BerLearn up-skilling and connecting learning professionals in Germany Tue, 26 May 2020 16:01:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How to become an inclusive learning organisation Tue, 26 May 2020 15:42:06 +0000 A couple of weeks ago I was part of BerLearn’s fireside chat on the topic ‘How to become an inclusive learning organisation’. After an overwhelming demand and the feedback, I decided to write an article as a summary of the main points addressed in this introductory webinar. Some points might be very obvious, others-not so […]

The post How to become an inclusive learning organisation appeared first on BerLearn.

A couple of weeks ago I was part of BerLearn’s fireside chat on the topic ‘How to become an inclusive learning organisation’. After an overwhelming demand and the feedback, I decided to write an article as a summary of the main points addressed in this introductory webinar. Some points might be very obvious, others-not so much, it all depends on your background and experience.

Just to be clear and to manage expectations: in this article I do not address the points of neurodiversity or diversity of the learning methods and tools. This is not the goal of this particular article. Additionally, the points mentioned here are not solely applicable to the companies: it could be also a university, school or any other institution that sees learning as an important part of the organisational culture.

It’s a known fact, that multi-cultural teams are a source for creativity and innovation. However, when diversity is not managed, it not only lacks its promised benefits, but also backfires and sometimes, results in negative and even tragic consequences: three-quarters of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension. The 21st of Ma, World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, is a reminder of the world’s cultural richness and of the essential role of intercultural dialogue for achieving peace and sustainable development. That’s where diversity management or inclusion comes into place: diversity is just a mix, but inclusion is making that mix work. Forget about the ‘golden rule’ of communication ‘Treat others how YOU want to be treated’. In today’s increasingly diverse and complex world, ‘Treat others how THEY want to be treated’ is a lot more inclusive and respectful.

In short, when it comes to cultural diversity, we are all different in the ways we behave, communicate, show respect, appreciation, anger, confusion and embarrassment. Sometimes, these ways might not even be obvious if you are not familiar with them. Same goes with the way we give and receive feedback. And this is exactly the topic of our first point.

1. Feedback in Learning

Let’s check this simple graph as a reference ( please note that it is used as an oversimplification and generalisation as an example).

Imagine you are a US American working in a German company. Your performance of the quarter is impeccable: you over-achieved your target of the quarter, solved some crazy challenges and basically saved the face of the company! If you were in the US, you would expect some sort of appreciation from your colleagues and boss. But you are in Germany- forget it! In some cultures, like Germany, Russia or Turkey, there is no such thing as ‘positive feedback’- people don’t go around patting you on the shoulder everytime you achieve something- you are just doing your job, right? What is a potential danger here? If you are not familiar with this, you may find yourself disengaged, demotivated, not appreciated and your efforts not seen. But don’t worry, sometimes, if your boss does not talk to you, it simply means you’re doing a great job! No feedback=good feedback.

Let’s imagine another example: Your employee is falling behind the deadline and their performance has dropped dramatically over the last few months. Being from a culture that tends to deliver bad news in a very careful manner, spicing it up with whichever positive feedback you can think of (Think of a burger: positive-negative-positive), you skillfully present your frustration and disappointment in your employee performance in a way that doesn’t offend them or comes across as too direct or rude. What could be the result? Your employee simply doesn’t notice that the negative feedback has been communicated at all since the positives outweigh the negatives!

Think about the opposite situation: you deliver a feedback in a very direct manner ‘no beating around the bush’ and to the point — many people from a different culture might find your feedback too direct, harsh and even rude, why can’t you just ‘be nice’?

How is it related to Learning and Development? Identify and assess employee needs when it comes to feedback: some would need an extra smile and a comment, showing that you’re here, cheering them on and seeing their progress. Others might find such feedback unnecessary and distracting. Think of an online test: Think of a performance review: Could it be too harsh? What language are you using? Would that be appropriate for this particular employee? Could it be too indirect? Align it with a company culture and communication style.

2. Diversity of suppliers

It was an early Monday morning. I was standing in the middle of the room, facing 30 senior engineers, all male, all white, all at least 45 years of age. Had I been in a a bar I would probably gotten a very different treatment… but here I was, a young woman with a big smile on her face and energetic voice, with the goal to help the group improve their emotional intelligence and communication skills in diverse teams, set to spend the next few days learning, challenging and facilitating. I could see the change in their facial expression the moment I walked into the room: some surprised, others- skeptical, some rolling their eyes. Even before I had a chance to say anything! Apparently, they expected someone who is just like them- a male, an engineer and their age or older.

