review their options.
  • Desk Show and Tell: Give attendees advanced notice of this activity, and have them point their camera toward their desk to show their workspace. Encourage them to share any funny stories about the items within their reach, or explain why certain items are significant.
  • Hybrid Work Bingo: Provide your team with a new bingo card at your regularly scheduled meeting. During the week, they will fill out that card based on their work activities. At the start of your next meeting, have team members share if they got bingo and encourage them to share a story or two about the items they checked off. 
  • Name, Place, Thing, Animal: Similar to Scattergories, provide attendees with a random letter to then list a famous person’s name, a place, an animal, and a thing that begins with that letter. Allow one minute for people to write their answers, and then have everyone share their responses.
  • Rank It: Provide a list of five random objects and a fictitious scenario, and ask meeting attendees to rank those items in terms of usefulness in the scenario. The goal is to provide a diverse range of options and out-of-the-box scenarios, including objects like “hairdryer,” “overcooked spaghetti,” or “a blue marker that only works half the time,” and scenarios like “ski vacation,” “year-end review of results,” or “space exploration.”
  • Scattergories: At the start of each call, give attendees one letter and five categories in your video conferencing chat window. Give them one minute to come up with a word that starts with that letter and fits within the category, and then have everyone read their answers.
  • Two Truths and a Lie: Ask guests to share two truths about themselves and one lie. Then, have the other attendees vote on which of the three statements is the lie.
  • Virtual Scavenger Hunt: Ask guests to find obscure items in their homes within one minute. You can grab a variety of free lists here.

Whichever game(s) you decide to play, remember that consistency is vital to establish a new pattern for your employees. Encourage all people managers and team leads to start their calls with a five-minute activity and solicit new icebreaker ideas from attendees.

A Hybrid Workforce Needs Modern Video Conferencing  Solutions

Evolving your workplace culture to support a hybrid workforce is an exciting opportunity, and directly ask your team about how you can improve their experience.

Continue to introduce new games and activities during your conference calls to keep ideas fresh and provide new ways for team members to get to know each other.

Even the best efforts to connect a team can fall flat, though, if the right technology isn’t in place. Some video conferencing solutions are clunky, unintuitive, and will crush even the most fun team-building activities. 

Learn how Team.Video and Socialhour.com can support your team’s video conferencing and virtual event  needs.

Categories
remote work

Why Virtual Space is More Important in the New World of Hybrid Work


Remote work is certainly not going anywhere soon. But neither is the office.

According to a recent PwC report, only 13% of executives are prepared to let go of their physical office for good. However, just because the office will continue to play a role doesn’t mean that role will be the same. In fact, 87% of executives expect to make changes to their real estate strategy over the next 12 months. Many will consolidate and reduce, while others will open small satellite locations.

What does this mean for facilities management? It’s time to optimize for hybrid work. Here are three strategies to consider:

1. Collect Data and Get Smart with Digital Twins

The digital world bypassed physical office space during the pandemic, but now it’s time to transform office buildings with data. Connected devices are making buildings more intelligent and can attract tenants who now expect more from their offices. For instance, they can offer both facilities managers and employees the ability to track and adjust lighting and temperature in real time.

As these sensors become more sophisticated and connect more of your building’s systems, you can literally begin to piece together a digital copy of your office space, often called a digital twin. This twin encompasses all the dynamic data of your operations, digitally visualizing how people interact with your building. This allows you to optimize and fine-tune your operational strategies. How many people visited the kitchen in the old days? How many now? Even if you don’t have pre-shutdown benchmarks, the data going forward can help you, and your managers, optimize usage and layouts.

Smarter floor plans and more dynamic usage data can create a dialogue with real-time communication and collaboration between buildings, facilities management, individual team managers, and the technology that holds the system together.

2. Redesign Hybrid Offices with Remote Work in Mind

Most of your employees will incorporate at least some degree of remote work into their schedules. In that case, your workspace can stand out dramatically by simply optimizing around a few simple physical design elements that can make a hybrid office more remote-friendly.

For example, many facilities managers are considering how to most efficiently use space when hybrid workers are not in the office. Some of the emerging trends include:

  • Implement a desk ‘hoteling’ strategy, where employees can sign up for a flexible desking pool. This frees up significant space that would otherwise sit unused.
  • Optimize your office’s layout with many small 1-on-1 spaces or call booths. These allow in-person employees to sync with remote employees quickly without distracting other office colleagues. 
  • Increase the number of small, bookable conference rooms. These private spaces are now centrally important to hybrid collaboration, and will likely see a dramatic increase in use.

