May 13, 2020

Strategy sessions go virtual: making it work

Tom McCoy

VP, Client Services

Our staffers are no strangers to hosting collaborative working sessions with our clients to spark curiosity, but social distancing has made collaboration more challenging. Typically, strategy sessions focus on creating a comfortable environment that inspires an open but purposeful conversation with new or existing clients around a specific business objective. 

Conducting these strategy sessions over Zoom is different, but not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, we’ve found ways to make them just as successful as the in-person version. Here are a few of the tricks we’ve found successful while running a virtual strategy session. 

Ensure alertness and involvement

Of course, you always want people excited and involved in a strategy workshop. Or why would you invite them in the first place? 

Getting people engaged and making sure they’re adding more than another face to the celebrity squares board is crucial.

We do that by ensuring the session feels more like playing games or having a drink with friends than a meeting. We even gamify our presentation style to raise interest levels throughout. 

The setup here is key. Reinforce the intent throughout by taking the time to periodically spike curiosity with a game or by asking a more personal question (don’t worry, not that personal), increase excitement levels, or just doing something surprising has worked really well for us. You have to keep your audience on their toes!

Strong start

We talk a lot about strong starts at Curiosity because we think it’s an important way to ensure the relationship starts on the right foot. 

But they’re especially important when you’re dealing with busy people who are in the midst of juggling ‘their 6th video call of the day’. 

To be certain we start strong, we get to meaty topics right away. This way, people feel like progress is being made within the first 10-15 minutes of the session. We found clients and staff members are more willing to give more of themselves and their energy when there is momentum, focus, and purpose to the time they’re giving us. Rather than not-so-subtly multitasking off-screen. 

Recognize energy levels will drop, so be prepared

It’s only natural. If you’re sitting down for an extended period of time, you’re going to yawn. You’re going to need to stretch or shift about a bit. 

But if you’re running a fun and engaging session, it’s very unlikely your audience is bored. It makes more sense that their energy levels have merely dropped a bit. It happens.

So build in reasons to move around. It could be as obvious as incorporating a bathroom break or if your group is up for it, building a quick group yoga session. This is all just an intentional tactic to get people’s minds away from the task for a couple of minutes, so when they return they are refreshed and alert. 

Keep it brief(er than usual)

You should always respect another’s time. Goes without saying. But, even more so right now.  

Attention spans are at an all-time low, and losing the connection that comes from abstracted personal contact means tolerance for a two or three-hour-long session is even shorter.

So if you think you need three hours, try and get it done in two. If it’s an hour-long meeting wrap up in 45 minutes. If the task is completed and people get a little extra time to hang out with their family, or toss in a load of laundry or somehow find time to eat, they will love you for it.

Play to the strengths of the tech

Do you need someone who is just responsible for the deck?

Do you need cheerleaders or people who are there just purely to keep the energy up? 

Be selective on who joins the meeting, but also think slightly more flexibly about the role everyone should play.

Maybe they don't need slides assigned to them, but perhaps there’s a bubbly or exciting person whose presence will simply lift the mood of the conversation or inject some fun. 

That can make the difference between an exciting, energetic meeting and one that’s adequate but also forgotten.

Whether the strategy session is with a new, prospective, or existing client, take the opportunity to make it memorable. Chances are, you’ll win the business, make a great impression with a new partner, or simply remind an existing client why you are irreplaceable and indispensable.

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