Bringing camaraderie back to virtual meetings

This is how we came up and implemented engagement activities at Slang Labs to make long boring meetings, engaging again. How do you bring back the camaraderie, jokes and fun in the virtual meeting? Here is what worked for us.

This is how we came up and implemented engagement activities at Slang Labs to make long boring meetings, engaging again. How do you bring back the camaraderie, jokes and fun in the virtual meeting? Here is what worked for us.

At Slang Labs we have Friday meetings - 'Seeing is believing'. It's the weekly demo meeting where everyone presents a demo of what they have done in the week. It usually lasts for a couple of hours. The meeting starts with fancy chai/coffee and some very unhealthy Indian snacks. I miss the kachori from our nearby sweet shop :(

This was one meeting the entire team waited for the whole of the week. It wasn't because of the food but in the anticipation for all the camaraderie, jokes and fun during this meeting enabled because of the junk food.

All this changed after we started working from home. When we started doing the same meeting virtually, the same meeting became boring and long.

How is it that the same meeting suddenly became so boring and long?

Like all things at Slang, we came up with a unique way to solve this problem. We didn't want to do a boring old method of adding an engagement activity to the start of the meeting.

How do we bring the same camaraderie and jokes back to our beloved meeting?

During our brainstorming session, Kumar came up with a rudimentary list of things we should have in whichever engagement activity we decide on:

  1. Everyone engages in the engagement activity.
  2. Everyone wants to participate - It shouldn't feel forced.
  3. It shouldn't be siloed 10 min activity - Engagement activity should be continuous.
  4. It shouldn't be very time-consuming.

It sounds easy, but like most things in life, it never is. Before you read any further take 5 minutes and think of a solution to this problem. Try to make a list of all the things you can do in a virtual meeting to create engagement yet meet all the requirements above. If you have thought of some fresh ideas, make sure you put them in the comments below! Help your peers out. :-)

Not to beat my own drum, but the solution I proposed was simple yet elegant. Here is what we did:

*🥁🥁 Drumroll please 🥁🥁 *

We decided to play games during the meeting - Wow. So original *eye roll 🙄 *. Sounds boring? Does it sound like I skipped half...err...all the requirements above? The beauty wasn't in the game, but in the way, we structured them:

How to gamify the entire meeting? - Not just the start or the end!

Take a look at some of the games we played and how way we played each game:

1️. Game: Build the story

This was the first game we played. It was an instant hit 💯.

Normal Rules: Every person continues the story from where the last person left it. Sounds simple?

I never knew some of my teammates were so freaking creative!

Well here is the twist which satisfies the requirements Kumar mentioned before:

Our twist:

  1. The first person starting off the demo meeting has to start the story before they give their demo.
  2. The next person has to build on the story where it last ended before they can start their demo
  3. They also need to summarize the story that has happened until their turn concisely.

It ensured that everyone was continuously engaged throughout the meeting, be it for the demos or the story 😉 . No one will ever find out 🤷🏽‍♂️ .

This proved to be a cool way of putting a spin to a traditional game and it met all our requirements:

  1. ✅ Everyone was engaged as everyone had to listen to all the facets of the story, so they don't mess when their turn comes up.
  2. ✅ It shouldn't feel forced - No one was out of their comfort zone, adding one line to an ongoing story felt smooth, and people came up with creative scenarios to make things difficult..err...interesting for the next person to build upon.
  3. ✅ Engagement activity should be continuous - Pretty self-explanatory; the activity continued until the last person and felt organic in the meeting. It didn't break the rhythm.
  4. ✅ It shouldn't be very time taking - It added two more min per person plus two more minutes of jokes and compliments on every twist and turn each of us brought to the story. Wasn't that the whole point?

This model worked out so well that we decided to adopt it for every Friday meeting. Some Fridays, when a time crunch or a significant push is happening, we either do very quick demos or no demos at all.

2️. Game: 2 Truths and one lie

Normal Rules: The person presenting the demo has to speak three statements, and the next person who has to show the demo has to guess which two of the three were false after the first person's demo ends and before the second person starts his demo.

Our twist:

  1. The three statements need to be interesting.
  2. No one can use a similar scenario which their peers have already used.

One of my teammates said:

Remind me to never play a prank on Ria . I don't want to end up like her teacher.

Context: Ria, one of our interns, locked her teacher in the school washroom and casually walked away. We all thought that was the false statement but turned out to be true😲 🤯.

3️. Game: Name, Place, Animal, Thing:

Normal Rules: The person after finishing their demo gives a letter - to ensure no cheating they cannot themselves participate in that round: everyone else has to write a name, place, animal and thing and send it on the chat window. Fastest one to send it wins.

Our twist:

  1. Instead of one letter, we are assigned two letters - thanks to Phani who found the answer to all letters on the internet so we quickly changed the rules - Agile am I, right? :P)
  2. Letters cannot be repeated. :D

Let me show you the results - after all 'seeing is believing'. ;)

Image showing the engagment during the game.
Screenshot from the meeting

Along with the fun, we all learn something too. We learnt a lot of new things, even debated if a vampire can be treated as an animal or not.

Now we understand what Giri's fancy master degree was optimized for

Context: Giri won the game by a considerable margin. Here were the final scores, in case anyone was interested:

Phani -> 1 , Vinayak -> 1 , Giri -> 5, Ved -> 1, Madhu--> 1

Winner of the game gets a treat!
Giri getting a cheesecake on winning the game! 

We started a new tradition - Sending Nutella Cheesecake or a treat from our favourite restaurant, Art of Delight to the winner :-)

GIF - That's all folks!
That's all folks!

That's all folks! If you do try to use any of the games in your company, do comment below and tell us your experience. If you have any more hacks don't forget to put them as well! Or you can tweet to me @vinayakjjw telling me about your experiences :)