How to replicate casual face to face interaction in a virtual world
Face to face interaction allows you to see the other individual or groups of people in a conversation. It can allow for a better exchange of information and communication since both speaker and listener are able to see and interpret body language and facial expressions.
However, face to face communication and interaction does not have to occur in the same physical space – you can also achieve the benefits of this in the online world. Here are three methods for helping to facilitate this in your practice:
1. Create informal interactions
Informal interactions using virtual conferencing (e.g. MS Teams) can struggle to occur at random times. You can schedule social meetings around common workplace timings, such act at tea or coffee breaks, or at lunchtimes, and for a short period of time. Whilst those working remotely may be able to have lunch with those they live with, or take a walk, organised informal lunch sessions / chats can help build connections, especially for new starters. These can be scheduled as opt-in meetings with no agenda to help facilitate this.
2. Use space at the top of meetings
During meetings, you can utilise the space at the start of the meeting for informal discussion, for example the first 5-10 minutes. This can replicate the casual face to face interaction that occurs when people first join the meeting room in a face to face setting, or who may walk to/from the meeting room. There should be no agenda to this ‘pre-agenda’ moment and can be helpful for new starters of those unfamiliar with each other to help create relationships with their colleagues whom they may not be able to speak informally with in an online meeting.
3. Avoid large groups
Virtual interaction has made it simpler to engage with larger groups online. The technology allows the physical barrier of room size and location to be removed, and staff from other teams and locations can join together more easily online.
However, in especially large groups, conversation becomes reduced and generally one person delivers content, with increasingly limited interaction from others, compared to a smaller face-to-face group setting.,
Most social and informal conversations that occur face-to-face generally happen on a one-to-one level, or in small group settings. If large groups occur for meetings, you can help facilitate casual conversation, if appropriate, but using tools such as Breakout Groups in MS Teams to reduce group sizes for specific tasks, or to feedback during the meeting.