The first half an hour they listened politely, but their patience ran out, when, with a big smile on my face, I announced: ‘And now, it’s time to PLAY!’ and took a box with blocks of Lego out of my bag. Some stared in disgust and disbelief for few silent seconds, and others simply responded,

‘I am not 5, what am I doing here!!? Go back to a kindergarten with such approach!! I am a serious person with 20 years of experience leading a team of 50!!’

Likely, I expected such reaction and calmly assured them to bear with me for another 15 minutes, and if after 15 minutes, they still think that they are wasting their time, everyone is free to leave if they wish. Not expecting such reaction and ready to leave in 14.59, they silently obeyed and listened to instructions of the ‘Lego Challenge’, designed to illustrate, how the lack of communication (especially in the remote teams) could cause tension, conflict and misunderstanding. And guess what? 10 minutes later all 30 of them were smiling, running around the room, taking photos and giggling like a crowd of little girls. It worked! The ice started to melt! And everyone stayed until the very end 🙂

How is it related to Learning and Development? Choose your training suppliers wisely, taking into account a different perspective they might bring to your team. Unconsciously, we would definitely relate to someone who is just like us more and automatically fall into affinity bias, causing group-think. Can an experienced, trustworthy trainer, familiar with the industry and your product deliver the same result? Perhaps. Can someone, who is completely different, challenge your team much better, take them outside of their comfort zone and turn their reality and embedded values, harmful to the organisation upside down? More likely than not. That’s probably why reverse mentorship programs are becoming increasingly popular around the world, which is a topic of our next point.

3. Reverse Mentorship

There is a wide tendency to embrace mentorship programs following a classic approach: senior employees mentor someone junior. In the past few years several companies have embraced a very interesting approach to mentoring: junior mentoring someone senior. You might find it bizarre at first (What can a junior person with barely any experience teach at the executive level?), but it definitely works. Additionally, such mentorship programs do not necessarily have to focus on age only.

KPMG, for example, launched a reverse mentoring scheme in 2018, with a goal to pair partners with black heritage colleagues, so those working at more senior levels can truly understand the challenges those from diverse backgrounds face in the workplace. This could also be junior or mid-level female talent matched with the male senior leaders, for them to understand the challenges of being a woman in the workplace, and struggle to get a promotion to the executive level. This helps to win by-in of the leaders and bridges grassroot and top-down approach to diversity management. Is your learning organisation future-proof?

How is it related to Learning and Development? When you connect two people who otherwise might have never met and create safe space for the to learn from each other, magic things might happen. Not only you give an opportunity for someone senior to learn how younger generations, thinks and behaves (who, sometimes are the main customers of the organisation), technology, the challenges of being from a minority group or a woman in business; but it also creates a by-in from the senior level and (hopefully) creates a role model and a committed advocate for diversity in the organisation on a senior level.

4. Character selection

Imagine, you are from a small town in the middle of nowhere, you are short and bulky, with long blue hair, you wear glasses and are passionate about basketball. Unfortunately, all basketball players look nothing like you- they are tall, muscly, strong and their lifestyle seems out of reach as they live in lavish big houses in the capital cities of the world. You believe that you will never be like them since you have nothing in common with them, like you’re from two different planets. You quit basketball before even getting more serious into that. One day, you accidentally discover that a new rising star of basketball is also short, has funny-looking short red hair, terrible eyesight, but solved it with contact lenses and also comes from a small town. Your dream seems a lot closer now because the role model looks like you.

Think about it: when we have role models or protagonists that resonate with us, we feel a lot more engaged and motivated to read a book, watch a movie, develop a skill or complete an online course! Because now, it seems a lot more feasible and realistic to reach ou goal. If every book or movie about leadership is told from a perspective of a 60- year old white man in a suit who was born in New York into a family of a lawyer or a Harvard professor, many of us would probably never ourselves as leaders because we have nothing in common with him.

