How to make virtual meetings fun
Last updated on: May 31, 2022
Let’s be honest, me and you.
You probably don’t like meetings very much — especially virtual meetings.
From the mere fact that you have to sit through yet another meeting to hearing “you’re on mute” and “okay, can everyone see my screen?” again and again… I know you’d rather do something else.
Zoom fatigue is not only real, but also quite common.
According to a study titled “The Webcam Survey: Exhausted or Engaged?”, almost half of the professionals working remotely (49%) reported a high degree of exhaustion as a direct result of numerous daily video calls.
If you’re in the “I’m so tired of meetings, but I can’t avoid them” club too, keep reading.
In this article, we won’t only talk about making meetings bearable — we’ll go one step further and set an ambitious goal to make virtual meetings fun.
Without further ado, let’s begin!
Tip #1: Keep meetings short and sweet
First things first: keep meetings short and straight to the point.
Even if you come up with the most interesting meeting concept, if it’s too long-winded, people will get bored.
Here are a few tips to stay within the expected time frame.
Everyone should have a clear idea of:
- What the goal of the meeting is,
- Approximately how long the meeting will take, and
- What their role in the meeting is.
The meeting should be valuable for everyone involved. If a participant has no particular role in the meeting, they don’t need to be present.
When you set clear expectations in advance, everyone will be on the same page and able to come prepared — which leads us to our next point.
It’s not a stellar idea to think about what you are going to say 10 seconds before it’s your turn to talk.
Before the meeting even starts, you should already know what you’re going to talk about.
Think about the answers to the following questions:
- What points do you want to discuss?
- What questions do you want to ask (and to whom)?
- Is there any news worth mentioning?
- Is there anyone who deserves mention or praise?
Another important thing to do before the meeting starts is to choose the right software that fits your team’s needs. It would be silly to choose an app that doesn’t support screen sharing when you often give presentations, right?
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
Pumble offers a free video-conferencing feature that allows you to make a video call with just one click, share your screen, and stay in the loop wherever you are.
Focus on one thing
People’s concentration is limited.
If you try to focus on too many things, not only will it take too much time, but your teammates also won’t retain much information (if any) from the meeting.
Instead, focus on one (or maximum two) points you want to discuss and stick to them.
For any other topic that emerges during the discussion, schedule a separate meeting.
Rambling is the biggest nemesis of effective meetings and, as such, should be kept to a minimum.
Here’s how you can prevent chatter from taking over your meetings:
🔸 If you’re the rambler:
If you’re talkative by nature, it’s easy to slip into a 10-minute monologue about… anything and everything.
Before the meeting starts, write down everything you should talk about (see the heading above, Come prepared) and organize your thoughts. Use this to make notes for the meeting.
When talking, do your best to stay focused and keep your notes with you to make sure you stay on track.
🔸 If someone else is rambling:
Managing chatty coworkers can be tricky, as there’s a risk they’ll take it to heart if you interrupt them. Telling someone directly to stop talking is universally considered rude, but there are a few (more subtle) strategies that can help.
At the start of the meeting, remind the participants that this is a short meeting — so everyone should be considerate and give others a turn to talk, as well as keep to the point.
If someone still exceeds their designated time, ask them guiding questions, such as the following:
- “What do you recommend we do as the next step?”
- “Given what you’ve said, what conclusion can you draw?”
Additionally, it pays off to have a meeting facilitator. Their job is to make sure the discussion is on track and everyone has an equal opportunity to express their opinion.
Tip #2: Make time for informal conversation
If your discussion of the main topic is efficient, you can leave a couple of minutes for socializing and bonding with your team at the end of the meeting.
Research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology even suggests that “higher levels of group belongingness are the most consistent protective factor against videoconference fatigue.”
So, by including bonding activities in your meetings, you’re making them more engaging and less tiring, thus also taking care of your team’s mental health.
What to talk about with your coworkers
If you know each other fairly well, it can be as simple as talking about how your weekend went.
You can also discuss:
- A movie that came out recently,
- A new episode of the show you all watch,
- Current events,
- Hobbies and interests,
- Travel, etc.
Another good idea is to use this bonding time to plan your next gathering or some in-person team-building activities.
On the other hand, If you still don’t know each other that well, you can take that informal meeting time as an opportunity to get to know each other better.
For instance, you can ask one icebreaker question in every meeting. And please, don’t make people tell a fun fact about themselves — most people find it awkward and don’t know what to say.
Instead, opt for more concrete questions, such as:
- What’s your favorite book/movie/TV show and why?
- What’s your favorite and least favorite part of working remotely?
- Have you ever been told you look like someone famous, and who was the celebrity in question?
- Have you ever been to karaoke? What is your go-to karaoke song?
- As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
- If you could instantly become an expert at something, what would it be?
- Are you a cat person or a dog person? Do you have any pets?
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
Not sure how to balance work communication and informal chat? We got you:
Tip #3: Include pets
Including pets in a video call is a sure way to make a meeting more fun.
