Being remote means never having water cooler moments. The moments where you chat with your colleagues. I don’t really miss being in an office but I do miss those “in real life” encounters where you learn something about your colleagues. I’ve coined a phrase –Take Five to Socialize – that describes how I build social moments into my virtual interactions with colleagues and customers. (I talked about this in my post Coaching the Remote Product Team) I’m not sure how much of an actual technique Take Five to Socialize really is but let me tell you about it.
What is Take Five to Socialize?
This is my lingo for remembering to take five minutes at the beginning of a remote meeting to do a little socializing! Nothing fancy here. The purpose is to NOT talk about work in those 5 minutes.
What’s the history?
Funny you should ask. Prior to COVID, most of my team was remote but our customers weren’t. We would start our virtual conference and wait for those in the office to get into their room, fire up the equipment and join. We had time to kill at the top of the meeting. Not wanting to sit in silence, I just started telling a story or doing a little show and tell. I would do anything to get the group already online talking and having a little fun while we were waiting. Participants joining a little late arrived in a meeting with lots of chatting, laughing and good vibes. Who doesn’t want to join THAT meeting?! It became a great way to start what was usually going to be an otherwise dry topic.
How do I start?
Don’t overthink it. And don’t use the same topic each time.
Weather. Boring! What you did over the weekend? Snooze. Politics. NO WAY!
For fun, I went back and listened to a few recordings where I kicked off with this “technique.” Here are few ways that I started the fun:
- “Hey, (participant name)! Let’s see the new kitten!” (ulterior motive: gets the participant to turn on the camera).
- “(participant name), I see you’ve got a snazzy button on your jacket. What is it?”
- “A deer gave birth under my deck! Here’s a picture of the baby. I named her Celery!” (true story)
I considered adding a list of topics to start with but that felt . . . contrived. This technique is all about being genuine and having real interactions. I don’t come prepared with a topic. I let things unfold as participants join.
This technique has an emotional intelligence element to it. It involves reading the participants’ body language and facial expressions (or lack of a face, if their cameras aren’t on) to gauge how they are feeling. It’s a virtual way of “warming up the room” as the Masters of Ceremonies say.
Why does this technique work?
This works because we’re humans and not robots! On a deeper level, this technique works because it builds trust and camaraderie. In this virtual world, people still want real interactions. This technique helps to build in those moments.
I’d love to know if you’ve incorporated this into your virtual meetings. How did it go? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org!