Think of these role models and how they changed the world: Oprah Whipfrey, Valentina Tereshkova (first woman in space, and til today, the only woman to have been on a solo space mission), Pablo Pineda (first person with Down syndrome to ever graduate from university), Tom Whittaker ( first disabled person to climb to the summit of Mount Everest), Malala Yousafzai… If a role model looks like you, you are likely to aspire to be like them, listen them, and believe that your goals are a lot more closer and realistic than before!

How is it related to Learning and Development? Choose your protagonists that speak the language of your target audience (learners). E.g. If you are developing an international junior customer support team, it would probably make more sense to also use a young non-German character as a protagonist since they would be able to relate a lot more. The same goes to books, online courses, videos and articles you share, invited speakers at internal conferences and many other things.

5. Language choice

Words can hurt, words can slap and make you bleed. How many books have you read that addressed a protagonist as ‘he’ ? How many online courses have you watched/conferences you attended that addressed the audience as ‘Hey guys!’? And you might have wondered if this course is for males only and if you are good/qualified enough to be here.

Or did it ever happen that you addressed someone as ‘she’ or ‘he’ accidentally in public even tho they have explicitly mentioned that they are gender-neutral and prefer to be addressed by their first name or with a pronoun ‘they’? Or you might’ve heard that women only apply for jobs when they feel they’ve met 100% of the requirements, while men will apply when they feel they’ve met 60% of them. Additionally, studies show, that masculine-oriented words in the job descriptions can can significantly reduce the number of women applying to your open positions, appealing to women. These could be words like:

  • Ninja
  • Rockstar
  • Determined
  • Decisive
  • Assertive
  • Autonomous
  • Aggressive
  • Dominant/Dominating
  • Independent

But how is it related to Learning and Development? Just like in recruiting, ensure to use inclusive language and use neutral words that do not carry any masculine sub-meaning. Your learners are the centre of your course design and are likely to be more engaged and complete it, if they feel that the workshop/LMS course addresses them personally and they feel like they belong there. Use your word wisely! Avoid using ‘hey guys!’ when addressing a mixed-gender group, replace ‘he’ with ‘they’ and ensure that your external trainers and coaches follow the same standard.

6. Safe Space

Safe and Brave space are paramount in learning and development because it creates a dialogue, addresses the elephant in the room and makes your learners think for themselves. I would describe safe space is when a newly joined intern feels comfortable enough to sit in the room with all seniors and not feel neglected or ‘unwanted’ to be there. Brave space is when that intern is feeling comfortable enough to ask a question at that meeting.

Allow a culture that promotes curiosity, failure and challenging the staus quo. Safe space is when you feel good and comfortable in ‘your own skin’, when you feel heard and don’t need to pretend to be someone else to ‘fit-in’. Brave space is when you feel confident enough to challenge the status quo and move towards the edge to discover what’s beyond it.We feel and perform best when we can be ourselves, and we learn better when our basic psychological needs have been met.

But how is it related to Learning and Development? Your learner’s progress and ability to learn depends not just on the quality of the company workshops, a trainer, coach and lunch-and-learn topics, but also on the comfort and safety they feel at work and the strength of their relationships with colleagues and ability to ‘fail’ without being punished.

Last but not least, it is important to realise that inclusion is not just the classic categories like gender, age, sexual orientation, special ability, education and cultural background. It also includes a diversity of thought, personality type (I highly recommend the book Quiet by Susan Cain), family composition (if you are a parent or not) and non-work related experience.

If you are passionate about Learning and Development, check out our community BerLearn

Olla Jongerius

Original can be found here:

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11 tactics for gamifying your next virtual meeting Thu, 02 Apr 2020 14:58:24 +0000 The coronavirus pandemic has changed our meeting culture overnight: organisations and groups are frantically moving their meetings under quarantine measures to Zoom, Microsoft Teams etc. While online meetings are a great opportunity, especially for companies, to maintain their communication and productivity, great challenges await!

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The coronavirus pandemic has changed our meeting culture overnight: organisations and groups are frantically moving their meetings under quarantine measures to Zoom, Microsoft Teams etc. While online meetings are a great opportunity, especially for companies, to maintain their communication and productivity, great challenges await!

