Dr. Renee Rubin Ross will share and practice simple virtual tools to lead meetings that get participants sharing ideas, interacting and moving towards investment and action.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Dr. Ross, we are rolling. So is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started, officially?

Dr. Ross: Yes, absolutely.

Steven.: All right. Awesome. Well, good afternoon, everyone. Good morning, I should say, if you’re out on the West Coast. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar. We’ll be talking about how to design and lead interactive, inclusive virtual meetings. I’m very excited about this one. I’m sure a lot of you are doing virtual meetings. So this is a good one, this is a timely one for all of you. Thanks for being here. I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang. I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always. Just so happy to see you all.

Just a couple of housekeeping items, real quick, before we get going. Just want to let you all know that we are recording this session. We’ll be sending out the recording, the slides, any of the resources mentioned. Don’t worry, we’ll get all that good stuff to you today. I’ll email it to you this afternoon. So just be on the lookout for an email for me. So, if you can’t watch the full presentation now, maybe get interrupted, you’ve got a meeting, no problem, I’ll get that to you later on today. But most importantly, please feel free, I know a lot of you have already done this, but you use that chat box. There’s a chat box, a Q&A box. We’d love to hear from you. We’re going try to save some time for Q&A.

So don’t be shy, send in your questions and comments. Introduce yourself now, if you haven’t already, we’d love to know who we’re talking to. Tell us about yourself. We’d love to hear from you. You can also do that on Twitter. I’ll be checking out the Twitter feed if you want to send us a Tweet. But yeah, we’d love to hear from you.

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, just for context, some folks don’t know Bloomerang when they’re first coming into these webinars, in addition to these webinars, which we do, now pretty often a couple of times a week, usually, it’s every Thursday. We do have a Thursday session this week, which I’ll tell you about later on. But what Bloomerang is most known for is donor management software. That’s what Bloomerang is. So, if you are interested in that, check out our website. You know, you can watch videos, you can download all kinds of goodies and learn more about us if you are curious. But if you’re a first-timer, welcome, this is going to be a great session because we’ve got Dr. Renee Rubin Ross, joining us from the beautiful Bay Area out in California. Dr. Ross, how you doing? You’re doing okay?

Dr. Ross: Great. Great. Thank you.

Steven: Yes. This is so awesome to have you. We owe you a thanks, first of all. I want people to know that you reached out to us and offered this to the community, which I was so grateful and blown away by that email. And I’m so excited to have you because I got a peek at your slides earlier on. I know this is going to be a good one. If you don’t know Dr. Ross, check her out over at The Ross Collective, awesome consulting firm. It does a lot of great work, especially as it relates to racial equity in the nonprofit sector, which if you follow me in Bloomerang, you know, that’s something I’m really passionate about. So thank you for that work. Super active, like I said, in the Bay Area in the nonprofit community. You know, helping people not just with virtual meetings but with all kinds of things, with their boards, and you’re going to see a lot of that knowledge come into play over the next 55 minutes or so. So I want that that to extend as long as possible. So I’ll pipe down and I’ll stop sharing my screen here, Dr. Ross, and let you take it away.

Dr. Ross: Great. Thank you so much. Here we go. All right, I am going to . . . Okay.

Steven: There it goes.

Dr. Ross: All right.

Steven: Nice.

Dr. Ross: Wonderful. Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, depending on where you are in the world. And it’s really exciting to come together and talk about this extremely important topic of leading better virtual meetings. I’m sure a lot of you have been on many virtual meetings and are thinking about, “How can we do these as well as possible?” And that’s really what I’m going to be talking about. We’re going to be talking about together this morning, this afternoon, wherever you are.

So this is a little bit about me. Steven already said some things. My firm is The Ross Collective, based in the San Francisco Bay Area. We design . . . And I was going to turn my camera off too just to . . . There we go. We design and lead inclusive participatory planning processes for social sector boards and staff. Yeah, I also run the Cal State East Bay Nonprofit Management Certificate program and teach for the program. And even one of my students is actually on this webinar today, which is great. So I wanted to start with a question for you. So, as we said already, the challenge that many colleagues, clients have come to me over the past month is “Virtual meetings are tough.” And I wanted to ask you, does this resonate with you? So it’s in the chat box if you can share, does this resonate with you?

Steven: Getting a lot of yeses.

Dr. Ross: Okay. And what’s difficult about virtual meetings? What’s difficult about virtual meetings? And it’s interesting, for some reason, Steven, I see my screen. Somehow the way things are set up, I don’t see the chat. And I don’t know why, but maybe you can just read some of the responses.

Steven: Yeah, no problem. Lots of people are saying, keep people engaged is when I see a lot, you know, getting people to talk. Another interesting one, not kind of feeling the energy in the room kind of physically [inaudible 00:05:41] presence is a big one people are saying, etiquette . . .

