Five Ideas for Encouraging Participation in Virtual Meetings 

Research and experience 
tell us how important equal and energized group meetings are to morale and productivity. 

Yet, clients using virtual audio or video conferencing say that engaging all participants, holding attention, and controlling interruptions and overlapping speakers are significant challenges.

Make sure you are incorporating these five essentials in your virtual meetings:

  1. Stop talking so much. Invite team members to be on the list in advance or ask others to facilitate the meeting. Give as many people as possible a “speaking part.” Reticent participants appreciate the structure in advance.
  2. One person at a time, pleaseFacilitators need to have “rules of the virtual road.” Use the raise hand feature in some platforms to call on people, state the rule of one speaker at a time, and don’t be afraid to say, “David, let’s hear from you and then it’s Keyla’s turn.”
  3. Manage large meetingsMeetings larger than five participants breed inattention. Think, “the smaller, the better.” Research tells us that the smaller the communication unit, (1-1’s are best!), the more engagement you get. Learn how to use breakout rooms if your technology allows, or PODs, described below.
  4. Schmoozing is usually worth the time.  Leaders have shared that they need to focus on business, not socializing during meetings. True enough during crises or emergencies. It’s worth spending five to ten minutes on check in’s, recognizing birthdays or accomplishments, an occasional virtual “special” event, like sharing your favorite dessert on camera.
  5. Master these inclusion techniquesThough you may feel awkward at first, facilitators can use several methods for maximizing participation by all. The most egalitarian is the round-robin (I like the French phrase, tout le monde – around the world) where each person has a turn to speak or react.

If the group is larger than eight or ten, use the POD technique, which stands for Participants of the Day. The facilitator chooses different team members in advance for each meeting.  PODS are ready to react and comment.

Incorporate the easy strategies above, and team members will describe virtual meetings as valuable, exciting, and sometimes even fun!

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