Why is this guide available? We, Karl and Antonis, are avid users of online meetings: facilitating workshops on various skills and team development requires a good understanding of group dynamics and learning processes, as well as space for creativity. Not possible in cyberspace? Maybe. But why not dig a little deeper in our tactics?

The problem: Meetings from everyday life cannot be directly transferred to the virtual space, because different rules apply for communication via digital channels. If these are not followed, it can easily lead to chaos and losses in motivation and results.

The solution: gamification of virtual meetings through:

  • Elements from the psychology of games,
  • Principles for clear communication,
  • Ideas for team building and
  • Guidance on structure.

The goal: online meetings are not only easy to engage in, but can also lead to exciting experiences. Productivity can be higher than in a real-life meeting, without stress or imposing leadership.

In this article you will find some suggestions to achieve successful & engaging online meetings by utilising gamification. An important guide for facilitators, team leaders & HR managers!

1 In brief: 7 principles for the gamification of online meetings
2 Challenges of online meetings
3 Digression to biology: Why is concentration more difficult in an online meeting?
4 11 tactics for success & joy in online meetings
5 Let’s go! From theory to the practice of gamifying online meetings
6 Check list for a successful, effective online meeting.
7 About us

For the impatient readers, there is a summary right from the start. At the end you will find a checklist for planning your next online meeting. If you have any questions or specific concerns, you can contact us at any time.

In brief: 7 principles for the gamification of online meetings

  1. There is a clear goal, broken down into smaller action steps to follow. Every step should be clear to every participant. Ideally, the goal contributes to a bigger picture, also made clear in the process.
  2. Enhancing social interaction: opening/closing rituals, digital warm-ups, moments of sharing, smaller working groups and collaboration/competition ensure a warm and engaging atmosphere.
  3. Regular phase changes: fatigue & the next browser tab are your enemies. It is therefore important to switch between different working modes, for example by: switching to smaller working groups (breakout rooms on zoom), working together on common documents, inserting video, having regular breaks etc.
  4. Storytelling: One or more stories can incorporate important insights, working principles and learning content, or simply serve to entertain.
  5. Atmosphere of winning: The progress towards your goal is made visible and celebrated, enhanced by visual aids.
  6. Less is more: small number of participants, short working phases, few agenda points can maximise efficiency and maintain engagement.
  7. Reward your attendees for actively participating in the meeting. Appreciate the value they have created to level up the joy of the next meeting.

Every strategy should be implemented using clear tactics. You will find 11 specific tactics, ideas, tips and examples for utilising gamification in your next online meeting below, on Zoom, Teams, Skype or elsewhere.

But first: what are the main challenges of online meetings?

Challenges of online meetings:

Many meetings in person can be annoying, difficult, and boring. However, the following can have particularly negative consequences in digital meetings:

  • Distractions: It can be particularly tempting to answer emails or surf the web during a digital meeting. There are even stories of people who began assembling their furniture during a video conference. Attention span in web-based activities tends to be particularly short, especially given the overabundance of information at our fingertips.
  • Technical difficulties: Bad connection, noisy loudspeakers, echo from participants leaving their microphones on while using loudspeakers, a frozen video… Technical hurdles are practically in the agenda for digital meetings, so it is particularly important to ensure a high quality of communication and enhance motivation through a clear structure.
  • Lack of non-verbal signals: The live feedback we get from real-life communication is integral to how we communicate, even if most of it takes place subconsciously. Gestures, facial expressions and body postures are valuable, yet limited, pieces of information. If we don’t properly perceive the subtleties of facial expressions and tone of voice, they can easily be misinterpreted in a negative manner.

And then of course there are the challenges that are present in all meetings, but which can be particularly difficult in digital contexts:

  • Lack of structure and leadership: there should be a clear discussion process. Usually there is a moderator who has an agenda, coordinates it with the participants, and ensures a harmonious and varied flow of discussion.
  • Too much or too little commitment: some participants have to be lured out of their insecurity, while others can hardly be stopped with their flow of speech:
    Karl once had a project partner in the Caribbean who turned the 2-minute check-in into a 50-minute (!) monologue and was simply unstoppable. Since then, he’s only been using tools that allow muting participants.

Digression to biology: Why is concentration more difficult in an online meeting?