Dr. Ross: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Great.

Steven: I can relate to all of these.

Dr. Ross: Yeah. So some of the things that, you know, people talk about, “We only get people’s faces, we don’t get their bodies, right?” You can’t read people’s facial expressions. There’s no pre-meeting where people can walk in and kind of warm-up and say hello. It’s almost like we snap our fingers and we’re in these seats. It’s like, where does everybody come from? You know? So how do we create more transition? We’re going to be talking about that.

And I’m glad to see that this does resonate with you. And what we’re going to be talking about over the next hour is some solutions for doing this better. So every time I present, I always share outcomes. What I hope you will take away from our hour together, you will be able to identify three questions that will help you design and lead better virtual meetings, give examples of concrete strategies for each question, and identify one or two next steps to improve your ability to design and lead better meetings.

I do want to say that, you know, this is at a high level. This is a lot about what will guide you in thinking about designing and running more inclusive and interactive meetings now, starting tomorrow, starting really one hour from now. So really concrete tips you can use, but also I’m not going to go into all the features of Zoom. You can go to their website and watch a few quick videos that will help you understand that. But I will share some questions that might help you think about when to use breakout groups, for example.

And I wanted to start with agreements. Every time I lead a conversation or training, I start with agreements and these are about, how do we want to be together for the next hour? And even on a webinar with hundreds of people, I like to set an intention of what I hope to offer and the intention you might set to make the most of our time together. So my agreements with you are to share content that many social sectors find useful and stop periodically during the webinar to make sure you’re with me, and get your thoughts. And I hope to stop in the middle and get some questions, and also, at the end, we’ll take more questions.

And how can you benefit the most? Participation is the path to learning. So this is all about interactive meetings and everything I plan is for people to participate. I’m always interested to hear how your reactions and thoughts to what I’m sharing. Take an inquiry stance, we’re learning together. If you have questions, put them in the chat or the question box, most likely other people have those questions too. And let’s value our time together. The more that you are present, the more that you’ll benefit from the content being shared.

Okay. So three questions that can help you design and lead more inclusive interactive meetings. What’s in the room? Who is in the room and where do we want to go? And we’re going to go through them one by one. So, first of all, I just took a big breath there. I hope you did, too. What’s in the room now? And I’m talking about designing virtual meetings for today. Right? Maybe it will change in the future, but I really want to talk about how we need to design our conversations at this moment.

So what is in the room? Anxiety, trauma, change, hope. You know, we are in a challenging moment, and I’m going to say some of the things that I see going on and that I hear from clients, and colleagues, and friends. Social distancing has led to a complete change in routine for many people. Those who live alone are facing isolation and loneliness, some people. And those who live with others may find challenge in getting along or even danger, as there are reports of increased child abuse and domestic violence. Working parents are feeling increased responsibilities, juggling work and parenting. And there’s the health dimension where many people are feeling anxiety about contracting COVID-19 or grief if a loved one is suffering or have died.

Now there’s also the economic dimension of this, which has included layoffs, furloughs. I read that more than 50% of Americans say that, in the last month, someone has lost income. One in four indicate they or someone in their household has been laid off. Healthcare and essential workers are risking their lives to do their work. And the COVID-19 crisis is layered on top of longer term American challenges, such as income and economic inequality, food insecurity, challenges around affordable housing and healthcare.

We’re living in this limbo. And I’m sorry, there’s so much here, I’m going to stop in a minute but I feel like it’s important. I do not want to bring everybody down, but I also want to say that a lot of our energy is going to what’s in the room right now. And for nonprofits, fundraisers have been canceled. There have been some challenges to revenue streams or even just figuring out, how do we reorganize our work? So all of this is to say we are individually and collectively under a lot of strain.

And I have these images of these elephants. One elephant wasn’t even enough. I needed two. There’s the mommy the baby. You need to be aware of all of this, right? Any meeting we are planning, any meeting we are designing and leading, the feelings that people are having now are the elephant or elephants in the room.

And I was reminded of a story. A while back, I ran a meeting for a nonprofit team. Things got a little emotional and we were able to move through the emotion to get to a good place and come to agreement about the next steps. And afterwards, one of the participants came up to me and asked, “Aren’t you scared when someone becomes emotional in one of your meetings that you might not know what to do?” And I responded, “Honestly, I don’t feel fearful when strong emotions come up in groups. But rather, that’s when things get interesting because there’s a lot of energy locked up in those strong emotions, and only by acknowledging and releasing that energy can groups become productive.”

