Making sure everyone is engaged, morale is high, and all team members are communicating well and maintaining good working relationships can be trickier these days. When much of the interaction you have with the people you work with takes place over video conference calls, it can be more difficult to stay emotionally and mentally connected. That’s where team-building activities for conference calls come in.
They are an essential part of successfully managing remote workers. Creating an environment that makes collaboration easy and natural is the goal of any team-building exercise. Each team activity should be enjoyable for every member of your group (so maybe no karaoke if you’ve got a couple of confirmed introverts on your team).
It’s definitely more challenging to monitor employee engagement, build trust, and foster enthusiasm in virtual meetings. Still, it doesn’t have to be a chore.
With a bit of ingenuity and these six virtual team-building activities (number six is a real winner, so check it out), online meetings can be a great way to get your team motivated, engaged, and working together to achieve common goals, no matter where they’re working. But first, a few of the pain points around virtual meetings and why the need for team-building initiatives is real.
Pain Points of Video Conference Calls
We all know about pain points—problems related to a specific environment or task that make accomplishing goals more difficult, unpleasant, and, well, painful. Video conferencing has its share of these unpleasant or challenging obstacles, and it’s a good idea to be aware of some of the more pernicious among them so you know what you’re up against.
Distraction is a major contender for the most serious problem with virtual meetings. Being in a virtual meeting means you’re already online—and there are many things online that can pull a remote worker’s attention away from your message.
New emails, social media notifications, instant messages from mom—a never-ending list of things might interfere with a remote employee’s ability to stay focused.
Been There, Done That
Despite the circumstances that made them almost ubiquitous, virtual meetings were a great alternative to “the real thing” when they first became commonplace. But now they’re commonplace themselves, and they’re getting a little boring, right?
The thrill is gone, and the fun of seeing your coworkers in their natural habitats has been replaced with keeping a secret tally of the number of times someone says “moving forward” during a video call or masking minor irritation that Steve can’t find the button to unmute his microphone (again).
After all, virtual meetings are still meetings, and though they might take place over Zoom or some other video conferencing platform, we still have to behave like we’re in meetings. They’re getting a little stale, and it can be tough to fight that boredom effectively.
Can You Hear Me Now?
I’ve seen my share of virtual meetings, both as an attendee and as a facilitator, and one thing pops up repeatedly—it can be an incredibly distant and alienating way to work with a team.
It’s hard to get engagement, alignment, and that feeling that everything’s clicking when you’re all in different locations, someone’s mic is cutting out, and someone else’s video feed is frozen on a still image of them with their eyes half-closed.
Video conferencing is a better alternative than the old-fashioned no-video conference call, but it’s two-dimensional (literally!), prone to misunderstandings and miscommunication, and can end up making remote team members feel more confused than engaged.
1. Team Trivia, Conference Call Edition
Fun fact: everyone loves trivia. It’s a big part of our culture, from game shows to “Today I Learned” posts on social media platforms (more on that idea in a bit). Trivia games are also among the best team-building activities for conference calls—sort of like icebreaker questions with a goal.
It does require that you—and your remote team—already know a bit about each other. For newer groups without much history or familiarity, you could prime the first few games by emailing questionnaires a couple of days before the conference call.
There are many ways to implement trivia into video conferencing, and the games can be brief with a strict time limit or take a slower pace for a more relaxed atmosphere. You can start each conference call with a quick round of five questions, and the first attendee to speak or type out the correct answer wins a point.
You can use breakout rooms for larger teams to form separate small groups (pro tip: mix up the groups between games so you get different people working together). This is also a great addition to any virtual happy hour event you might have, as it’s basically the online version of a pub quiz.
Here are some example questions to get you thinking:
- What was Meredith best known for in college?
- How many times has Delia seen Twilight?
- What was Angelo’s favorite subject in high school?
- Who is Kirsten’s secret celebrity crush?
- Which team member has a room in their house dedicated to their Lego collection?
You can name a winner after each game or if you’re regularly meeting with a team virtually, have a longer “season” with increasingly complicated questions. It’s a great way to get remote employees to talk with each other after and between calls, and it can be an excellent way to get team members to share interesting things about themselves (and each other!).
2. Virtual Meeting Bingo
Want your team to pay closer attention during virtual meetings? This is one of the best virtual team-building activities for conference calls and makes staying engaged entertaining and rewarding. You can play with bingo cards you prepare ahead of time (pro-manager move!) and send to each attendee as part of the meeting setup.
The game tracks different phenomena common to virtual meetings, like someone forgetting to unmute or a partner or kid wandering into camera range. The first person to identify and check off five items in a row declares “Bingo!” and you can bring the game to a close or enter into additional rounds for those longer meetings.