Human communication is a whole-body activity: there are various fine muscles and parts of the autonomic nervous system that are activated in social engagement, and stimulate the senses of the interacting parties.Unfortunately, the subconscious perception of body signals is very limited in virtual meetings.Tip: Be extra-clear in your personal messages and provide participants with a clear agenda and talking rules in order to minimise conflict and promote structure.Extra solution: Hand gestures are an effective and engaging way to give non-verbal visible feedback in a video chat:

☜ ☞ ☟☝

Dissociation and daydreaming in an online meetingDaydreaming occurs more easily with participants who are more passively involved in a meeting, therefore getting distracted and drifting away mentally can become a challenge. This is not due to bad intentions but happens naturally through the default-mode-network that sets in when there is no obvious task to focus on. This holds true also when there is a lack of clarity in a conversation, where the mind dissociates from it when it gets too difficult to follow. Once you lose track in a complex conversation, it’s difficult to refocus and catch up.Simple solutions: clear goals, reliable timing, one person speaking at a time, short phases.

Gamification helps: using social interaction elements and reiterating the purpose and progress of the meeting help to keep interaction and concentration levels high.11 tactics for success & joy in online meetings

Tactic 1: Check-In & Check-Out

A short ritual at the beginning of a session helps everyone to focus on the common process. It can be very simple, for example: a round in which everyone says their name and how they feel at the moment in one word. It should be short and involve everyone.Closing the cycle: a conclusion as a group at the end of the meeting is just as important to end the meeting positively and exit the no longer necessary working mood. For example, you could say in a round again in one word how everyone feels after the meeting.Remember to thank everyone for attending before saying goodbye!
Tactic 2: Align expectations

It is the first win-state in the meeting when everyone knows they are in the right place at the right time. Make this clear by asking participants to state their expectations for the meeting in one word. There are some nice digital tools you can use to collect the answers and display them in a word cloud. Some of our favourite tools for this are Mentimeter, Slido and Wooclap. Use these tools to make your events more interactive and engaging!

Tactic 3: Make your goals and intentions clear

This is obviously important for any meeting, but even more crucial when Facebook or Twitter are just a click away. For virtual meetings we recommend having only one overall goal and regularly reaffirm it during the meeting. Ideally, this should happen immediately after the expectations round to reassure the participants they are in the right place.Why? We often tend to jump straight to work and forget why we do it in the first place. It’s important to remember what drives us to be where we are.Maximise motivation: make sure the goal contributes to a bigger picture. What is the overarching purpose behind this meeting? Does it contribute to a social or environmental purpose? Perhaps it helps fulfil the broader vision of your company (if this is a company meeting). A reminder of how this meeting and your attendees’ efforts fit into this bigger picture will help motivate them and reassure them that their time is well spent. The connection to the greater benefit is also an appreciation of your own time.

Tactic 4: The way to the goal – break it down

Break down the overall goal into small action steps to follow so that it feels feasible. What practical steps are required for your group to achieve the desired goal? The progress of the meeting should follow these steps.Be sensible with your agenda points: steps lacking relevance can derail the focus of your meeting, while too many steps can affect its effectiveness.A visual reminder of each completed step can keep the group focused, motivated and engaged! Keep reading for more suggestions on using visual aids!

Tactic 5: Digital warm-ups – 3 ideas for more energy

As important as it is in real meetings to break the ice and build rapport, it is even more so in online meetings. It appears to be a little more difficult without the benefits of physical space and less body language. Here are a few ideas for digitally breaking the ice:

  1. Share a spontaneous photo! Everyone will most likely be home anyway. Ask them to share a photo of an object on their desk they feel connected to (a book they are reading, a cup of their favourite coffee, something related to their hobbies, etc.) and say a few words about it. Keep it short and informal – the goal is just to break the ice.
  2. Share something personal! For meetings aiming at team-building and sharing: Ask meaningful open-ended questions, eg about their personal relationship to the meeting goal, followed by a round of quick answers. This helps to achieve the goal while creating a safe space for opening up. Examples of suitable questions would be “What did you do last week that you are proud of?”, “What are you grateful for today?” or “What daily routines do you follow to keep your motivation up?”. This may not be relevant for a technically oriented work meeting.
  3. Be creative: If you’ll be using a whiteboard or similar app for brainstorming or ideation, have a playful on-boarding activity on the same tool before jumping into working with it! For example, ask participants to draw a unicorn together if you’ll be working on a whiteboard, or write down their favourite foods and group them in different cuisines if working with sticky notes. Digital tools for this purpose are the embedded whiteboard of ZoomGoogle JamboardWhiteboardfoxGroupboardConceptboardTwiddlaMiroZiteboard or a shared document on Google Drive or Microsoft 365.