Think about how to merge physical and virtual spaces to make them work for everyone, and watch your building become a frictionless environment that enables the hybrid work of the future.

3. Virtual Space and Remote Collaboration Shouldn’t Be a Workplace Afterthought

Optimizing for hybrid work doesn’t just flow one way. Just as you optimize the physical for the virtual, you need to offer quality virtual spaces as an extension of your workplace. As hybrid work becomes more popular, facilities managers should now request vetted remote collaboration tools as part of their lease agreements. These remote working packages help potential employees stay connected with their remote teams and help facilities managers succeed.

Consider a meeting platform designed to inspire increased engagement in meetings and empower organizations to measure and improve their hybrid culture’s health. 

Furthermore, we all know that while planned meetings are key, teams interact in critical ways outside the meeting room.  Video tools shouldn’t only facilitate meetings. They need to support natural and unplanned interactions and community as well. Remote collaboration tools must also recreate an office environment when structured meetings are not taking place. Virtual offices allow employees to “sit” in virtual rooms where their colleagues can informally bounce around to sync on topics quickly as necessary. 

Virtual networking platforms can also support small rooms organized around fun topics so employees can engage personally after work in a virtual water cooler. These offerings can be a huge value-add for a company that is on the fence about physical office space.

Hybrid Offices Designed for the New World of Hybrid Work

According to PwC’s report, 75% of executives expect at least half of their employees to be back in the office by July 2021. Only 61% of employees feel the same way. It will be up to building managers to convince them of the benefits of in-person work and safety.

While 55% of employees surveyed said they prefer working remotely at least three days a week, 87% still think the office is essential for key team collaboration and building the most productive relationships. Building managers need to focus their efforts there. The office designs of the past simply will not win skeptical tenets back if they are unchanged. The winners will design smarter, more tenant-friendly offices that integrate remote collaboration and communication, creating a seamless working experience that easily transitions from the physical to the virtual and back again.

Categories
virtual events

5 Easy But Effective Ways to Drive Engagement During Your Virtual Event

It’s not enough just to check the box on having networking functionality available for your virtual event attendees. To truly deliver on the engaged attendee experience they expect, you have to make sure you prime them for the engagement opportunities you have in store for them.

That means regardless of what specific networking options you choose to offer at your virtual event, you need to over-communicate and promote these engagement opportunities both well in advance of and during the event.

Understand that your attendees will only read a small portion of the pre-event materials you send. This makes it critical to promote all the available networking opportunities whenever possible to increase the likelihood of attendees finding them. Here are five of the most effective—and easy—communications to get your virtual event networking off to a great start.

Highlight Engagement Opportunities on The Event Website

Even when prospective attendees are first exploring your conference, you want to amplify your event’s networking opportunities. We recommend creating a dedicated page to explain how attendees can network, the associated channel(s) they can access, and which hashtag(s) they should follow.

Include Networking Prompts in Pre-event Emails

Include a section in all of your pre-event communications that details how attendees can network with one another. Link to any relevant group pages or sites available to facilitate conversations, and also share which event hashtag attendees should use across platforms.

Promote Virtual Networking Activities in Event Transitions

At the end of sessions and during breaks, display a transition slide that explains what session is next, where attendees need to go, what time, and how they can connect with their peers. This is just as valuable during a virtual event as it is during those held in-person as it helps attendees optimize their time.

Add Networking Hashtags to Event Branding

Digital event platforms have several areas to customize to match your branding. If possible, include the event hashtag in a visible spot on your event platform, and promote any sites or pages that attendees should visit for more information.

Use Social Media as An Attendee Engagement Channel

Promote the event across your social media channels, including reminders of upcoming sessions, where attendees can access critical resources, and highlights from the sessions. You should pre-schedule general promotion tweets and have one or two team members (depending on your event and team size) available during the conference to keep posting content and monitoring for questions. Additionally, provide conference speakers with a few pre-approved posts that they can easily share to promote the event’s various networking opportunities. 

For more ideas on promoting your virtual event’s networking opportunities and other strategies for creating an engaging attendees experience, download our e-Book “How to Host Virtual Networking Sessions People Will Love.”

