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Here are 5 strategies to make virtual meetings more engaging

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The ongoing pandemic has changed the way many Americans view work, with over 50% of employees preferring to split their time working in the office and at home.

However, problems like virtual meeting fatigue and tech issues are causing many workers to become disengaged in hybrid and remote environments. CNBC Make It spoke with Jim Szafranski, CEO of communications software company Prezi, about the top concerns among hybrid workers.

In their Hybrid Work Survey, Prezi interviewed over 1,000 hybrid office workers and found that more engaging environments and creating interpersonal relationships were most important in the hybrid office.

Based on the findings, here are five ways to make virtual meetings better:

1. More immersive video meeting experiences

Though there are several perks to hybrid work environments, such as more flexibility and freedom, it can be hard to cultivate interpersonal work relationships. Virtual workers can also feel disengaged due to "impersonal screen share," according to Szafranski.

"Working over 2D video environments can make people feel more like observers of the show called 'work,' as opposed to participants," Szafranski says. "People want to be part of the experience and have an impact."

Utilizing tools such as stickers and virtual backgrounds allows for a more interpersonal remote experience. Professionals in the Forbes Business Council also found that creating space for an "informal atmosphere" with jokes and fun questions helped boost meeting morale this year.

2. Tools that help reduce disruption

Since the pandemic started, workplaces have relied heavily on platforms like Zoom, Webex, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams. But when it comes to presenting material, there's the hassle of using multiple tools, such as Powerpoint, in addition to the video platform.

To eliminate the struggle of toggling with multiple applications while on a work call, The Digital Workplace suggests using "connecting meeting tools" for a more streamlined experience. For example, if you use Google Meet for your work meetings, it would be more efficient to use other Google apps, like Google Docs and Google Slides, to make presenting easier.

3. Implement company branding and presence on the screen

This involves how well an audience can connect with the brand and company. For workplaces, it is normally created in-person through things like badges or name tags, but survey participants wanted to see this translate into the virtual world.

"If you invited a customer into your office, right when they walk into your lobby, they know where they're at, right?" Szafranski explains. "You're reinforced that you're at the right place; you're reinforcing the values that the company holds."

In a virtual setting, branding can be as simple as having a company logo somewhere on the screen, or wearing similar clothing styles to create a sense of uniformity. More creatively, brand presence and awareness can be fostered through things like digital giveaways and guest speakers.

4. Boost engagement between audience and speaker

Virtual meeting awkwardness is something everyone has experienced in virtual work environments. Whether it's dead silence or distraction from the presentation, it's tricky maintaining good momentum and audience engagement.

Encouraging two-way interactions with on-screen responses using text, images, and gifs, creates a more exciting professional environment for employees and makes meeting engagement seem less like a task. 

5. Make content video-ready

Screen-sharing is one of the main ways professionals give presentations and relay information virtually. However, issues such as screen distortion, screen freezing or audio issues can make things frustrating.

"People want to be more interactive and engaging for their audience, but don't want to have to troubleshoot and redesign things," Szafranski says.

Some platforms, like Prezi Video, allow users to upload their presentations or decks directly into the app for a more seamless experience. Other ways to ensure your content is presentation-ready include using tools like polls, surveys, and chats, and sharing materials in advance, such as agendas and outlines, in preparation for technical difficulties.

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