Bonus inspiration: A good friend and fellow facilitator asked his participants during a session on Emotional Intelligence to depict their current emotions with Emoji Maker and then used those depictions as the topic of the relevant follow-up discussion into breakout groups (more on those below). Brilliant!

Tactic 6: Keep everyone involved

You have put together a group for a specific goal. Use all resources to achieve it, especially the skills of your participants, and ensure they’re involved. Appreciate the competence of your participants: give them an active role during the meeting!If you have used any of the digital tools previously mentioned, now is the time to put them to practice for each of the steps you’ve defined. How exactly you will do this depends heavily on your goal and content, but keep in mind the following:

  • If your goal has to do with discussing a topic, the discussion is more likely to be efficient and inclusive in smaller groups;
  • If you aim for your attendees to learn something, they’re more likely to learn it by applying it in practice, especially when it comes to skills development;
  • If it’s a working meeting, motivation and productivity significantly increase in small group work sprints. It’s easier to pay attention and be inspired by others in a small group, as well as to feel comfortable sharing any concerns or asking for help;
  • The active participation of your audience is fundamental to their sense of achievement;
  • But also for your own comfort as a facilitator: an overworked moderator is a bad moderator – so let your participants develop the content!

The digital era provides a wide array of tools to use for collaborative work on the web, from those already linked above, to collaboratively developing documents using Google Drive, Zoho’s office suite, or an  Etherpad.Even if your goal doesn’t require collaborative document development or brainstorming, it’s always beneficial to come up with activities to keep your attendees involved in the process.Example from online classes on physics: the students were supposed to find out about voltage on household appliances, during the introduction to electricity. Since they already looked tired, Karl turned it into a competition: who can find the most information on household appliances in 10 minutes? They were very motivated, and the winner found 24 entries!

Tactic 7: Maximise engagement with small groups

Small groups can increase participation, feeling comfortable to speak up and share your thoughts, while maintaining effectiveness and productivity. Think from the perspective of an attendee while designing the meeting you intend to facilitate.How can you divide a large group into smaller teams using digital tools? Use the embedded breakout rooms from Zoom, the open source Unhangout from MIT or Qiqochat (combination of Zoom, breakout rooms and collaborative document creation).

Tactic 8: The rule of small numbers

A key rule for digital communication is: less is more. Based on our experience, we can recommend the following to increase the engagement of your participants:

  1. Keep the overall group small: Up to 12 people if active participation is required.
  2. Use smaller groups of 3-5 people for the more intensive work phases.
  3. Take  a short break once an hour (human needs remain present in digital meetings) and change the working mode every 15 to 20 minutes (introduce group discussions, exercises, work sprints, etc.).
  4. Keep your sessions short: up to 45 minutes for a discussion or presentation, and up to 90 minutes for work, exercises, or skills development. If you have to go longer, use more breaks.
  5. One goal per session: Use different sessions for different goals.

Tactic 9: The power of stories

Nothing beats the power of a good story! Personal stories, educational stories, funny stories … Our tips:

  • Use short videos to highlight learning points and simplify complex concepts with a cinematic narrative or simply as an entertaining break. A good internet connection and understanding how screen sharing works is necessary.
  • Tell a short story or invite your participants to share one.
  • Share a story in advance, in the form of a video or text document.
  • Bonus suggestion (for advanced facilitators): what if your entire meeting structure follows a storyline? A concept that can help with that is the “Hero’s Journey“. Can you draw any parallels between the action steps on your agenda and Campbell’s stages of the monomyth? See if you can build a narrative around the structure of your meeting. Hint: Check-in and Check-out can easily signify the departure and return to the “ordinary world”.

Tactic 10: Use visual aids

Since we mentioned videos, it’s worth mentioning that enhancing your meeting with visual aids can have a positive impact on the motivation of your attendees. The more senses are addressed, the more active and motivated the brain becomes. How can you do that?

