It can be tough to make your virtual meetings more engaging. But doing so can ensure you’re getting the most value from the session, and creating an experience your remote meeting participants will enjoy.
Meeting participants are by now accustomed to meeting online. But meeting virtually isn’t the same as sitting across the table from your teammates. Participants can be disengaged, distracted, or simply intimidated to speak up.
As the facilitator, there are things you can do to ensure your remote meeting participants are fully engaged and bringing their best to the virtual table.
Virtual meetings have added challenges: participants can be disengaged, distracted, or intimidated to speak up. You need to create an environment that fosters more engagement.
Why you need to make your virtual meetings engaging
- You conduct your online meetings to reach a specific goal or value. If attendees are disengaged, you’re not getting the full value possible.
- You can make a greater impact when attendees are engaged and bring their full selves to the meeting.
- As the meeting leader, you make a better impression on those attending when you run your virtual meeting in a way that’s engaging.
- Participants enjoy the meeting and leave with a more positive experience.
- There’s greater opportunity to foster connections between attendees when they’re more engaged and take part more fully.
How to Make Your Virtual Meetings More Engaging
Here are 15 ways you can ensure your participants stay more engaged during your virtual meetings.
Before the meeting
1) Send the meeting agenda and meeting goal in advance. Participants must know the planned goals and outcomes in order to come to the meeting ready to contribute. The meeting agenda helps participants prepare and know what to expect.
2) Be intentional about who you invite. Don’t invite people who don’t need to be there. This wastes their time. They’ll likely be disengaged or wonder why they’re in the meeting.
3) Be prepared. As the facilitator, know the content or information you’ll present or discuss. This frees you to more readily lead discussions about the planned topics.
4) Plan with timezones in mind. Don’t schedule the meeting time after working hours for attendees if at all possible. Online meetings need to be planned during work hours the same as in-person meetings. Do your best to accomodate time zones and plan the meeting within your participants’ working hours.
5) Log in early. Don’t risk technical challenges causing meeting delays before you even start. Log into your virtual meeting platform early enough to address any problems you might encounter.
As the facilitator, all eyes are on you. Even if people can’t see you. Use this opportunity to hold a virtual meeting that’s engaging and valuable.
During the meeting
6) Use video. When attendees are looking at one another, it’s easier to read facial expressions and other body language. This increases engagement by making communication richer. It also reduces the chance that participants will multi-task during the session.
Some teams get burned out on video and have pulled back on requiring it. Don’t overdo or force it, but do support and encourage it if your team members are open to it. And if you’re going to ask attendees to be on video, let them know beforehand.
7) Start with an icebreaker. Icebreakers can help build trust and rapport. If the group is new and needs to build trust quickly, an icebreaker will help. If the group is made of people who know one another, have limited time, or won’t have an ongoing working relationship, open with small talk.
8) Ask questions. One way to keep the conversation flowing is by asking open-ended questions. Questions such as “What do you think about…?” will encourage discussion rather than monologue.
9) Limit distractions. Ask participants to turn off email notifications and put away phones.
10) Use collaboration tools. Many online tools offer whiteboards, sticky notes, voting, and other ways to collaborate and share ideas visually during virtual events. Hoylu, Miro, Teams, and others offer these features for brainstorming and creativity. Monday.com, Hive, and Teamwork, for example, allows your remote team to access projects and work together real time in the same workspace. This allows for greater collaboration, accountability, and input.
11) Encourage participation. Invite people to add comments and feedback throughout the session. Have others share or lead agenda items. Call names specifically to get input and participation.
12) Share success stories. Show off examples of things that were accomplished in previous meetings. This encourages team members to continue working together towards common goals.
13) Monitor chat. If you have a large group, have someone monitor the chat messages in your web meeting software. It can be difficult for the moderator to both lead and watch the chat. Having a chat moderator allows them to ensure nothing is missed there.
14) Don’t schedule or run the meeting longer than it needs to be. Don’t feel compelled to hold a meeting for an hour if it only needs to be 25 minutes. Match the duration to the need.
15) Mix it up. Have someone else present or lead an agenda item. Share information in a new way. For example: user diagrams, videos, or infographics to share information with the group. Having variation in who presents or the way information is presented can help hold people’s attention longer. (If you want someone else to present during the session, plan with them ahead of time. Don’t surprise them during the meeting.)
16) Use your voice. Listening to someone speak in a monotone can be boring and difficult to listen to. Use paraverbal communication techniques, such as voice inflection and changing your tone and speed. This will keep your participants more engaged and make presentations or messages more interesting.
17) End with a recap. Summarize decisions made during the session and list next steps and action items to be completed, along with who is responsible and target completion dates.
Use this resource: Running Great Virtual Meetings: Everything You Need to Know
Meeting virtually has added challenges. It’s easy for participants to multitask, get distracted, or simply not engage. To overcome these issues, use the tips above to make your virtual meetings more engaging.
Virtual meetings are here to stay. It’s critical that you continue to make your meetings as valuable as possible. That includes getting engagement and participation from your attendees. The tips listed here will help make your virtual meetings as engaging and valuable as your face-to-face sessions.
Excellent resources to help you manage your virtual meetings:
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