If they meow/bark at you because they want to be included in the meeting, fulfill their wish.
I promise you, no one will ever say “Nope, I don’t want to see a cute animal.”
In fact, every time one of my coworkers’ pets made an appearance on camera, my day got at least 50% better.
Moreover, interacting with our furry friends decreases our cortisol levels (a stress-related hormone) — which is much needed at some meetings.
Just make sure you don’t get too distracted and lose track of the meeting (see Tip #1).
Tip #4: Make meetings interactive
Getting distracted is a little too easy when you’re forced to listen to someone’s monologue.
Whenever possible, do your best not to make meetings a one-man show. Instead, try to motivate your team to engage and spark a productive conversation.
How can you help the meeting participants engage?
- If not all participants know each other, introduce everyone at the beginning of the meeting.
- Set the tone for the meeting yourself — ask questions, build on others’ ideas, and encourage others to do the same.
- Brainstorm ideas together.
- Make sure each member has an opportunity to share their input and ideas (some people are more introverted than others).
- Conduct live interactive polls.
- Show your human side — ask people how they’re doing, be empathetic, and don’t shy away from some humor. This will make everyone more comfortable.
- Don’t invite too many people — if there are too many participants, it’s hard to keep meetings efficient and collaborative.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
We have an entire blog post dedicated to tips for keeping virtual meetings interactive and engaging — check it out for more ideas:
Tip #5: Include interesting visuals
If your meeting includes a presentation, take some time to make sure your slides are on point.
There’s nothing more distracting than a presentation with:
- Too much text
- Too many effects
- Almost illegible font
- Unfortunate color combinations (like bright pink background and orange text)
On the contrary, one of the easiest ways to keep your audience from looking away is to include beautiful and/or interesting visuals.
Visual elements that can significantly elevate your presentation are:
- A cohesive color palette
- Screenshots or screen sharing
You can even go one step further and make visuals fun by including gifs, memes, and inside jokes (when appropriate).
These elements will make your team laugh, make your presentation more memorable, and overall, the whole experience more enjoyable.
Other fun visual elements you can incorporate are:
- Interesting video backgrounds
- Cool animations
- Aesthetically pleasing theme
- Visual effects and filters (just don’t go overboard)
Tip #6: Engage in virtual team building activities
We’ve already mentioned bonding with your coworkers by allowing some time for chit-chat during the meeting in Tip #2.
But, the most fun meetings are the ones that are fully dedicated to getting to know each other and having fun together.
Let’s go through some of our favorite virtual team-building ideas.
It’s the most obvious choice, isn’t it? Games are popular for a reason — they’re a great way to relax after a busy day and bring the team together.
There are many games you can play, such as:
- Two Truths and a Lie
- Never Have I Ever
- Truth or Dare
- Guess the Song (one person sings, hums, or whistles the song and others have to guess the song)
- Would You Rather
- Who’s the Baby? (each person shares a photo of when they were a toddler, put them in one folder, and then the team guesses who’s who)
- Name the Emoji Song/Movie Title
You can also go outside the virtual meeting platform and play online games, such as:
- Online card games, depending on what card games you like (it doesn’t have to be a traditional one — for example, my team’s favorite is Cards Against Humanity)
- Online drawing games such as skribbl.io — one person gets a word, (attempts to) draw it, and others have to guess what the word is (some words are abstract or unusual, which makes it more challenging)
- Online bingo
- Personality tests — do them at the same time and share the results
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
Check out more ideas for team building games:
Start a virtual book club
Are your coworkers bookworms, just like you?
If so, then the best way for you to bond is through your favorite activity — reading.
The first step is to determine a system for choosing the books.
Everyone can put all the books they want to read on one master list and choose from there, or members can take turns in picking a book.
Or maybe you’ll pick some other technique — choose whatever works best for your book club.
Next, pick a date when your club will meet to discuss a chosen book.
Make sure everyone has enough time to finish the book, given their schedule and responsibilities.
You can also make a channel for your book club, to keep all the important information in one place.
Organize a pub quiz
This activity includes two fun things:
- Cool trivia
- Beer (or another drink of choice)
Testing your knowledge on various topics and having drinks together is a good recipe for a fun afternoon or evening.
It’s best to divide your group into teams and play against each other.
In pub quiz games that happen in actual pubs, losers have to pay for the drinks. But, since you’re not physically together, find another “prize” for the winners.
It can range from getting a gift card to allowing them a half-day off — but the more creative prize, the better.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
Looking for more team bonding ideas for remote teams? We got you:
Wrapping up: Fun meetings are short, interactive, and team-bonding
Team-building meetings are everyone’s favorite, and they offer many ways to have fun and get the team closer together.
However, even when you have to actually do the work, virtual meetings don’t have to leave you bored and exhausted.
Just make sure your meetings:
- Are short and straight to the point
- Are interactive and engaging
- Feature visuals that are interesting and pleasing to the eye
Moreover, if you have some extra time in your meetings, you can spend it socializing with your coworkers and getting to know them better.