So that’s what’s happening in meetings in the time of the pandemic. We are bringing strong emotions to every conversation that we’re having. So what should you do about it? You need to design for what’s in the room. And the first step is finding out what’s there ahead of time, if possible. And that would include having more one-on-one conversations with staff or board members. “You know, how are you? How can our organization or team or community support you? Second of all, how do you want to address and acknowledge this?”

And we’ll talk a little bit about this in a minute but what kind of space do you want to create in your meeting so that people feel that they have some space for the emotions that they’re bringing? And so you need to create space to acknowledge feelings. And this is really about showing compassion. We realize you’re struggling, we care about you, and we are moving our work forward together in a way that shows the care that we feel for each other.

So how do you apply this to virtual meetings, really concretely? What I see is that it is more important than ever to pay attention to openings. How are people welcomed and what tone are you setting? Now it’s important to pay attention to openings in every meeting. But in virtual meetings, since it’s almost like we snap our fingers and appear, there needs to be more mindfulness to how we come together and a little bit of slowing that down. How do you want to welcome people? What tone are you setting? How are people seen with their struggles and triumphs?

And that might include taking a minute to breathe, right? Somebody might be processing something and might need some separation between what just happened and whatever you’re going to be talking about in your meeting. Add some space to your agenda to give participants more time to process information and make decisions. Some nonprofit organizations are dealing with some really important decisions right now, and we don’t want to make those decisions rashly. We really want to think about, “How do we calm ourselves down as individuals and as a group so that we have the focus to think about these questions of our future as organizations?” So yeah, all right. So I want to ask you a question, which is in the chat box, can you share? How are you creating space for what’s in the room? Steven, if you can help me out?

Steven: Yeah, some folks are saying being patient, openly encouraging, sharing, collective group breathing, opening with a check-in with the group. See how everyone is feeling at the beginning of the meetings, starting with a check-in at our board meeting tomorrow, specifically, so that’s good, doing yoga, taking walks. That’s nice. Very cool.

Dr. Ross: Great. And, you know, in the past, I’ve worked with organizations that will say, “We want to get right down to business. We don’t want to do the icebreakers, we just want to start talking about our agenda. This is a time when you need that space, especially in a virtual meeting, and especially at this time. Okay. Okay. So next I want to talk about who’s in the room. Right? And, again, we need to be more mindful of our differences and how to design and think about meetings, both in person and virtually that honor those differences. So who’s in the room? People from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, people who learn with multiple learning styles, and people who process information with different participation styles, and I’m going to talk more about each of these.

But the really key thing to know here is that we all have blind spots. If you don’t think about this consciously, you can too design meetings for yourself. Right? I’ll say that one more time because it is really, really important. If you don’t think about this consciously, you tend to design meetings for someone like yourself. So you have to go beyond thinking about how you would want the information or the agenda to really think about, “Okay. Who’s in the room and how can I design across different learning styles, different backgrounds, different stories?”

So how do we design to acknowledge and honor differences? The first is to think about what kinds of differences we have. And what I loved about this image of these giraffes is that each is looking in a different direction. They’re seeing different things. And that’s how it is in a meeting. We’re all standing on the same graph, but we see different things perspectives. And we got to bring those multiple perspectives into meetings to have meaningful conversations and outcomes.

So, first of all, what are some of these differences? Diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. This is my board development class in Oakland, California. Lots of people from different backgrounds who each brought or, you know, people in your meetings, hopefully, are bringing their lived experience and perspective to the conversation. And going back to that image of the elephant or the elephants, the more that you’re able to capture these and honor these perspectives, you’re bringing out the richness of the conversation. And this is so important at this time, as we are really seeing the inequality that COVID-19 is showing, and also how we are all connected, everyone, from people who are homeless, who are more susceptible to COVID-19 all the way to, you know, people who may be in prison also experiencing outbreaks. But we need perspective, we need the perspective of all different kinds of people.

So how do you do this, design meetings that honor racial equity? By considering, how is our organization making racial equity and explicit value? How do we talk about this on our website, and in our organizational materials, and keep talking about this from the leadership of the organization? How do we create space to acknowledge and share experiences based on racial and other differences? So, if we’re showing that we care about racial equity, what conversations should we be having? And how can each person’s wisdom and lived experience deepen conversations help us make better decisions?

And also, so much of meeting design is about values. What are the values of our organization and how do we bring those values into our world? And you can look at things like are some people speaking a lot, others less, so who has power in the meeting and how do we talk about who has power? A very easy thing to do in a virtual meeting is rotate who leads the meeting and designs the agenda, so that you start to let different people do the planning and thinking about how your work is going to go forward.

Okay. Next, different participation styles. So, again, remember that we all have these blind spots where we’re more likely to design meetings geared towards our way of working. And one framework that I use to talk about this is different participation styles. And I’m going to go through these. So first all, this is the conceptualizer.

