How to give a successful feedback session in a virtual environment

I recently had a virtual MD Feedback session with a group of 30 people. I was quite excited how to do this in a livestream session. Could I engage with such a large group in a livestream meeting? The group was predominantly green driven, with a blue supporting color. How would they feel? Would they sufficiently connect with each other? Last but not least, I knew upfront that most of them would find it very difficult to give and receive feedback. They rarely do it, and certainly not virtually!

All in all, a lot of reasons to postpone this session and wait for a face to face meeting, I thought. I was actually surprised that our client decided to go for it. She said “we want to provide our people with positive energy. They have more time these days to practice with feedback, as regular business is low”. How could I say no to that! So how did we approach this? To start with, we prepared well. Everyone knew upfront what was expected. We sent them our simple 5 steps Feedback outline on how to give and receive feedback upfront in order to prepare how to structure the message of their feedback to their colleagues. In addition, we gave them some insights on why a drive would like to give feedback and his positive reaction on the received feedback. We avoided “sending” too much information during the session. We organized a pilot a week before, with the 8 managers of the group, also to build up some experience and have them lead by example. We considered that if the managers would appreciate the pilot, we would have a good base for the group of 30. The toughest part of the pilot MD Feedback session was of a technical nature; to get everyone connected with video and sound. After the introduction, we broke up in smaller virtual meetings with 3 or 4 persons. Giving feedback was done very smoothly and efficiently. The receivers seemed to recognize the feedback and appreciated it. Some were so touched, the big smile on their face moved very close to the lense of their camera as a sign of “give me more”. It was great! Participants were happy! We also got some tips back on our Feedback outline that we could use in our next session. So a successful pilot after all.

Then the actual session. It was the first time in this lockdown, that this group of 30 people was connected together. How great to feel and see everyone, even though it was by video. The feeling it gave, ‘we are all together in this same boat’. This fueled the green energy! During the introduction, I normally ask a lot of questions to get participants engaged and get a feeling if they are looking forward to this meeting. In this virtual meeting I thought participants could maybe feel uncomfortable to talk via video in the bigger group. I tested this, but no one responded. “Okay, go on Julie” I told myself. In the smaller group feedback sessions, we had great conversations. Some had issues that had been long on their minds. This was the moment to speak up and they courageously did! Some were impressed how others were giving feedback and said “I’ll try do it like you, I very much like the way you do this”. It was a great pleasure for my colleagues and myself to join in and support them. To share our feedback and reflect on the experience. After we had finished, I left the virtual meeting open for those who wanted to continue and chit chat with each other. In the true spirit of green and by lack of the coffee corner talk, some stayed on for quite long to connect with each other!