In an era of remote working, we are finding ourselves more and more in front of screens. Whether it be a virtual happy hour with friends, class or even a training workshop, in the pandemic age, people are being forced to think smartly and creatively to avoid big gatherings. Microsoft Teams, the app that many corporations use to conduct virtual meetings, has seen a 200 percent increase in minutes used since March 2019. Many schools, universities and corporations are operating entirely remotely, so this all begs the question, how are leaders supposed to keep their employees and students engaged and inspired without that in-person connection?
As Director of Engagement for Building Momentum, I teach people to become better problem solvers. I typically go on location with my team to conduct in-person, hands-on training programs anywhere from the boardroom to the battlefield. I create bespoke programs that engage and empower participants to learn aggressive, exciting new ways to solve problems. These programs expose their thought processes and display their willingness to be vulnerable, dig deep and solve problems.
To date, I have trained nearly 2,000 active military members through Innovation Bootcamp, a week-long course that focuses on teaching high tech solutions, such as 3-D printing, robotics, welding and coding, to better solve problems without waiting on the existing supply chain. I also create all of Building Momentum’s Corporate Training programs for teams of executives, leaders and employees using the same methods that have been tested on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq and have resulted in stronger teams with clear outcomes. An integral part of my job is human connection. I must make an impression on my trainees in order for them to trust me and absorb the curriculum that can better their lives.
Since COVID-19 hit in March, like most businesses, we have had to completely pivot our training model to offer online virtual training. Our team has trained military around the world (as far as Australia) and more than 150 local business leaders in Alexandria, Virginia as part of Visit Alexandria’s The Leadership Collection at Alexandria™. Along with The George Washington Leadership Institute at Mount Vernon and The McChrystal Group, Building Momentum took part in a 2-hour virtual convening of Alexandria, VA business and association leaders in August called “Creating What’s Next.” The ability to move these trainings online allows organizations to get world-class training from three leadership training programs that they might not have access to otherwise.
In an effort to keep our participants engaged and excited about the work we are doing, I have formulated three tips that have been proven successful in our training programs that anyone can replicate in order to improve virtual training or meetings:
1. Ditch the PowerPoint
Can you talk through the solution without words on the board? Instead, try showing a video or music clip within your introduction or within your talk that helps create energy and reinforces the points you are trying to make.
2. Five-Minute Problem-Solving Session
Start your meeting with an icebreaker by encouraging your audience to solve a problem within their workspace. Have them take some time to get a problem solved that will make their workday better. For example, suggest cleaning and organizing all the papers off their desk so they can think more clearly. Maybe they take five minutes to go do all the dishes quickly so they can have a clean slate when they clock out? Can they add a new lamp into the room to make the light better for the workday? Do not expect everyone to have time outside of the workday to solve these problems. Give them the five minutes within their workday to tackle them, and it will help to clear their mind and make them feel productive for the day.
3. Show and Tell
Ask your audience to bring to the meeting the most interesting item in their home. At some point during the meeting, to shake things up, give them two minutes to share and talk about the item. It’s a lighthearted way to get a team together and get to know each other in a new way. In a time when it is hard to create a strong teamwork environment, you can create the “watercooler” moments by doing this within a meeting.
We are all searching for ways to establish trust and form the bonds that come from teamwork– all outside of the normal environments we are used to. By getting creative and challenging your audience with unexpected tasks and directions, you will find they are more excited, animated and engaged. Ultimately, this sets you up to have an attentive audience who is more likely to absorb the information you are teaching.
Cheyanne is a problem-solving trainer and facilitator who leads organizations through agile thinking practices to optimize their projects and management. She is a certified Scrum Master and trained in IDEO and Think Wrong agile practices. She is the Director of Engagement for Building Momentum and an adjunct professor at George Washington University where she teaches prototyping. During her time at Building Momentum, Cheyanne has trained over 2,500 Marines and professionals across the world to make them better problem solvers.
Building Momentum is a world-class problem-solving company, with experience gained on the battlefield and disaster relief zones. The primary focus areas are training, prototyping and consulting. The company’s flagship program is Innovation Bootcamp, a week-long training program which teaches participants new and emerging technologies through a series of challenges. Building Momentum has corporate training programs to teach organizations how to move quickly and solve problems. Building Momentum also engages in prototyping, working to address immediate concerns such as the COVID-19 pandemic and disaster relief scenarios.
Header Image Credit: Christine Halsey