A definite down-side to the use of videoconferencing is the loss of small talk. Current virtual etiquette calls for meetings to get started on schedule – without the usual pre-meeting gathering time. For many, working from home has led to problems with maintaining work-life balance – along with an increasing sense of isolation. Here are a few ways to help reinstate this important component back into your meetings.

Schedule time for small talk. Meetings can start with checking in on each participant or introducing an icebreaker. The meeting leader can set the tone for this by being the first to answer a question, such as “What’s the latest home project?” or, What’s on your bucket list for “after-all-this?” When choosing an icebreaker, make sure it’s intentional and that it serves a purpose. Consider the mood you want to encourage. For example, do you want people to come with homework on your topic to share next time, re-inforce work/life balance, or shift the team into a new mindset – such as being more creative or more collaborative?

  • Agenda items can be presented to seek opinions and conjecture. The meeting moderator can bring up a discussion topic seeking opinions, use polling to get your feedback from everyone, and then let the conversation go at its own pace.
  • Scheduling unstructured time at the end of team meetings will allow attendees to choose whether to participate or not. This can aid in creating a more convivial group, as everyone knows they are free to stay or go.
  • Making small talk with a client can be an important way to make a virtual connection. Do your research to find the best way to break the ice. For example, mentioning that you saw they list yoga as an interest on their LinkedIn account, and asking them if they think doing yoga could help you sleep better, would be an easy way to start communicating at a more personal level. Another topic could be a recent award their company received or mentioning their latest press release.

Small talk has a definite place in our virtual world. Use it wisely to ease communication, encourage engagement, and reinforce interpersonal relationships!