Empowering connections: How to put smiles on people even if they’re remote

We spend a great ton of time thinking about our virtual audience: do they enjoy the session? How engaged are they? We care about Engagement a little too much, but we don’t have to stress.

You subscribe to be part of the Toasty’s community, and that tells me one thing – you care about your audience, your meeting or workshop, and how many outcomes you can lead them to drive. Hey, we’re on the same boat! So let me see how I can help.

We created Toasty because we realized online collaboration is not easy with existing platforms. Most of them are great for the fundamentals of video conferencing, but we’re no longer conferencing, we’re entering an era of collaborating.

Then we started designing what online collaborations should be: from planning meaningful interactions, to getting people to collaborate via Cards/Prompts/Whiteboard, to capturing everything that has just happened. That’s a structured collaboration – and it is effective.

Here I want to privately share with you, our new friend, the 5 things that will certainly change the way you think about online engagement, and most importantly, put a smile on every single participant you have.

1. Just put in a little more effort

There is a book I really, really like: the Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. If you want to know more about how to create meaningful experiences putting people together, read it.

Whether you’re gathering a group of people for business or for leisure, there is one thing you definitely should not do: go in without good preparation. In general, people want to know the objective of this team activity, they want to know what to expect etc.

Every time you decide to bring a group of people together for an activity, it is more important to think of the Why than to think of all the logistical details. Ask yourself: why are you doing this? And it could be different each time.

This time you’re just getting them to know each other, next time you’re asking the group to achieve a conclusion for a particular business challenge. Setting a clear theme or objective helps you prepare ahead and guide everyone through.

2. You need to step in

Back to what Priya Parker taught me. Have you hosted any friends at your place before? After they left your place, have you ever felt that the gathering could have been better?

A lot of times, hosts put together a great gathering and figure that people will find their way to enjoy themselves. I can tell you now – this is the BIGGEST misconception.

People don’t like to feel forced, but they love to be guided. This is highly related to expectation management. At any online setting, people have no idea what the general expectation is and start to set their own expectations, which results in some people dominating conversations, some feeling lost, and some naturally leaving.

As a host, you are the facilitator! You have to actively facilitate the interactions and conversations to protect your people, and this is how they can generate the best values from the activity.

Share instructions clearly, stop people from talking too much, summarize good points – these are all good facilitation tips. You can also take breaks between each activity and ask people how they feel and share, the more you can open up your group, the better they all enjoy.

3. The smaller the better

People connect best in small groups, and in a physical setting, I would recommend 6 people a group. If we’re talking about remote settings, I would strongly recommend 4 people as the ideal size.

The main reasons are people can engage in highly intimate conversations at this size without losing diverse perspectives. Assuming your session is not going to be hours long, then everyone gets a chance to speak and share their views.

If you may, always divide people into groups of 4.

4. It is not about you, it is about them

When you bring together a group of people, it is easy to think and want to be the spotlight. After all, you’re the one who puts so much effort pulling this off to gather all these people. You deserve it.

However, if you care about driving outcomes, the more you remove yourself from the conversations, the better the outcomes would be. So, as a host/facilitator, try to “stay at the corner”.

5. Give them a sense of belonging. We all want to belong

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has belonging and connection right above physiological needs and safety needs, which means that it is an extremely important element of life that we all crave.

maslow’s hierarchy of needs

It is essential to give people a sense of belonging so that they would stick around.

How can you provide that?

By creating opportunities where friendships and relationships can happen. By establishing trust between people. By making them feel relatable.

But to do that, the first thing you have to do is to provide a safe and inclusive environment where the group feels great about sharing.

How? 1) Set the tone in the beginning, state your objective clearly, and give an example to set a benchmark. 2) Engage in a little activitiy that is more personal. 3) Depends on who you have on your team, it could take time. You might not achieve your expected level of openness and connection at the 1st trial. Be patient.

So this is how you can bring a group of people together for collaboration. This level of engagement will definitely take your sessions to a new height – better collaboration and productivity.

Remember, it is really not rocket science, just thoughtful considerations of why you are doing this in the first place.

I hope that you enjoy this special post that I put together for you. If you ever want to discuss this topic, feel free to reach out!

Co-founder of Toasty