Try This

Virtual Meeting

You have no doubt hosted many a teleconference with varying success. Perhaps you wonder, "Is everyone on the same page?" We used the following web site to support a teleconference and could then show everyone the same page before, during, and after the meeting. This sample provides meeting materials, agenda, directory of participants, and other resources. After the teleconference, the recorded audio was added. This format also avoids the cost and hassles of third-party applications.

Artifacts

Virtual groups benefit from having physical objects in their workspace that remind them that the online team, community, or event exists. Print the URL on things people will keep and use like coffee cups or mouse pads. Now that many participants have color printers you can also create fun toys and other artifacts that they can download, print, and put together themselves. We've created boxes, paper airplanes, and calendars as "favors" for special events and the launch of new online environments. Here's an example of an Origami box we created for groups launching a virtual team.

Right now, we're looking for and collecting games, tools, and other fun things that groups can do together online. We use these activities as icebreakers and to provide some of the social lubrication that we think is critical to creating esprit de corps and getting groups to gel quickly. Too often, when groups work online, the interaction is limited to on-task exchanges related to projects. Good facilitators would never think of skipping the critical warm-up phase of a meeting face-to-face. And we all know that much of what's important to a group happens during the coffee breaks. Laughing together, sharing funny experiences we can tell stories about later - these are the things that make a group a GROUP. So how are we going to create opportunities for that kind of interaction for virtual groups and teams?

If you've designed something cool or participated in a group that did something that really worked for you, we'd love to know about it! We'll post your good ideas and give you credit for them! We share a lot of ideas about working with groups as part of The Virtual Chautauqua. Please join us if you're interested in continuing the conversation.

Buzz Phraser

Doc Searls' Buzz Phraser is a hilarious tool that lets you produce and share Mad Libs type phrases that come scarily close to sounding like all the dot.com business plans you've read lately. Charles Roth, author of the Caucus software, created this open source version. Be sure and check out the alternate vocabulary we added to use at Collaborate 98, a three-week virtual event co-produced with the Organization Development Network.

Baby Pictures

For a global sales launch meeting that was held virtually for more than 2,000 participants, we posted baby pictures of a different top executive every couple of days and had a contest with prizes to guess who they were now. Participants posted their guesses in a discussion item and had a lot of fun justifying their answers. This had some added value because it made the high level execs seem more accessible and more a part of the group.

For a different group that had been communicating online for a significant period of time, we had everyone in the group send in a picture of themselves as a kid. We numbered all the pictures and made an array of them online with a drop down menu of names to choose from to match to the picture. After "voting" on who was who, you could see the correct answers. The person who got the most correct won the prize. Interestingly, most people in this group had never met each other in person so all they had to go on to make their choice were things they gleaned from various online conversations (For example, one person mentioned that they grew up near the ocean and there was a picture of a kid on the beach). The game served as the kind of shared experience that creates community (it's still talked about years later).

Guess which Group Jazz crew member developed an early interest in celebration events?

Teleportation Dinner

There's a kind of parlor game played by Trekies and other techno-romantics where the idea is to come up with a Top Ten List for "Why Teleportation (the ability to beam instantly anywhere in the world) would be a Bad Thing!" For example: "Teleportation would be a Bad Thing because groups have a hard enough time deciding where to go to dinner without expanding the number of choices beyond a ten-minute drive!" Creating this kind of Top Ten List works very well online, for example as a discussion item in a café, bulletin board, or other social space.

A variation we've used with teams from global organizations is to have them talk about which restaurant in the world they would choose to go to if Teleportation was actually possible. This usually elicits some fantastic descriptions of places, food, and experiences from people who live in and travel to all sorts of places. Storytelling is one of the best ways for groups to develop a sense of camaraderie. Most people have at least one great memory of going out to dinner at an off-site meeting and telling funny stories (that got funnier as it got later!) If you are working with a group that doesn't get to do this in person it's important to find a way to do it anyway. We've done this as part of an audio teleconference, which works if the group isn't too large. We've also done is as part of an asynchronous online conversation.

 

Artifacts
Buzz Phraser
Baby Pictures
Teleportation Dinner

 
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