While lockdown restrictions may be easing, virtual meetings are undoubtedly here to stay. Telling stories won’t just make your virtual meetings a more pleasant experience…It’ll also dramatically boost productivity, cohesion and morale once everyone’s logged out.
COVID-19 has proved that virtual meetings have a lot to offer the business world. But the novelty can wear a bit thin, especially when you’re trying to psyche yourself for the seventh Teams meeting of the day. Fortunately, we’ve all got the ability to spice up remote meetings by simply telling stories.
Break the ice
Most meetings –face-to-face or virtual – start with some kind of chit chat. But instead of muttering platitudes about the weather or the latest COVID stats, why not start with a story? A good story will set the tone for the meeting and is sure to enhance engagement and enthusiasm. If you’re worried about telling stories, don’t be. Instead remember the four golden rules of storytelling:
- LOVE YOUR STORY: If you’re not into your story, why would your listeners be?
- MAKE IT PERSONAL: Personal details make you more human and likeable.
- KEEP THE END INSIGHT: The best place to start your story is at the beginning…But you must also know how it ends.
- PUT SOME MEAT ON THE BONE: Where does your story take place? What was going on around you? How did you feel?
Open it to the floor
Once you’ve shown how it’s done, encourage the rest of the team to tell their stories. While it may take a couple of attempts for some of the more reticent folks to come out of their shells, others will be only too willing to take up the challenge. Once you’ve established a culture of storytelling, it’s important to manage the process as it could otherwise get hijacked by a couple of people. It might be a good idea to set up a roster and a time limit for stories.
Keep it on topic
When you’re first giving storytelling a go, you’ll most likely want to give people free rein to tell any kind of story. But once you’ve established a pattern of virtual storytelling in your meetings, it’s probably a good idea to try to get team members to speak on a particular topic. These could include how you overcame a business problem, the colleague who’s taught you the most, the importance of teamwork, etc, etc.
One of the most important benefits of a traditional office is the informal relationships which develop between team members. The conversations which happen at the photocopier, on smoke breaks or at after-work drinks are the glue which holds your team together. These impromptu moments are much harder to come by in a post-COVID world, but storytelling can go a long way towards maintaining – and even strengthening – your office relationships.
Making storytelling a central aspect of all virtual meetings can have an incredible impact on morale. Sharing your vulnerability through stories is an incredibly powerful way of strengthening bonds as it encourages people to trust and support one another.
You’re not alone
A recent survey by Nuffield Health in the UK showed that 80% of people felt that working from home had a negative impact on their mental health. Instead of ignoring the elephant in the room, why not tackle it head-on through storytelling? Telling the team about your lowest ebb (we’ve all had bad lockdown days!) will encourage them to do the same. Knowing that you’re not the only one struggling to deal with the situation can make a massive difference.
Video killed the radio star
When you get really into telling a story your whole body comes alive – your face lights up and your hands start to move. Being able to see the reactions of your audience is also important. This is why you should have a ‘Video On’ rule for your remote meetings. Now that the hairdressers are open again, no-one’s got any excuse!