And as I go through these, the question that I’m going to ask you at the end is, which one are you? So get ready. And you may be more than one. Conceptualizers are interested in the big picture. They want an understanding of why and how the work is connected to the larger mission or vision.

And next, an affiliator. These are people who are most interested in their connection with others in the room, right? Those people in your meeting want that vulnerability and support. And if you ask them why they joined your board, they might say, “Well, my friend asked me to I wanted to be part of this social group.

Activator, this is about what’s going to happen next. What are our next steps? What do we need to do? These people want a clear sense that your project, that your work is moving forward.

And lastly, analyzers. The analyzers are the ones who are thinking about the details and also prefer clear steps to a meeting or process. So here they are, conceptualizer, affiliator, activator, analyzer. And in the chat box, if you can share, you know which one or which ones are you.

Steven: I’ll chime in and admit to being an analyzer. So . . .

Dr. Ross: Oh really. Okay.

Steven: . . . all my analyze peeps, I want to hear from you.

Dr. Ross: And I’ll chime in and say, I am the first three in sort of descending order, but not so much an analyzer. Yeah.

Steven: All right. Well, you and I will team up, we’ll make it happen.

Dr. Ross: Yeah.

Steven: Yeah. There are just chats pouring in. Lots of pretty across the board. I’m seeing a lot of activators, interestingly. And a lot of folks are saying they’re kind of mixtures between maybe two or three of them. Some people are saying that they’re explicitly not an analyzer like you, Renee.

Dr. Ross: Yeah. Okay. So, again, the thing to know is that in a meeting, and I’m sure anyone who’s been to any . . . people are going to want different kinds of information. Some people really want to talk about the details, some people want the big picture. If you think about why there’s often tension in meetings, it does come to the fact that people may have different styles of how they think the meetings should go. So they can create conflict, but also, if you’re aware of this, then you can plan your meetings a lot better.

And by the way, if anyone would like to, I have a little quiz, that if you send me an email, I’m happy to send it over to you and you can do it with your group. And it makes for a great conversation about what are your needs? What are my needs? How do we make sure that the conversations that we’re having address the different ways that we like to work in groups and process information?

And the best teams are not made of only people of one style. The best teams are made of people who will ask different kinds of questions at different times. So what kinds of things can you do to honor these diverse participation styles? Make sure that you share your agenda and details impacting decisions ahead of time. So there are people who do like to think ahead and look at your financials in detail. And those people are going to want to have that time to be able to do that thinking. And they’re also going to want to know step by step, what are we talking about? What do we need to accomplish that also goes to those activators? Right? What do we need to accomplish? What are we going to come out of this meeting having done?

Include discussion time in large and small groups. Use breakout on Zoom. So, if you have a group of 20 and you’re meeting for even an hour or even a group of 10, and you’re meeting for an hour, I really recommend using breakout groups. Some people want that social time. If you want to make sure that you hear more voices, you need to be using those breakout groups. And it’s really not complicated. You could watch a three-minute video and learn how to do it. And then you can all learn together and practice on your different groups. But what comes out of it is that even the people who might not want to speak in a group of 20 will speak in a group of 2 or 3, especially if everyone is saying, “Okay. We’re going to call on you now.” And again, your decision-making is improved. You’re also showing that you as a group value hearing different perspectives. And you’re designing for that. You’re not just saying that it’s your value, you’re actually embedding it into the design of your meeting.

So another thing that I highly recommend, use Zoom and collaboration software such as Google Docs. Some people are better at listening and processing information. Some people really need to see it visually and can see the agenda moving forward, visually. So, right now, we on this webinar, we only have the PowerPoint and chat. I was tempted to add a Google Doc but for hundreds of people, I would look like there are over 500 people on the webinar. So a Google Doc for 500 might be a little challenging.

But, again, what you’re doing by even just using something simple like Google Docs is collaboration software, which has a visual dimension is you’re saying, we as a group can talk about this together and we can visually create the plans or plans together. I don’t think that . . . I think that the chat box is a nice way to make comments, but it’s too one-dimensional. You need something that’s a little more robust to capture either your meeting agenda, some different perspectives that people may want to share, other kinds of information. And you’re going to want to look at it together, visually, as well as be talking on Zoom.

And by the way, I did want to say, you know, there are other kinds of collaboration software such as MURAL and Miro. My perspective is that you need to think about people’s comfort in the meeting. So if you have a group that’s meeting again and again, you can use some of these collaboration software that’s more sophisticated and you can train people to use it. But if people are going to feel overwhelmed and then left out of the meeting because they don’t know how to use that software, then it may not be the right choice. So I think you want to find your simple solution that is also inclusive.

And lastly, include clear action steps at the end of the meeting. This is a pretty a standard way of doing things for agendas, but it’s really important to just mention this and make sure that those . . . especially for these activators. What’s actually come out of this meeting that we are going to do next and how do we check in on that?

