Since the Coronavirus hit in mid-March, most of us have been meeting our small groups virtually for at least two months. Some of our experiences have been great, and some of them not so much so.
Virtual meetings are new to us, and sometimes it takes a while to adjust to proper etiquette in a new situation. If someone were vacuuming just outside the classroom door of group meeting, someone would politely ask them to clean up later. Yet, at the same time, we currently allow some things that are equally distracting to continue.
In this blog, I’ll review some of the basics, but also share some of the best practices I’ve learned over the last two months of participating in many virtual group meetings.
1. The group needs to see and hear you well.
There are several YouTube videos on hosting great virtual meetings. After the hair and makeup content, which I readily ignored, there were some really good tips, like
a) have the camera at eye level so the group doesn’t look up your nose,
b) have light in front of your face, not behind you so that you become a silhouette, and
c) make sure you are close enough to the microphone so that your audio is good. It would be best to get
someone else’s opinion on that. You might do a test meeting first.
2. The mute button is your friend.
You can resolve most virtual meeting problems with the mute button. If you are the host of the meeting, you can mute others. You should be aware that the user you mute will see a message that you did so. At times, I tell people that I’m getting some feedback from somewhere, so I’m muting different people until I find it.
3. Encourage people to download the application software.
Most of our people use Zoom, but other resources like Jitsi Meet also have a download. Users always experience fewer issues if they download the software. For people having problems, that’s my first question.
4. Encourage people to arrive early to work out any technical issues.
Nothing is more frustrating than to have people arrive late and begin asking questions about how to see people or fix an issue. This is particularly important with first-time users.
5. Teach everyone how to use the software.
It’s important for people to know how to mute themselves, how to turn off their video if something distracting happens in their environment, how to group or individual chat, how to visually respond with a thumbs up or clap, or even how to raise their hand to be called on. Spend a little time coaching these items.
MAKE YOUR VIRTUAL MEETINGS EVEN BETTER
6. Enlist and train a co-host.
The larger the group, the more important this becomes. I would suggest a co-host for any meeting with over 7-8 participants. When you have a co-host, you don’t have to be distracted by technology issues. Fixing those is the job of the co-host. Let people know that the co-host will be helping facilitate the meeting. The co-host can even coach the leader if his audio or video is sub-par. You make them a co-host by clicking on their box’s drop-down menu once the meeting starts.
7. Use Break Out Groups
During the pandemic, people are missing out on many opportunities to share life with one another. An easy way to do that is by using the software’s breakout feature. You can let them pray together or ask a question and send them to breakout rooms for five minutes for discussion.
8. Use the space bar.
One secret tip for Zoom is that pressing and holding your keyboard’s spacebar unmutes you. You can release the spacebar when you are finished speaking, and you are muted again. No more scrambling with your mouse for the unmute button.
9. Ask people with a poor connection to phone in.
When people have poor quality connections, their speech is often unintelligible. They can still log in on their computer for video to see people while using their phone for audio.
10. Go ahead and get a paid account.
Using the free account is not worth the headache of having to log off or end early. A paid account with zoom averages less than $4 per week and allows you to meet without a 40-minute time limit.
11. Focus less on content.
During the pandemic, people need to interact. Your pastor is likely already delivering great Bible content through streaming worship gatherings. Therefore, another Bible lesson may not be as great a need during this time as staying connected, meeting ministry needs, and praying together.
12. Challenge people to take spiritual steps.
Don’t eliminate all Bible content but do offer less. People still need to be challenged to live for God during this time, so keep challenging your group to stay connected to the Bible and prayer individually, and to find ways to serve and witness.
13. Consider meeting twice a week.
Many groups meet once for Bible study and again mid-week for prayer and fellowship.
14. Strengthen relationships outside of group time.
Stay connected with people through phone calls, texts, and even individual virtual meetings. You can still have those one-on-one encouragement meetings.
15. Preserve unity and help eliminate frustration.
Some in your group are eager to return and can grow frustrated. You may need to have some driveway or yard meetings before your group meets again in person. Lead well and encourage people to love their neighbors by helping keep everyone safe. Your pastor wants your group back as well, but he wants you safe!
Here more of these items discussed on the Great Groups Podcast on your favorite podcast app or by visiting GreatGroups.org.