  • When you share a presentation, make sure it’s well designed, with minimal text and appealing graphics. Use templates on PowerPoint or Google slides, or use Canva as an alternative way to design them.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words: add graphics, infographics, mind maps and other visual elements to your presentation. This allows to convey your message in an efficient, convenient and aesthetically pleasing way, which will help maintain your attendees’ motivation and attention.
  • Particularly valuable: visualise the progress of your meeting! Hopefully you have already broken down your goal into achievable action steps. After completing each step, present clear visual cues for the proximity to the goal. The sense of accomplishment created will increase the motivation of your participants and ensure a smooth transition to the next step.

Tactic 11: Reward at the end

Continuing the use of visual aids, you can of course use a nice thank-you illustration, but more importantly, you can give your participants something that will feel more rewarding and is relevant to their needs. We have two suggestions for that:

  1. Use digital open badges to recognise the participants’ achievements during the meeting. This is particularly relevant if the purpose of the meeting is related to learning and/or developing skills (badgecraft is our favourite tool for this purpose). It may be less relevant for a simple discussion, but everyone is happy to have their efforts recognised.
  2. Reward the participants with something of practical value, e.g. a discount on a future course, a voucher for an event or a donation to a charity of their choice. This can link the intrinsic value of their efforts during the meeting to an external purpose that matters to them and/or is linked to the vision of your company (remember that bigger picture from tactic 3?).

Here we go! From theory to the practice of gamifying online meetings

As you may have noticed, most of our suggestions can also be utilised in real-life meetings to make them more engaging. While communicating through digital means may magnify some challenges and ease others, there are many parallels to their real-life equivalents, as we’re dealing with human communication in both cases.What is your next important online meeting? How can you make your time as valuable and entertaining as possible for your participants?Don’t be intimidated by the wealth of ideas and tactics: every little step counts for a better meeting culture. Nobody is perfect! Making mistakes is allowed and desired! How else can you learn and develop? This attitude can keep you relaxed and confident during the meeting.We hope our suggestions will make your next online meeting interactive and motivating! And if you’d like to chat about it or get support on your design or facilitation, feel free to contact us!What are your ideas to make an online meeting successful? Let us know! Leave a comment or send an email to Karl or Antonis.Check list for a successful, effective online meeting.

Download or print!About us:

Antonis TriantafyllakisKarl is a facilitator for team development and innovation processes with design thinking. Antonis is a soft skills trainer specialising in experiential learning and gamification. He is a disciple of the gamification master Yu-Kai Chou (through Octalysis Prime).Boring meetings are a horror to us, while boring online meetings are an overkill! That’s why we developed these guidelines and tips in order to achieve more motivation, fun and team spirit in your next online meeting or in a real-life workshop.Our design challengeHow can we design an online meeting that it is as fun and engaging as a game night with friends?If you also want your meetings to be more fun and bring results, write to us!You can find a version of this article on Medium as well, and a German translation on Karl’s website!

Bonus notes

Also important for a successful online meeting:

  • Team-building: Make sure everyone feels seen and heard, is involved in the group process, and knows who they are dealing with at all times. Communicating the current mood and sharing personal experiences is valuable for this, throughout the entire process. Make sure to devote enough time for this.
  • Mindfulness: A minute of silence at the beginning or after a break can help to focus on the conversation and become aware of your own inner distractions.


The original article can be found here.

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Why building an inclusive internal community is the best thing you can do for your organization right now. Wed, 01 Apr 2020 14:33:31 +0000 We live in a very interesting, but stressful and turbulent times. According to many predictions, the isolation will not last a few weeks, but a few months; with many forecasting the situation to remain as it is today until the end of the year, best case- till autumn. Apologies for being grim and blunt and […]

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We live in a very interesting, but stressful and turbulent times. According to many predictions, the isolation will not last a few weeks, but a few months; with many forecasting the situation to remain as it is today until the end of the year, best case- till autumn. Apologies for being grim and blunt and ruining your plans for holiday vacation.. But!