Okay. So I want to take a minute and I know some questions may have come in and just kind of see . . . Steven, if you can share a couple of questions, and then we’ll go forward with the last part of this.

Steven: Yeah, Renee, a few folks have asked, you know, what kind of software you recommend? And I know you mentioned Zoom a couple times and, you know, this is a Zoom now. I kind of like it. Is that kind of your favorite or is the technology kind of dependent on how well you actually run the meeting? What do you think?

Dr. Ross: Yeah, I mean, it seems like Zoom has become the standard that most people are using at this point. It is. I think, breakout groups are really fabulous and very easy So the whole thing about Zoom is that, it’s really easy to learn how to use. It’s not too complicated. And certainly there have been some issues that have been mentioned in the past about security on Zoom. And so you want to be aware of those and if you feel . . . You know, don’t post your meeting link publicly on, you know, make sure that you do some things, you know, that will ensure the security of your meeting. And there is an option where you can do a waiting room if you’re concerned about that, too, if you have a small meeting, and then you just let people into the meeting. So my standard is Zoom plus Google Docs. And I’ve been also for planning meetings, sometimes using or learning more about using MURAL and Miro, which are some more involved collaboration software that the teams use, again, for more involved planning processes.

Steven: That’s cool. I have to check those out. Renee, a couple of people asked if there was any connection between the four participation styles and some of the kind of the more well-known personality types like Myers-Briggs or, you know, there’s a few others. Are you familiar with maybe some . . . ?

Dr. Ross: Yeah, yeah, that’s a great question. You know what? I do not know, and I did think about this, and I don’t know that . . . I mean, I think, I don’t know this is scientific. This is super scientific. It does seem that when I’ve presented this to groups, it’s resonated with a lot of people. And people do find that they’re not. They don’t work in every one of those styles. And what’s valuable in terms of a conversation is the awareness that we process information. We want to work in groups differently, and that everyone who is designing the agenda is more likely to design it in the way that they would like it. You know? So you have to be aware of that. Because, yeah. And I thought about this ahead of time. I don’t know that this is super scientific, but it does seem that it has some accuracy in the same way that I think there’s been some questions even about the Myers-Briggs, in terms of how scientific it is. On the other hand, it helps us to think about our strengths and our blind spots.

Steven: That makes sense. Very, very cool. Maybe one more? What do you think? You want to do one more?

Dr. Ross: Yeah, yeah, I’ll do one more. Go ahead.

Steven: There’s a lot of really good ones in here. It looks like . . . Oh, I scrolled up. Here we go. This is from a person who runs all day workshops on a Saturday. They do polling, breakout rooms but it’s all day so the question is, what are some maybe creative ideas to kind of keep them up and moving when maybe they’re in a room or a space for 8, 10, 12 hours?

Dr. Ross: Online?

Steven: Yeah.

Dr. Ross: Wow. Yeah, I mean, I think that the main thing and I was thinking about this too, the main thing is that there’s been all these articles about, you know, why we’re so exhausted on Zoom. And it is more tiring. You really need to build in more breaks than you probably do for in-person meetings. And some of those breaks can be saying things like, “Okay, we’ve gone for 90 minutes and now we’re going to give everybody a 10-minute break, and you can turn off your camera, and we’ll come back.” And, you know, some of them can be, “Okay, everyone, we’re all going to stand up and stretch,” and all of that. But, again, what seems to be the case is that everything as you’re running an online meeting goes slower. It takes longer for people to catch up with what’s happening. And so just be aware of that, allow more space in designing your agenda, overall.

Steven: Nice.

Dr. Ross: Okay. Great. Well, thank you, fabulous questions, and keep them coming. All right, so last part of this. A question to ask, as you are designing your virtual and in-person agendas is where do we want to go? And the conversations that my clients are having right now are focusing on these two areas that I would overall group as surviving and thriving. So we’re going to talk a little bit about each of these. So surviving, the conversations might include, this is really about the day to day and what is happening right now with your organization. What do we need to talk about to run our daily operations or pivot our program? What financial projections need to be discussed to make decisions and what are some possible scenarios to plan for? And I know that that a lot of the work over the last month has focused on surviving, given everything that’s happened. How are we managing all these different changes?

But there’s also another dimension to what’s happening right now and hopefully as much as you’re talking about surviving, you’re creating some time for these conversations around thriving also. So thriving is really about the long-term vision for your work. Knowing that there is another side to this, we don’t know when that will be, and we don’t know what that will look like. What do we want to be doing at that time? What’s our long-term vision for our work? And there is some opportunity that exists in this moment to think about what new needs have emerged that deepen our work or alter the vision that we’ve created.

