Leading online meetings (virtual meetings) is a challenge. Staying focused and encouraging others to participate is a huge challenge!  Learn 4 tactics to encourage engagement in others, plus tips on what we ourselves should be doing during virtual meetings.

Link to Printable Shownotes HERE: https://talkabouttalk.com/podcasts/#shownotes

CONTENTS

  • Summary:

    • PARTICIPATING: What to do during online meetings

    • LEADING: 4 ways to get people engaged

  • Resources

  • Transcript


SUMMARY: PARTICIPATING IN & LEADING ONLINE MEETINGS

PARTICIPATING: What to do DURING online meetings

AUDIO 

  • Check your settings.  Don’t be the “you’re on mute!” guy.
  • Avoid distracting loud noises. Turn off loud fans and notifications. 

EYE CONTACT

  • Always look at the camera when you’re speaking.
  • Drag and drop the speaker’s box so they’re directly under the camera.
  • If you need a reminder, tape a note next to your camera lens – “look here!”

BODY LANGUAGE

  • Start with a big smile. We all crave positive human connection these days.
  • Use proper posture. Sit or stand up straight, feet planted flat on the floor. To demonstrate confidence, take up lots of space. To demonstrate engagement and openness, lean-in and be open. No crossed arms, no hunching over.
  • Signal agreement by nodding and tilting your head.
  • Use intentional and slow hand gestures. Show your palms. No fidgeting.

4 ways to STRATEGICALLY INTERRUPT:

  1. Use body language physically raise your hand. 
  2. Virtually raise your hand – use the “raise your hand” tool. 
  3. Use the chat function.
  4. Create a hand-written sign

FOCUS

  • Of course, you need to stay away from email and social media!
  • Before important meetings, remind yourself of two things:
    • What are the main points that’ll be discussed? Is there a framework or a process that’ll be referenced? What points need to be top-of-mind?
    • Who are the key participants in this meeting? (clients, external stakeholders…)
  • Print the agenda and handwrite your meeting notes on that page.

 

LEADING Online Meetings: 4 Ways to Get People ENGAGED

(1).PREPARE FOR SUCCESS

  • Be explicit: Highlight the expectation for active engagement in the meeting invitation
  • Be implicit: Refer to meeting invitees as “participants,” not “attendees”!
  • Minimize the number of attendees. 
  • Pre-issue an agenda that articulates the meeting objective
  • When preparing your slide deck, keep it to a minimum. Less is more.

(2).MAKE IT EASY FOR PARTICIPANTS TO SPEAK UP 

  • Logistics: Check-in on the agenda and technology. Typically cameras should be ON, with audio on mute. Ask everyone to silence their phones and turn calendar notifications off.
  • Assign roles for everyone. There’s the typical leader/facilitator, a timekeeper, a minute-taker,…  Assign someone to moderate the chatroom. Other “advocates” (devil’s advocate, customer-advocate, diversity-advocate, etc.)
  • Tell participantshow to interject, for example by physically or virtually raising their hand, using the chat function, or by holding up a hand-written sign!
  • Start off with a bang. Research shows that meeting participants will engage more throughout the meeting when it starts with interaction. Share a story and get interactive.  

(3).LEVERAGE THE POWER OF NAMES  

  • Mention as many people as possible by name during the meeting.
  • Round-table introduction can be complicated online, so be creative! Create a slide  to queue introductions. Pre-issue a question (e.g. “What room in your house are you Zooming from?”). Two ideas for larger groups:
  1. Ask participants to introduce themselves in the chatroom 
  2. Split participants into sub-groups of 3-5 to meet separately. 
  • Ask participants to change their display names. This can be a funinteractive exercise in itself! There’s “Andrea – she/her” or “AN-dree-a” or “Big Red”…  Be creative!

(4).USE INTERACTIVE TOOLS 

  • Built-in interactive tools. – Pre-program various polling options with multiple-choice surveys, yes/no questions, etc.
  • Chat function – Assign someone to monitor the chatroom and to get the chat started.
  • Other interactive platformsTry com or mentimeter.com.
  • Sub-groups.Videoconferencing platforms like Zoom and Teams have a sub-groups feature built-in. Assign a question and ask each subgroup to discuss the question in a given time period.

RESOURCES

Online Meeting Apps & Websites

Andrea’s Recommended Equipment for Online Meetings*

Talk About Talk & Dr. Andrea Wojnicki

* These are affiliate links for products that I personally use and recommend. These links don’t impose any extra cost on you, and they help support the free content provided by Talk About Talk.


TRANSCRIPT – Participating in and Leading Online Meetings

Hey there – I’m your communication coach, Dr. Andrea Wojnicki (please call me Andrea!) Welcome to Talk About Talk.

Talk About Talk is where ambitious managers catapult their careers by improving their communication skills. We focus on communication-skills-topics like optimizing your LinkedIn profile, online networking, and communicating with confidence – And you can access Talk About Talk across a variety of media or resources. You can choose what works for you! There’s online corporate training, 1-on-1 coaching with me, online courses, the free weekly communication-skills newsletter, and, of course, this bi-weekly podcast.

 

Welcome to episode number 70! This is the second episode focused on rocking it ONLINE MEETINGS. As in videoconferencing. 

