Frequently asked questions

Using video meetings signals

Why do we need hand signals - couldn't we just use the reactions buttons or the chat?


You could of course use the reactions buttons and the chat instead, it is up to you and your team. Lots of teams have said, though, that they find using the hand signals more immediate and more 'human'. You don't need to look away to your keyboard. You don't need to try and monitor chat at the same time at faces. You also get a physical benefit from a bit of body movement. Over the course of a day this can be much more beneficial than sitting relatively still.




Do we need to have videos on the whole time - there doesn't seem to be so much point when we are screen sharing?


The hand signals are most useful when the group is having a discussion. If most of the meeting is spent in screen share they are less useful, although in some applications like Zoom you can now see 21 people at the same time as the shared screen. It can still be useful, for the presenter and other particpants, to see reactions from each other. It's OK for the team to agree to have videos on for some of the meeting and not for other parts. But it's good for this to be a conscious, team decison that everyone signs up to. We often encounter a lot of unspoken frustration in teams where some people are pro video and others switch their videos off. If that's your team, it's time to agree some values and behaviours for video meetings. If you are screen sharing for much of the time in your meetings, it is worth checking if this is the best use of your meeting time. We advise avoiding long periods of screen share in meetings, particulalry for information transfer. It is often more effective to send round a pre-read that everyone looks at, with the expectation that they come to the meeting with questions and for a discussion. The time in the meeting is then used for a higher value added activity. One business leader challenged me on this. He said: 'there's no way my team will read a pre-read - it's not part of our culture to do prepare for meetings and anyway, there's no time, we are always in meetings.' If this sounds like your organisation, your journey to better meetings will be longer and harder, but the prospective rewards even greater.




What about when we are in breakout rooms?


We suggest using the hand signals just as you would in the main meeting. Even with just three people it can still be tricky working out who wants to go next, so the waving and passing discipline can be very helpful.




I find some of the hand signals difficult because of a mobility or other issue


Clearly we want the use of hand signals to be fully inclusive, so there are work arounds. We have some clients who only have the use of one arm, so a one handed thumbs up works fine, it doesn't have to be two! If you find it hard to wave above your head, do a smaller wave in front of your body or wave a pencil or a flag or whatever you like! It is best for each team to agree an approach that will work for everyone in the team, being mindful of everyone's needs. Experiment, make up your own variations to the signals and please let us know if you have any learnng we can share with others.




Is using hand signals good for inclusivity?


We think so and this is what many teams using the hand signals say. If a team uses team charing and passing, it is easier to pass the conversation to someone who has not yet spoken or who does not usually speak so often. And anyone can do this, not just the meeting chair. The agreement or protocol when you use team chairing and passing is that you only speak when the conversation is passed to you - this helps avoid those who have a tendency to dominate from always jumping in first. When we have asked those who consider themsleves to be more shy/less forthcoming how they feel, they often say they don't want to interupt or be seen a rude. With the hand signals they can feel more comfortable waving to speak, especially if everyone is using this technique and they kno they will be passed the conversation so they can have a turn. If you know you have shyer, more introverted people in yor meeting, you can now play more active role in helping them into the conversation. They may wave for a shorter time or make a less confident, less visible hand signal, but if you spot them wanting to contribute, help them in - pass the conversation to them after you have spoken.




Couldn't I just use Makaton/why have you invented something new?


Makaton is brilliant and serves a very important purpose. It contains many signs and symbols (over 11.000 and also varies by country). The Makaton website states: 'The Makaton resources available in the UK use signs from British Sign Language (BSL). This means they are only suitable for use within the UK.' We wanted to create a very simple and totally free to access set of signals that could be global. Most teams gain a benefit from using only 10 core video meeting signals. Many of the people we work with are initally a little uncomfortable using signs and signals in a meeting. They need persuading to get used to doing it - it is for many a new and unfamiliar behaviour that we are asking them to adopt as a new habit or way of working. We hope that by introducing a lot more people to our simple set of signals and helping them get comfortable using them, they will realise the power of using their hands as a aid to communicating and may be more open to then using other system like Makaton, BSL or ASL.