Build rapport with people online is one of the things people often mention as a challenge in online meetings. Yet with some intention it is possible.
Connection before content
A good practice (whether in person or online) is to be sure to take some time at the beginning of the meeting to connect on a personal level before you jump into the meeting agenda. This could include a check in question such as an ice-breaker. Some people cringe when you mention icebreaker. Yet the question does not have to be “what Harry Potter character are you?” or [fill in the blank with a question you got asked at beginning of a meeting that had nothing to do with the issues at hand]. It can be work-related. Especially with groups who do not know each other making the question relatively safe is often a good place to start. What is your super-power? What is the latest app you discovered and love? What are you hoping we achieve today? If the group is large and you are afraid intro’s and icebreakers will take up a chunk of the meeting time, split people into smaller groups (2-4) and have them introduce themselves in their small group.
If the group is going to be working together for a while, help them have a conversation about how they want to work together. What helps them work effectively in a group? What might get in the way working together online and remotely? How might they address those challenges? It may take a few rounds of brainstorming and refinement to come to a set of agreements that work for everyone. Yet having this list of agreements will help if the group runs into challenges.
Rapport and trust will be lost if a person in the group does not feel like their voice is being heard. They may feel you are rushing through items without sufficient time for discussion. A good practice as a meeting leader is to pose a question or discussion topic and then take a drink of water. It takes a little bit longer on line for people to jump into the conversation. They may hesitate wondering whether someone else is going to talk and not wanting to interrupt anyone. Taking that drink will prevent you from continuing to talk and gives your meeting participants time to gather their thoughts and respond.
Do you really know whether everyone is with you and in agreement? Check in more frequently with the group to make sure:
Don’t assume silence means agreement. This blog post goes into more detail on checking in.
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