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Growing the Third Dimension

Techniques to revamp personal connections in online meetings.

By Bill Brown, DTM


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Click play to hear more about revamping personal connections online from author Bill Brown, DTM.


Zoom meetings are so two-dimensional, aren’t they?

While it has been great meeting online, there is still something missing. Our personalities are restricted in that online format. It’s like the mute button affects more than our voice. I started attending my current club a year ago but am just now meeting the members in person and getting a broader sense of who they are. What a difference it makes. That third dimension is important.

Fortunately, many clubs are returning to in-person meetings. Others have gone live but are continuing an online component in the form of hybrid meetings. Either way the last year has taken its toll. Some members have lost momentum because of the online format. Others have left entirely. Will they come back when you go live?

In hybrid meetings, there is the challenge of bridging the gap between those who are in person and those who are “up there” on the screen.

And for those clubs that are continuing in an online format, how do we create more of that third dimension? How do we recapture what is missing?

Here are some ideas I have seen from my previous clubs. Perhaps one or two of them might strike a chord with you and help raise the excitement level within a meeting. These techniques are in two categories: those that provide unique value and those that add fun.


Add Value

One technique you might want to occasionally add is a round-robin evaluation. I have seen this done two ways. The first: Instead of one speech evaluator giving comments, any member is invited to provide feedback to the speaker. This offers the speaker a wider spectrum of comments, impressions, and ideas. A second format, as practiced by one of my former clubs, is to have the standard formal evaluation and follow it up with 45-second evaluations from three different members.

My current club has a role that I have never seen in my previous 10 clubs—the listening master.

The round-robin format is particularly attractive to more advanced speakers. If some of your long-term members are losing momentum, you might want to try this to see if it revitalizes them. And, if someone has disappeared, you could use this to lure them back.

Another way of providing value could be to host an educational moment. Your club may already have this, but in case you don’t, here is how it works. At the beginning of the meeting, a member gives a one-minute tutorial on an aspect of speaking or leadership. This way, every attendee receives a key takeaway from the meeting, even the visitors. Show them the value of being a Toastmaster.


Add Fun

It’s also important to find ways to make meetings more fun. My current club has a role that I have never seen in my previous 10 clubs—the listening master. This person listens to each speaker and jots down some of the details that are mentioned. At the end of the meeting, they ask a series of questions to see how well we have been listening. These are simple questions like “Where was Larry born?” “What is Gina’s favorite sport?” and “Where did John meet his wife?” When on Zoom, all attendees are unmuted and just blurt out their responses. Yes, it trains us to be better listeners, but for me, it is just flat-out fun. I look forward to it every meeting.

I have also seen a club begin each meeting with self-introductions. The President selects a simple question related to the theme. Each attendee, in five to 10 seconds, says their name and answers the question. It creates energy right at the beginning of the meeting and it helps us get to know each other that much better.

Another technique you can add is the observational humor segment. In this segment, anyone who has a quip, twist, or pun based on something said during the meeting shared it with the group. This ends the meeting on a high note, and invites us to work on our humor in the process.

Zoom meetings provide their own unique challenges, and coming back from that digital environment may also require some adjustment. Hopefully, ideas such as these can help change the dynamics of a meeting to re-create that third dimension, and bring the group closer together in the process.


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