While it is very difficult for many to accept the inevitable change and disrupted reality, we need to acknowledge that the world will never be the same as it has been 2 months ago. Nothing is certain but death, taxes and an inevitable change. And although I started this article on a pessimistic note, I remain as positive and optimistic as ever; but instead of scaring whoever is reading this humble article, I invite you to embrace this change and think ahead:

How does the current ‘suddenly remote’ situation impact your team’s engagement, happiness, mental health and company culture?

There is no argument about that: it’s not easy for anyone today. For employed and freelancers, entrepreneurs and government workers, medical staff and check-out operators, teachers and parents, kids and students. With the sources like Forbes reporting that the pandemic and self-isolation are boosting mental health issues, sense of loneliness and self-esteem, we are in the need of a community and emotional support more than ever.

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To start with it, in my humble opinion, (and everything in this article is my personal interpretation and has no intention in pushing my opinion to others), the term ‘social distancing’ is an extremely dangerous one. Why on earth would you want to distance yourself in the times of trouble/danger and uncertainty? Do you call your mum/dad/friends in the times of trouble or try to avoid them like a plague?

There is no need to come over to your friends house and have a ‘corona party’, but let’s separate the terms ‘social distancing’ and ‘physical distancing’ as they have two very different intentions. For those of you who are team leads, managers or company founders,

Now, more than ever, it is vital to practice social closeness

This doesn’t mean you all need to go back to the office: no physical proximity is required. It simply means you need to make extra steps to communicate with your employees in an informal way, maintaining trust, and ensuring that your employees feel engaged, motivated, included and physically & psychologically safe- something we all need a little more of right now. Now, more than ever, we need support, sense of belonging and a sparring partner. An engaged and inclusive community is the best way not to only keep afloat, get inspiration and manage mental health, but to also see opportunities where you would otherwise see a challenge if you were by yourself.

In the next few paragraphs, I’d like to briefly talk about the roles of diversity, inclusion, belonging, community building and safe space, and how they can potentially support your employee’s motivation, mental health and performance.

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To be clear: I am not a mental health specialist; neither do I coach people on how to prevent burn-out or make the right life decisions ( although I am a certified executive coach). In my work as a diversity and inclusion specialist and a professional ecosystem/community builder, I connect people and organizations that have troubles understanding one another; and support diverse and often distributed teams to feel connected and included regardless of their cultural background, gender, beliefs, sexual orientation or personality. We, humans, are social creatures, and we best perform when we feel understood, accepted and can bring our ‘whole self’ to work without the fear of being judged or not accepted for who we are.

To put it simply, the most common misconception about ‘diversity’ that it has a direct positive impact on the teams’ performance, company revenue and culture success, which is generally wrong. Surprised?

Diversity, especially in the virtual setting, is only effective if it is managed.

For anyone who has ever tried deciding on a movie choice at a family gathering would understand- kids, teenagers, young adults, our aunt, your aging cousin and grandpa- all wanted to watch something different. And, unless all wishes are taken into account and someone takes a lead and finds consensus, no decision would be made. That’s where inclusion comes in. Managed diversity = inclusion. Not managed diversity = chaos, conflict & lack of understanding. Or, as some say,’ Diversity is a mix, Inclusion is making this mix work’. Or, ‘Diversity is being invited to a meeting, Inclusion is being asked for your opinion at that meeting, and Belonging is feeling comfortable enough to do so.

Think of your teams as you think of a community

What comes to mind when you think of a community? Most people say, it’s a sense of belonging, trust, acceptance, honesty, tolerance and understanding. Think of some communities you are part of. You probably first visited it with an intention to earn money, solve a specific problem, get fit, learn to dance/play an instrument/improve your public speaking skills- whatever. Why are you still there after several years? You’ve learned to dance, solved your problem, got fit, and are a professional speaker (think Toastmasters). People come for one thing, but they usually stay for a community.

The main objective of any community is to grow together while having a common goal guided by specific rules. A community has guidelines, objectives, strategy, performance and engagement measurements. An engaged and inclusive internal (also external- but we’ll talk about it in the next article) community is not only a great way to stay connected with your ‘suddenly distributed’ colleagues, get inspiration and manage mental health, but to also see a different perspective or opportunity that eluded you while you were all stuck in the office.

A company/university that fosters a sense of community and inclusion now, will be in a much better shape and with more engaged participants in a 6-month time compared to the organizations that do not take any steps in that direction.

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