Traditional bingo cards have 25 squares, so you’ll need at least that many things for participants to keep an eye out for. Here’s a sample list of questions you can draw inspiration from:
- Anyone says, “Just a sec!”
- Anyone says, “I have another meeting…”
- Someone checks in late
- Someone joins the meeting without video
- There’s an accidental interruption
- Someone says, “Go ahead?”
- Someone leaves the meeting by saying, “Gotta run!”
- Anyone says, “Quick question?”
- Two or more people talk at the same time
- Anyone takes a sip of coffee
- A remote coworker’s pet appears in frame with them
- Anyone shares a video
- Anyone refers to an “earlier email”
- Someone’s kids wander through the background
- Someone forgets to unmute
- Someone checks their cell phone
- Anyone uses the phrase “circle back”
- Anyone says, “Moving forward…”
- There are ten uninterrupted seconds of silence
- You can hear pets, birds, kids, or partners
- Anyone says any variation of “let me just find that file”
- Someone’s wearing a wired headset or earbuds
- There’s traffic noise in the background
- Someone is attending the meeting from a public place, like a coffee shop
- Someone has the dreaded Squeaky Chair
3. Today I Learned
Prevalent on various social media platforms, “Today I Learned” (often shortened to “TIL”) can be an entertaining and thought-provoking way to start an online meeting. Participants share fun, interesting, or embarrassing facts they recently learned (like the fact that I didn’t know ponies weren’t just “baby horses” until I was in my late 20s).
Meeting attendees can take turns speaking or typing their responses, and you can make sure no one is blind-sided by having to come up with a new and interesting tidbit on the spot by prepping them in the meeting setup email.
This game is probably best for more relaxed calls or when there isn’t a tight deadline looming on the immediate horizon. Be sure to leave enough time to discuss the more intriguing things people share (or for the group to have a good long laugh at the guy who thought ponies would eventually grow up into regular horses).
4. Show and Tell
Almost everyone likely remembers this from primary school. Have virtual meeting attendees “bring” an interesting item to the meeting and briefly talk about what it is, any special significance it might have, or anything else they want to share about their particular item.
It’s a great way to get team members to learn about each other more holistically and organically and share interests, hobbies, or pieces of personal history. It goes a long way toward getting team members who may not be very familiar with each other to open up and can give interesting (and endearing) insights into people’s personalities.
5. Home Office Scavenger Hunt
This is one of those great virtual activities that can energize a meeting, so it’s excellent for both pre-meeting warmup and mid-meeting intermission. It gets your virtual teammates moving (and excited!) and is a great way to combat the Thousand Yard Stare some of us get when we’ve been in front of a webcam for too long.
It’s a simple game—ask participants to find an item or short list of articles from around their homes. You’ll want to list items that everyone has a chance actually to find, so things like “small houseplants” or “a vacation photo” are better choices than “a framed and autographed photo of early ‘90s hip hop superstar Busta Rhymes,” though something like the latter might be good for a laugh (or to identify secret aficionados of the Flipmode Squad).
6. Incorporate Virtual Graphic Recording
Also referred to as “virtual notes” or “virtual live sketching,” it’s an idea that’s been around since well before remote working and teleconferences were the mainstays they’ve become. It’s a process involving a specially trained artist who creates evolving and unfolding sketches to emphasize key concepts or ideas in a presentation in real-time while they’re being discussed.
It’s a great alternative to those virtual meetings where someone just reads aloud from notes for half an hour, as it keeps viewers engaged and entertained—and it’s an incredible way to get information across.
We’re visual creatures, and studies have shown that we not only process visual information faster (60,000 times faster!) but also understand it more thoroughly and retain it longer than information that’s presented just as text or speech. If you want a message to resonate with your audience, virtual graphic recording is a tried-and-true way to engage, entertain, and inform.
It’s a fantastic addition to any virtual or online event and gives your team members something to focus on (other than your face!) during a presentation. Having your words highlighted and illustrated by a skilled graphic recording artist keeps virtual meeting attendees engaged and entertained and is an excellent way to hang on to their attention and activate their imaginations.
As luck would have it, we know exactly where you can find the best virtual graphic recording services on the planet—here at the Sketch Effect. We’d love to help you reach your communication goals and keep those remote teams you’re responsible for involved and interacting—both with your message and with each other.
See why companies like TikTok, Cox, Rockwell Automation, General Electric, Cigna, and Lockheed Martin have entrusted us with their virtual graphic recording needs, and give us a chance to show you why we’ve got a 100% five-star rating on Google.
Schedule a consultation to see how virtual graphic recording can enhance your online events and elevate virtual meetings from “remote blah” to meaningful and powerful ways to connect.