Categories
virtual events

7 Virtual Networking Options to Wow Attendees at Your Next Virtual Event

After you weigh the pros and cons of your various platform options and find the best choice for your needs, you can more thoroughly map out your event engagement opportunities. 

Start by revisiting your platform’s built-in networking components and reviewing which of your team’s existing channels or groups can also support this event’s networking and engagement needs. Consider any of these options as a potential area for networking at your event:

  • Live chat tools alongside a session (part of the platform), where attendees can ask questions to the presenter or engage with each other
  • Dedicated messaging channels on third-party sites/services (Slack, etc.), which can include channels for each conference track
  • Private Facebook (or similar social network) group for event registrants (and be sure to have a moderator ready to strike up a conversation)
  • Open video conference rooms before or after the event for attendees to hang out
  • Hashtags across social media platforms for cohesion and to aggregate conversations
  • Moderated networking rooms led by community veterans where attendees can stop in and talk to each other
  • Round table/”birds of a feather” video chat rooms

Create a Diverse Mix of Virtual Event Networking Options

A successful event strategy will blend the various networking options described above, meaning your team needs adequate support to promote the networking opportunities, monitor the multiple networking areas, staff rooms and act as a host to connect fellow attendees and provide conversation starters when needed. 

Depending on your event type, consider asking customers, partners, and trusted community members if they can support — or even host — these networking rooms. Allow your trusted partners to take ownership of their networking rooms and create unique experiences that can meet attendee needs while also providing a value add to the partner for their help.

For more ideas on making your next digital event the most engaging ever, download “How to Host Virtual Networking Sessions People Will Love,” a new e-Book from the Social hour team. 

Categories
virtual events

13 Questions to Ask To Identify the Best Virtual Events Platform

Last April, I attended a virtual conference I’d been looking forward to for a while. Its schedule was packed with interesting topics from relevant industry speakers I couldn’t wait to learn from. But I was even more excited about trading ideas with my peers and having the opportunity for more speaker interaction due to the ease of implementing virtual Q&A and follow-up mechanisms during virtual events.

On the morning of the event, a few minutes before the opening keynote, I clicked on the link in my registration email to launch the conference and was led to a virtual webinar interface. Confused, I checked my email and saw I’d just received an email from the organizers, encouraging me to connect with my peers…in a private LinkedIn group. 

Why a LinkedIn Group Isn’t Optimal for Networking at Most Virtual Events

It wasn’t what I was expecting, but I’d paid for the conference and wanted to get the most out of it. So I clicked on the LinkedIn group’s link in the email, and submitted my request to join the group. An hour into the conference, my request to join the group was approved. The event producers had setup conversation starters for each of the conference sessions as a way for attendees to interact. I watched attendees trickled in throughout the conference, but conversations never really took off.

Suppose this had been an association’s annual conference, with a pre-existing LinkedIn group that attendees were already active within. In that case, this might have been a more effective virtual events platform. But that wasn’t the case.  I mostly got spammed with connection requests from vendors. It was a missed opportunity for all of us.

Questions to Help You Identify the Best Virtual Events Platform

There isn’t a foolproof way to ensure you pick the best platform for your virtual event. But, I’ve outlined a few core questions in this infographic that can help. Ask them of potential vendors to understand how good of a fit a virtual events platform will likely be before you sign the contract.

Turn Your Virtual Event Attendees Into Raving Fans

The above infographic is just a small selection from “How to Host Virtual Networking Sessions People Will Love,” a new e-Book from the Social hour team. Download your copy today to make the most of your next virtual event investment.

Categories
remote work

Data Roundup: Employee Surveys Show Increased Support for Remote Work

The early months of the COVID-19 pandemic were overwhelmingly uncertain for businesses forced to test remote work arrangements. Now, nearly a year into the pandemic, employers are still making significant changes to their remote work arrangements, suggesting that hybrid working models are here to stay.

But how are employees coping with working from home? Is there still enthusiasm for workplace flexibility, or do employees want to return to the office when this is all over? 

We’ve gathered recent data suggesting that workers are increasingly comfortable with—and in favor of—remote work. 

Categories
remote work

Will Remote Work Usher in the Era of the 4-day Workweek?

Nearly a year since its onset, COVID-19 has upended the traditional way of working for most industries. Despite some early hesitation about how the way of work would shift, many companies now embrace permanent work-from-home policies. Employees increasingly hope to continue this workplace flexibility once the pandemic is over. 

