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Boardroom to Zoom Room: Keys to Virtual Leadership and Maintaining Engagement

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at USFCA chapter.

With universities going completely digital, figuring out how to maintain an engaging and healthy virtual space is challenging. Sitting through a long club or sorority meeting was a drag, but at least they had snacks, right?!

Trying to stay alert in a long video meeting is even more difficult, listening to your peers go on and on while you know there is a whole tub of Rocky Road in the freezer.

Being in the home-campus has many more distractions than our normal spaces organized around academics, and we are not used to being productive in our home environments. As someone who works remotely and studies in a virtual classroom, it is not easy and the learning curve has been massive;  starting with skipping lectures and crying, to getting a sustainable start-up off the ground remotely. But, it is possible to maintain engagement for your student organization or event, channel passion to your audience, and get your tasks done all from the comfort, or discomfort, of your own home!

1. Create an Agenda 

Setting the tone and intention for the session with an agenda is a great way to make sure that everyone knows what topics are coming next, and it helps keep the meeting on track. Preventing tangents while on a video call is essential, nobody has time for that! 

Slack is a great tool for gathering topics before the meeting, and if someone suggests something that you as a presenter do not believe needs a meeting, Slack is a great platform to answer and table or outsource the question to another member.

Consider sharing the agenda with attendees before the meeting!

2. Break Up your Meeting Time

For every hour of video take a 10/15 minute break. It is unreasonable to expect attendees to be able to maintain a concentrated focus for long periods of time, and the human mind often has epiphanies while doing everyday tasks. 

Having a break shows an understanding of human needs, and offers a chance to come back to the screen refreshed.

3. Diversify your Mediums 

No matter how much you love your org, staring at a screen full of little face squares can only be so interesting. Consider using videos from Youtube or Vimeo to tell a story, they can be powerful tools, after all a picture is worth a thousand words, so how much is a video worth?

4. Maintain Interaction

By interacting with attendees, you maintain their connection to the content of the meeting as well as ensuring that they see themselves reflected in the conversation.

People care about feeling heard: Use platforms like Slido for interactive slides, Kahoot for Quizzes, Miro board or Trello for engaging feedback.

5. Practice Time Management 

As a presenter it is important to read the virtual room and know when it’s time to end the call, or schedule a follow up meeting if you did not hit all of the points on your agenda.

It can sometimes be really tricky to stay on task, and maintain the atmosphere of your student organization through a video call. Consider using a time management tool like BeFocused Timer. 

We are living through unprecedented times, there is no playbook for how to run a club or sorority meeting during a pandemic. As frustrating as that fact may be, be kind to yourself and your community as you learn from these experiences and develop strategies that work for your organization; there is no right answer. Communication is essential, do not be afraid to ask your members or attendees what they need from leadership during this time, or how best to support virtual interactions. Being a mind reader is not exactly in the e-board job description!

The work of student organizations is not just confined to the on-campus activities, they provide a critical sense of belonging, identity and interest beyond studying. Now more than ever, in our isolation, we need strong student leaders to bring people together and strengthen the bonds that might have frayed in the last semester. Let’s make it happen!

Marisa is a senior @ USFCA in the sustainability and global affairs sphere, thinking about emerging economies, outreach and innovation. A digital nomad & explorer with a curious mind– and an accidental empanada connoisseur!
MaryCate (she/her) is a graduate of the University of San Francisco with a BA in International Studies. MaryCate is now a Master's student at Sciences Po in Paris, France studying European Affairs and Global Health.