Distributed teams rely on virtual meetings. However, these meetings often feel awkward, impersonal, and frustrating. In April, Harvard Business Review shared ideas on How to Overcome Zoom Fatigue. In May, The Economist went so far as to synthesize Why Virtual Meetings Are So Dissatisfying.
However, in their January 2021 book “Rituals for Virtual Meetings: Creative Ways to Engage People and Strengthen Relationships”, Stanford d.school’s Glenn Fajardo and Kursat Ozenc show leaders, managers, and meeting organizers how to build team rapport and rhythm in today’s workplace.
Glenn and Kursat are part of the teaching community of the Stanford d.school. They describe the book as a collaboration between “ritual guy” Kursat (who wrote Rituals for Work in 2019) and “virtual guy” Glenn (a 12 year veteran of virtual collaboration with people and organizations across six continents engaged in social impact work).
Many of us are not yet comfortable with the context of virtual — so we hold on to the context of in-person. We may approach virtual meetings with a deficit mindset where “it’s never as good as in-person” — and end up with sad, second-rate copies of in-person experiences.
As designers, Fajardo and Ozenc ask a practical, forward-looking question: What if we could design our virtual lives to feel more human? In this book, they explain underlying principles and provide 64 sample rituals you can use and build on.
For underlying principles, we were particularly intrigued by Chapter 3, “The Secret Science of Virtual Meetings.” It unpacks what makes something feel human, explains what movie editing can tell us about reducing screen fatigue, and explores how narrative structure and game design can help us create better virtual meetings.
Rituals — acts that we perform with intention following a pattern — can support us with scaffolding as we find our footing in virtual meetings. They can serve as templates of action with intention, that can lead to meaning-making moments in our group. The book provides rituals for a variety of situations, including beginning and ending meetings, building human connection, fostering focus and flow, and rejuvenating when needed. There are special sections for one-on-one meetings, teaching and training, and social gatherings.
Rituals for Virtual Meetings will be released on January 7, 2021 and is available for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.