The thought of only 41 percent of the U.S. labor force working in a physical office all the time would have seemed ridiculous at the start of 2020. Now, though, companies realize that the productivity benefits of workplace flexibility make these arrangements a competitive essential, not just a perk based on the employer’s trust in their team and goodwill.

As companies continue to explore ways to optimize their business and increase their team productivity, no matter where they are based, does this mean that we will also see the end of the 8-hour a day, 5-day workweek?

Categories
remote work

Is it Time to Say Goodbye to the Corporate Office?

In 2017, many companies made headlines for doing away with remote working arrangements, including IBM, Aetna, and Best Buy. While working remotely had previously been seen as a driver of employee satisfaction and better business results, these high-profile flexible work program cancellations caused many companies to question their work from home policies. 

Then came 2020. The business world experienced a significant shift toward remote work because of COVID-19. The data we’ve seen a year into the pandemic reinforces what studies have suggested for the past decade: yes, remote work can boost productivity. 

But does this mean that companies will continue to embrace flexible working arrangements even when offices reopen? 

Tech Companies Signal Hybrid Work Futures

Increasingly, leading companies are introducing policies supporting a hybrid work future, where in-person and remote work opportunities are blended at the company. Some roles will need at least some in-office time to complete critical tasks but otherwise enjoy greater degrees of flexibility than before—and employers are making lasting decisions about their office spaces because of it. 

Throughout 2020 and into 2021, brands made significant moves that signal it will become increasingly uncommon for a company’s entire team to work under one roof:

  • Cloud computing trailblazer Salesforce announced in February 2021 that it will offer three ways of working going forward. The company even went as far as to say the 9-to-5 workday is dead, and only a small subset of the Salesforce team will work in the office four to five days per week.
  • Internet staple Google will keep its employees remote until September 2021 and then experiment with a new hybrid work model giving employees the flexibility they desire.
  • Trillion-dollar company Microsoft announced that the majority of its employees can work from home half of their time (or permanently, with manager approval) and that its US offices won’t reopen until early this year at the earliest
  • Tech giant Pinterest paid $89.5 million to terminate its lease with a soon-to-be-built complex near Pinterest’s existing San Francisco HQ
  • Retailer REI announced its plans to sell a newly finished corporate campus in Washington, which was once called “like summer camp for grown-ups.”
  • Nationwide will work out of four main corporate campuses, exiting most of its other buildings and workly entirely remotely in all other areas.
  • Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman expressed uncertainty about the future of work but noted that the bank would need “much less real estate.”
  • Siemens, one of the largest companies in the world, recently announced it would “focus on outcomes rather than time spent in the office” in measuring worker performance. 
Categories
productivity

Enhancing Workplace Productivity In The Age of Remote Work

In the past, many companies equated “working from home” with “slacking off from home,” fearing the potential productivity losses their company would face if employees had greater workplace flexibility.

Now, a year into the largest remote work movement the business world has ever seen, these fears have been largely overcome. Productivity in the U.S. rose 4.6% in Q3 of 2020, marking the largest quarterly productivity increase since 2009.

But there’s a catch: not every company is seeing productivity boosts with its mostly remote workforce. One study of 800 employers found:

  • 67% of companies reported similar productivity levels as pre-pandemic days
  • 27% reported an increase in productivity 

So what’s separating those seeing gains in productivity from the rest? It could be in how they define productivity and the tools they’re using to track it. 

Categories
online meetings

How To Combat ‘Zoom Fatigue’ For More Fulfilling Video Meetings

The rapid shift to online, remote-based work provided many benefits for employees and employers alike. These flexible working arrangements are here to stay, even once COVID-19 is no longer a concern. 

There is an unintended side effect of this new way of work, though, and it stems from ineffective, badly designed tools and misguided approaches to handling meetings with a remote team: “Zoom fatigue.” But by understanding the cause of this fatigue, you can adjust your approach to online meetings in a way that better engages your team.

What Is Zoom Fatigue And Why Are Video Calls Tiring?

Despite being a convenient replacement for our in-person interactions, video calls require a more significant effort to truly process the conversation (the primary cause of Zoom fatigue).

That’s because a great deal of crucial content is communicated not in what we say, but instead in how we say it, with nonverbal cues like hand gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact. Intrinsically, video calls make it difficult to absorb these nonverbal cues. Only so much of any given speaker can be seen, spotty internet connections can distort speech, and grid-style views can easily send an attendee into sensory overload.