And lastly, what can we do now that will have long-term impact beyond this moment? Steven, I know we were talking earlier and you were saying that many organizations that are working with Bloomerang, and I was surprised to hear this, have been really successful and have been more successful than last year in their fundraising. But if I had to guess, why is that happening? It’s because of the relationship building that these organizations are continuing to do, the communicating that these organizations are continuing to do, and the way that these organizations are talking about both how they’re adding value at this moment, but also how they plan to add value beyond this moment.

And that’s an incredible question to think about because everybody who’s on the line here, you really do have this opportunity to say to people, “Wow, we have some hope. We have some hope for what’s going to happen next. And here’s what we’ve come up with. Here’s how we see ourselves. We’re getting through this surviving and going to the thriving, and here’s what we’re going to share with you and hopefully, you know, you will support us financially or however you can in bringing that vision.”

And I also want to say, as I said before, there are some conversations about housing, about healthcare, about inequality that we’re having now, given what COVID-19 is showing us. And those are important conversations, and hopefully, they can lead to shifts. Hopefully, they can lead to our world being better. So don’t dodge those conversations. Again, think of them as an elephant in the room, that have a lot of energy and can really help you think about where you want to go, even if most of the time you might be mired in your surviving. But there’s a lot . . . If you have people around you that care that you survive, then you can work on that surviving and think about how you’re going to move towards thriving.

So how do you design agendas, your virtual agendas around surviving and thriving? Be explicit about your focus. Are you talking about the short or long-term? And I mean, again, depending on what the meeting’s about, it may be that you want to spend most of your time talking about short-term because there’s some decisions that need to be made. But you also want to make sure that you find that energy, that kind of longer-term energy for the work you want to do.

Again, what background information do people need to review before the meeting to be informed and make decisions? Make sure that you give people time to think. And there’s something about this virtual format where people do seem to sometimes lose their documents or have more trouble finding information. So, again, sending out information, making it redundant, sending it out a few times, really understanding that people may or may not be functioning at their highest brainpower at this time.

And being clear about what decisions need to be made during our time together. Yeah, a lot of designing great virtual meetings is similar to designing, you know, real life meetings. I think some of the differences are about being conscious of how time is used and where you’re going to go.

Okay. So, again, the questions that I suggest that you think about in terms of designing great virtual meetings are, what’s in the room? Who’s in the room and where do we want to go? And I want to ask you, you know, having heard this, what’s one step that you will take, I want to say in the next hour, but it may not be in the next hour or so let’s say in the next 24 hours, in the next week or two, to design and lead better virtual meetings? So, if you can share.

Steve: Lots of people are saying, use the breakout rooms. A lot of people are saying that one. That was good. Surveying their attendees, creating options to give people more of a voice, be more intentional about the welcome. A lot of people are talking about the welcome right in the beginning. Setting a tone. Clear vision and purpose for the meeting. I’ve seen the word purpose a lot kind of scroll down through here. I think you made an impression on folks, Renee. This was awesome.

Dr. Ross: Thank you. Yeah. As I said at the beginning, so much of meeting how we design conversations is about values. And so you have to step back and think about what are values and then how do we really concretely bring those values to our meeting agendas and even just the way that the meetings are set up? So I’m going to . . . Let’s see. Yeah, so a couple of next steps. I have a newsletter that I send out monthly, if you want to go to my website and sign up. If you would like support with virtual meetings or planning sessions, feel free to reach out directly. And I’m very curious to hear . . . If you want to have a 30-minute conversation, how this information applies to your meetings, contact us to set a time to talk about this. And at this point, I’m going to turn my camera back on, if I can find it. Yeah, and I want to . . . Oh, look at that. That’s funny. Now I see the chat again. I want to open it up to questions and see, you know, what questions have come up.

Steven: There’s some good ones in here. Maybe a good one to start with would be talking about the camera since now we’re both on screen here. Camera etiquette, not just for the organizer but for the attendee. The questioner is saying, “I often find all the live photos and cameras distracting, more comfortable leaving her camera covered.” I definitely understand that when I’ve been doing these Zoom calls, [inaudible 00:45:20] feels like I get a little fatigued. Should people encourage not using the camera? Are there upsides to having the camera on? What do you think?

Dr. Ross: So, well, again, being an affiliator, right, I do like to see people’s faces and so I would encourage people to use their camera on the other hand as people have pointed out. We are literally jumping into people’s houses and that can feel . . . yeah, somebody said appropriate to the backgrounds if you’re using appropriate . . . Well, let’s check out the appropriateness of your background but some people may not feel comfortable with a bunch of people, a bunch of their co-workers jumping into their house. And I think we need to be sensitive to that.

