In exactly the same way as you would in ‘real-life’ – with ALL your attention. Everyone.
I have been working together this way for years with my European colleagues in the Relational Presence Network. In our online meetings, we faithfully apply the principles of our own work, Relational Presence®, because it works. We create a ‘safe space’ where everyone is heard and seen, can speak freely and is therefore able to contribute maximally. The meetings are not only effective but also energizing.
The core principle of Relational Presence is that you are present with all your attention in the here-and-now when you communicate. You manage this by continuously being available with your eyes (using a relaxed, peripheral view) to the person who speaks. Or if you’re the speaker, by being available for 1 listener at a time. You are always 1:1 with 1 person from the group.
We apply this principle consistently. The first thing needed is that every participant puts video ‘on’ during the online meeting.
To step out of the hectic everyday life into this state of being, Relational Presence, we have a ritual that we start with. Everyone gets 30 seconds to 1 minute to ‘check in’. It is not yet about the content of the meeting. It is about arriving, switching from ‘doing’ to ‘being aware’. We do that by taking turns coming out of silence, consciously exhaling, seeing the others one by one and then speaking out loud what comes to mind when we answer the question ‘how am I doing?’.
Do not refer to each other
Another important guideline is that we do not interrupt, repeat or refer to each other’s content. It may sound strange, but it creates a completely different dynamic. For example, the moment someone says “what John just said, I like that because…” In addition to content, something will also be happening within the group relational dynamics.
Maybe John does not recognize himself in what is being said next and he will think “how can I correct this?”. Maybe it affects someone else, hearing that John is said to give great input. Perhaps another might think “they never say that what I contribute is good”. Who knows… the possibilities are endless. In any case, what we do know is that if we are distracted by our own thoughts, our attention is no longer fully with the conversation.
By not referring to others and only expressing your own vision, the dynamics of the meeting process remain simpler, I would say purer. And because you know that others won’t refer to you, it becomes increasingly easier to speak openly and freely.
Everyone the same – short – speaking time
Not interrupting each other but speaking in turn (preferably everyone the same amount of speaking time) automatically accelerates and deepens the meeting. It does not have to take long to give everyone the floor. We often time from 30 seconds to 1 minute per person. If necessary, we do another round where everyone has the opportunity to add, ask, etc.
Finally, online meeting programs offer several options that can also help to be present with your full attention. I often work with Zoom and it is very easy to:
- Turn off self-view, it does distract me if I see myself on screen.
- Pin the video of the person who speaks, this makes it easier for me to be with that person with all my attention.
- Turn on gallery view when I speak, so that I can see everyone and then consciously be 1:1 with 1 other person in the group.
Experience it yourself?
Curious how this works online? Contact me and we will schedule an online session. mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wondering how this works in real life? You can come to the training courses that I give in this together with Koos Wolcken to get acquainted with Relational Presence, to make it your own, to deepen or transfer the skill in Relational Presence.