Adaptive Workforces: How to Move Your In-Person Meeting Online

Adaptive Workforces:
How to Move Your In-Person Meeting Online

It was March 5, 2020. I was in Columbus, Ohio and “The Arnold” was back in town. Yet what should have been a city buzzing with 200,000 fans and 20,000 larger-than-life athletes from 80 countries was unusually quiet. The decision had been made that this year’s bodybuilding competition—where Arnold Schwarzenegger himself usually makes an appearance—would proceed, but spectators were barred from attendance in an effort to mitigate the risk of a coronavirus outbreak.

The event itself was expected to have a $50 million impact on the local economy with hotel, food, and beverage revenues. The same week we saw a similar decision with the cancellation of South by Southwest, which has an estimated economic impact of $350 million in Austin, TX. This story is playing out in businesses and cities all over the world as leaders are faced with the tension of potential health risks and financial impacts. As the coronavirus outbreak continues, organizations are canceling events, closing offices, mandating remote working, and reviewing corporate travel policies.

What’s a business to do in the face of all this uncertainty? The answer is adapt.

At TiER1, we believe organizations have the opportunity to face this adversity as an opportunity in disguise. Many leaders are faced with how to minimize the financial impact of canceling global trainings and in-person meetings, conferences, and expos. While it brings an opportunity to promote remote work, it also creates the opportunity to adapt and design virtual events that bring teams together. Technology has come a long way and there are multiple benefits to holding your global training or organization’s event virtually rather than in-person.

Here are six practices for designing virtual events that serve as alternatives to in-person sessions.

Design for inclusion: Encourage all participants to participate remotely, not just a few individuals. This balances the power for participation in the session.

Think modularly: “Full day” schedules become modular sprints. Human brains don’t like to be held down for too long. Full-day formats exist because physical presence is hard to coordinate, especially when travel time and cost is considered. This is not the case for virtual facilitation. Think of breaking your full-day format into modular 90-minute sprints over the course of a week.

Create online connection: Think less ‘”age on stage’”and more “air traffic control” for conversation moderation. While a facilitator still needs to direct the conversation, you now have more room for individuals to internally process than in-person formats might offer. Create new forms of engagement that aren’t typically possible. This can be done by using chat windows, private thinking space in the safety of individual homes, voting tools like, and scheduled breakouts with new meeting invites.

Use virtual upskilling as warm-ups: Not every participant will be at the same level of confidence with their technology. Warm-ups can involve asking people to virtually break into pairs by exchanging mobile numbers and connecting on a personal level, then dialing back into a group conference line.

Encourage participants to BYOP (Bring Your Own Props): With video capabilities, you can have individuals do things like use markers and blank paper to sketch out ideas or indicate levels of alignment on a simple “agree-disagree” spectrum. Both can be visual ways to get team members to engage in the conversation. Holding work up to the camera creates visual cues that drive social connection.

Honor ranges in time zones: As you book different modules to the session, think about your start times. If you have a global audience, allowing people to rotate between late evening or early morning shifts creates more equity and a sense of shared feeling in the experience.

Create moments: Just because you are in a virtual setting doesn’t mean you can’t make space for memories. Screenshots of “group photos” or a chat window capture of favorite takeaways can create memorable follow-ups for a session.

Still, sometimes there’s no replacement for the energy and buzz of experiencing a sports event in person. However, the world’s top powerlifting athletes have something to teach us when it comes to the work of building adaptable workforces. To build world-class physiques, the athletes of the Arnold need to be comfortable with productive discomfort. Their bodies reach peak condition by progressively adding challenges to their regimens every training session. Too much and there is an injury or a tear, too little and there’s a loss of muscle mass. Over-time, our bodies and minds get used to specific uncertain changes. If we are to maintain and build the muscle memory of our adaptive workforce, we need to take moments like the coronavirus in stride and let them be our opportunities to up our game. Now, more than ever, our people have a need for connection and community. Intentionally designing virtual events creates an alternative for you to build resiliency for both your people and your organization.

Are you transitioning your team from in-person to virtual? If you’d like to connect with Nick or our team to learn more about building effective virtual teams, give us a call at 859-415-1000 or reach out through the form below.

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