So I do think that it’s more personable. And someone actually asked about donors. I think, yeah, you know, it’s more personable if you can have a face to face conversation, whether it’s a donor or whether it’s a meeting, you know, whether it’s in virtual coffee or larger meeting. But honoring, again, that some people may not feel comfortable with having their camera on. I know there are these virtual backgrounds you can set up. I haven’t had success on my computer. It just does this weird . . .

Steven: Me either.

Dr. Ross: . . . thing. Okay. Yeah. I guess my operating system is too old or something like that. I don’t have the green screen so it just looks like a, you know, flashing whatever. So it doesn’t really work for me. Yeah.

Steven: I love it. Yeah, there’s so many mixed feelings on the camera. Just seems like honoring the preference makes sense to me. A lot of people have asked about meeting with donors, especially if they are maybe older. So just kind of accessibility. Any tips there for, you know, helping out people that, I don’t mean to be ageist, but maybe they’re not, you know, comfortable with the technology and certainly that can be anyone of any age, but how can you make things more . . .

Dr. Ross: So you’re reminding me of a story which is many years ago, my dad and my grandmother was still alive. My dad really wanted my grandmother to learn how to do email. And so he went to Florida and he bought her a little . . . like, it was a dedicated email system, you know, that . . . And he taught her how to do email and then what happened, he left, and she couldn’t remember. And I think she sent one email when he was there, but there was no more email that went up beyond that. I think, again, this goes back to, how do you show that you value being inclusive and meeting people where they are? Right? That’s kind of the headline.

And then from there, if someone says, “I don’t know how to use Zoom and I just really can’t figure it out,” which actually is the case for my 90-year-old, you know, great aunt, okay, then don’t make that person use something that they don’t feel comfortable with. You know, when I schedule meetings, like, what would be comfortable for you, knowing that if you do have a face-to-face interaction and the person feels comfortable, that it’s more powerful, it’s more impactful as long as they’re relaxed with it.

Steven: I like it. Very cool. Here’s an anonymous question. I think you’ll understand why here in a second. “When organizational culture doesn’t support all the things you’ve been talking about, how can you kind of get buy-in for it and maybe start to influence the higher ups that, you know, this is the way we need to do things?” Any advice for the client?

Dr. Ross: Wow, that is a super, extremely large question. I think that, you know, I’m not going to say you definitely can, maybe you can, maybe you can’t. Some organizations are open to learning. You could share this webinar and see what the reaction is. And, you know, some people have an orientation where they want to keep learning, and changing, and growing. And for other organizations, like, “We’ve always been doing this way . . . This way, it works for us. We’re going to keep it.” In that case, I would say it’s more on the individual to say, “What are my values? What do I want to bring into the world and where will I be successful doing that?”

Steven: Yeah, I like that. And you kind of joke but as I was listening to this, I’m going to send this recording to some of the managers here at Bloomerang, because I think it’s fabulous.

Dr. Ross: Thank you.

Steven: Because I know, yeah, it’s a new world for us too trying to manage people remotely. So I love it. Here’s an interesting one. “What do you do when someone is maybe kind of hogging the camera or the microphone, metaphorically, someone that’s kind of dominating the meeting, doing a lot of talking? What can you do in those situations? Is it talking to them offline and confronting them during the meeting?” What do you think?

Dr. Ross: Right. So I would say . . . So a couple things you can do, I started with agreements. I always do every time I run a meeting. And one of those agreements is usually, you know, monitor how much you are talking so that we allow everybody to share. Adding breakout groups enables more voices. And if you have somebody who just keeps talking on and on, I would definitely have the offline conversation and talk to them about, “You know, I noticed that you’re sharing so much and it’s great that you’re enthusiastic, but we really value hearing many perspectives. So, you know, is there another way that you could contribute whatever you need to say as diplomatically as possible?”

And it’s interesting as we’re talking about this, like, I don’t know the whole story, but something that comes to mind is, is there some sort of frustration that they’re experiencing that, you know, maybe, like, a situation that sometimes comes up, but somebody doesn’t feel like they’re getting into this . . . It’s that analyzer who doesn’t feel like, “We’re getting into the financials enough. And so we need to talk about the financials more.” Right? So what can you do so that that person feels heard? And maybe you have another meeting with them at another time and you really go through the financials in detail, so that when they get to the larger meeting, they’re going to feel more comfortable and not like they need to, you know, take half the airtime.

Steven: It seems like you can head this off at the pass by how you open up the meeting, right, setting those expectations. I love it.

Dr. Ross: Yeah. Again, something that I’ve noticed about Zoom, this is a weird thing about virtual meetings, there’s this tendency to just, like, jump in, right, in a way that we would not do if we were in the room together. It would just be kind of slower, more gradual, even just that walking across the room to get into your chair but there’s something about boom, you’re here. So I think spending more time thinking ahead of how you’re going to create that space, giving people time to think about what you’re going to talk about, all those different things to make the beginning really, you know, welcoming for wherever people are.

