As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, many of us are doing everything we can to stay inside so we can help slow the spread of the disease. But we want Circles to be able to keep meeting virtually, because we all need support right now -- and for life to feel as normal as possible.
With that in mind, we’ve assembled some tips for how to make your virtual Circle meetings a success.
Tools to host your virtual meeting
There are lots of free tools out there that make running an online meeting easy and collaborative. We recommend trying Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom, or Facebook portal.
Top tips for virtual meetings
- Simple preparation goes a long way. Just as you would for face-to-face Circle meetings, as the monthly moderator you should come prepared and provide structure for the meeting. This includes making sure you share with everyone ahead of time what you will cover at the upcoming meeting.
- Use video if possible. Meeting attendees are more engaged when they can see what's happening. By using video, participants can see the moderator’s and other members’ facial expressions and body language on the screen. Video meetings also lead to more effective collaboration and make it harder to zone out or multitask. Don’t worry about looking perfect on video calls; Circle meetings are about showing up as your real selves.
- Find a quiet spot. As with an in-person Circle, privacy and confidentiality are key. Finding a quiet place from which to join the meeting helps you be more present and ensures everyone feels safe to share.
- Set ground rules. Set ground rules upfront about how the virtual meeting will work, when to speak, and how to contribute, so everyone has a chance to contribute. Just as in face-to-face Circle meetings, moderators should feel empowered to make sure the discussion stays on track, is inclusive of all members, and provides an actionable outcome.
- Make sure all members feel empowered to share. As a moderator, if you notice that some members are hesitant to speak up, encourage them to do so. Do your best to make sure everyone feels included, even in this virtual setting.
- Give virtual support. One of the most powerful elements of a Circle is creating a safe, supportive space. You can use a variety of meeting features to provide that support, such as group chat (to cheer people on when they’re sharing), direct messages (when someone might need a private note of support), and hand gestures/visual cues (to reassure people that you’re listening).
- Decide on a “One Action” at the end of the meeting. We recommend you close every Circle meeting by committing to “One Action”—one concrete thing you’re going to do before your next Circle meeting to step outside your comfort zone or practice a new skill. This holds true for virtual meetings, too! For example, if you talked about work-life balance, set a goal of leaving the office at 5 p.m. at least once a week. You’ll see a prompt for setting your One Action in each of our meeting guides.
Keeping your community connected after the meeting
It’s now more important than ever to communicate regularly with your Circle and provide a way for members to stay in touch. Here are a few of the most popular options for how to do this (see pros and cons of each platform here):
- Facebook Groups: Facebook Groups are a popular way to connect online. They can be openly available for anyone to join (public), require administrator approval for members to join (closed), or be private and by invitation only (secret).
- WhatsApp or other group text messaging apps: WhatsApp is a messaging app that allows you to communicate with multiple people through its group chat function. Great for real time conversations.
- Slack: Slack is a messaging app that allows you to communicate as a group, create separate channels for different topics of conversation, and have one-on-one conversations.
Staying connected to the global Lean In Circle Community
There are over 46,000 Lean In Circles in 174 countries worldwide. Join our global Lean In Circle Leaders Facebook group to stay connected and share best practices with Circle Leaders from all around the world!
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to this community with questions or to share ideas. And take care of yourself and your loved ones. We’re all in this together.