Steven: Awesome. When you were talking about tools, Renee, a lot of people were interested in Google Docs, specifically. A lot of folks are asking, can you elaborate on what the usage of that is? Is it more than just kind of taking notes during the meeting or how have you seen that used effectively?

Dr. Ross: So a couple of different things. Yes, you can share the link to view and edit with everyone in the meeting, right? And so that’s really important. It’s not just seeing the agenda but it’s actually being able to at different times, depending on what the conversation is. So everybody can write down their thoughts. So, if you’re having a conversation about, what did we learn over the past month? This is the high level. You can create a Google slide and everybody can write little post-its on the slide that allow people to share their thoughts.

So yeah, certainly the minimum is would be everybody seeing. But again, if you want to honor people’s perspectives and thoughts, then let everybody edit, and knowing that you can always go back to your previous version if somebody messes it up. And, again, that’s a way of . . . Yeah, I like this. So Kate says . . . Thank you, Kate. “Think of Google Docs as a larger version of the chat.” Yeah. And larger, and more flexible, and with some other kinds of features for a collaboration.

Steven: A living document is a phrase I hear a lot. That makes sense. That’s cool. A couple of people have asked about recurring meetings, not just keeping continuity and kind of structure to them, but also making sure they don’t get kind of stale, specifically, like, weekly check-ins or weekly on- on-ones with people. How do you kind of strike that balance? What do you think between things that, you know, you always want to cover but we’ve some room for creativity and flexibility as well?

Dr. Ross: Again, I think this goes back to purpose. Why are we meeting? Right? I was thinking about Priya Parker’s book, “The Art of Gathering,” which is a great book on meetings and really, you know, the reason were meeting is not that it’s 12:00 noon and we meet every week on Wednesday at 12:00 noon, right? Thank you, Lauren, love that book. The reason we’re meeting is because we are building, you know, this program, and we need to every week talk about what the successes are and what needs more attention. Once you go back to that why, in every situation, then there’s a lot more energy around the conversation.

Steven: I love it. That might be a good place to end it. Dr. Ross, this was awesome. This was really enriching for me just sitting here and listening to you. And I am going to pass this along internally, even though we’re not a fundraising department. I think this applies to a lot of organizations.

Dr. Ross: Well, thank you so much. And, you know, thank you for the opportunity to share all of this. And I hope that for those of you who are on the call, that it helps you. There is so much of a need at this time to really hear from diverse voices, to really get multiple perspectives. And that’s my goal. And if I can be helpful to you, personally, please reach out. I always love to hear how this information lands with people.

Steven: Well, thanks for doing this. We owe you the thanks, honestly, not only did you take an hour and share all your knowledge, but you offered this to us. You’re really gracious and generous. So please, folks . . .

Dr. Ross: I’m very passionate about it. You can see.

Steven: Oh, I can tell. This is fabulous. And you’re passionate, but also I can see you lowering temperatures in a meeting. I was just sitting here kind of imagining you calming a room and making it more productive in a real life setting. So this is really cool to have you. Reach out to her, like she said, we got her contact information on the screen, obviously a wealth of knowledge. And I think I get that newsletter. I’m going to double check and make sure I’m subscribed to that. I would feel bad if I wasn’t.

Dr. Ross: All right. Great.

Steven: This is cool. And thanks to all of you for hanging out for an hour or so. I know it’s busy right now. I appreciated seeing a full room. And thank you to all of you who are asking questions, and commenting, and chatting. That was really fun for us to see there.

So we’ve got some great webinars coming up. We have one on Thursday, just two days from now. Our buddy, Larry Johnson, from the beautiful state of Idaho is going to come in and talk about why fundraisers should not be pressing the pause button, they should be kind of putting the pedal to the metal. That’s going to be a good one. So if you’re free on Thursday 2:00 pm, Eastern, join us. If you’re not or if you’re not interested in that, that’s okay, we got some other webinars you can register for on into next week, and now on into the summer now. It’s hard to believe that we’ve got some summer webinars scheduled already. So we’d love to see you again in another session.

But like I said at the top, I’ll be sending after recording. The slides, they’ll have all the good stuff in there from Dr. Ross. So be on the lookout for that. I’ll be sending out some links later on today. And hopefully, we’ll see you again on another Bloomerang webinar. So have a good rest of your Tuesday. Have a safe week. Stay healthy. We’re thinking about all of you. Please, please stay healthy because we want to see you again and the world needs you all. So thanks for joining us.

Dr. Ross: Good to be here, and thanks.

Steven: Yep. See you guys.

Dr. Ross: All right.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.