 

In episode, #69, I shared a list of suggestions for you can do to PREPARE for these online meetings.  I provided suggestions for how to prepare your technology, how to prepare your physical space, and how to prepare your personal appearance. I also shared a checklist that you are welcome to adopt and adapt for your own needs.

 

In this episode, #70, we’re focusing on

  • how to rock it during online meetings, and then also
  • if you’re leading online meetings –how to maximize engagement from other online meeting participants, in other words, how to get people talking in online meetings

 

 

What to do DURING online meetings

I’m going to take you through managing your audio, focusing on body language, strategic interruptions, and how to stay focused during the meeting.  Ok first –

 

AUDIO 

 

Don’t be that guy who starts talking and needs to be told “you’re on mute!” It happens in most meetings it seems, doesn’t it? It’s become a cliche!  And for that matter, don’t be that guy who forgets to mute himself when someone else is talking.  Actually, that’s WORSE, isn’t it?

 

Here’s a Tip: Use the space bar when you talk so you don’t need to fumble with the MUTE settings.

 

And also in terms of audio: make sure you turn off loud fans and other sources of loud noises. For me, that means tell my family members to shush!

FOCUS ON BODY LANGUAGE

 

It’s not that complicated, but there are a few important things to focus on. TO start, everything we already know about body language in real life also prevails on a video-conference call: 

 

First impressions are critical – So start with a BIG SMILE!  We all crave positive human connection these days.

 

Second, proper posture. Sit or stand up straight, feet planted flat on the floor.

 

To demonstrate confidence, take up lots of space.  Be expansive.

 

To demonstrate engagement and openness, lean-in and be open. No crossed arms, no hunching over. Nodding and tilting your head when someone is speaking also signals engagement.

 

EYE CONTACT

 

This takes practice, but it’s really important.  It’s not easy or natural to look at the camera lens rather than at the other person, is it? Well, that’s exactly the point.  We are wired to respond favorably to eye contact!

So during an online meeting:

  1. Don’t worry about looking at the camera 100% of the time! When others are speaking, go back and forth between the camera and looking at others. You should also be watching for non-verbal cues of others, which you might miss if you’re only looking at the camera. But always look at the camera when you’re speaking!
  2. You can also configure your view so that the speaker’s square is as close to the camera as possible. Just drag and drop the box on your screen so the person you want to look at is right under the camera on your screen, This way, when you look at the other person, you’re looking closer to the camera. This is a great hack!
  3. Another hack that’s a little more old school. But yes I did this for a while until I got into the habit of looking at the camera instead of the screen:  Tape a note next to your camera lens (with a STAR or the words “look here!”) to remind yourself to look at the camera!

Moving on to what to do with your hands:

  1. Home base for your hands when you’re on-stage delivering a presentation might be the steeple or prism position in front of you.  But during a Zoom call? Try hands on the table, not crossed and not on your lap. 
  2. Use hand gestures purposefully. Show your palms when appropriate. Make the gestures intentional and slow. No jerky movements.
  3. Of course, you need to consider the camera frame.  If your camera is too close, too zoomed in, you’ll look like a talking head and we won’t be able to see any of your hand gestures.  If it’s too far we won’t see your facial expressions. Seek a mid-point where we can see your hands and you can effectively use them to communicate within the frame.
  4. No fidgeting and no touching your face or your hair!

 

STRATEGIC INTERRUPTIONS

 

A few months ago I highlighted how Zoom makes it impossible to interrupt. The technology only allows one voice to be heard at a time. This is great news, right? It stops all the rude interruptions!

 

But that said, sometimes we need to interrupt – or maybe we should call it …interject. Of course, we need to be very selective about how often and with whom we do this. You probably don’t want to interrupt your boss or your client! 

 

But HOW EXACTLY DO WE INTERRUPT? Here are 4 ways to STRATEGICALLY INTERRUPT in an online meeting:

 

  1. Use body language. Go old-school and physically raise your hand for all to see!
  2. Use the technology to virtually raise your hand.  In Zoom Click “participants” then “raise hand.” Everyone’ll see that you want to contribute to the conversation.
  3. GO into the CHAT function and start a concurrent written chat.
  4. Create a sign.Depending on the degree of formality in your meeting, you could hold up a sign that says, “great point!” or “I have a suggestion.”  I’ve been in several meetings where people have blank paper and thick markers ready so they can create legible signs. (NOTE: the words might appear backward to you because the Zoom default is to mirror your image.  Don’t worry – everyone else will see you and your sign normally.)

 

FOCUS – HOW TO STAY ON TASK. 

 

Of course, you need to stay away from email and social media when you’re in an online meeting. But this isn’t just about avoiding distractions.  This is about proactively focusing on the main points and the key people in the meeting.

Here’s my advice. I blogged about this in a recent Talk About Talk email newsletter, and several people told me they were going to try this out. Especially for important meetings. Before the meeting, remind yourself of two things:

  • What are the main points that’ll be discussed? Is there a framework or a process that’ll be referenced? What points need to be top-of-mind?
  • Who are the key participants in this meeting? This is particularly important if you’re meeting with clients or other external stakeholders and you’re less familiar with their names.

Here’s my Hack: I like to step it up a notch by writing these main points and key names.  If I’m giving an online workshop where I’m teaching a framework, I write the framework on a recipe card (so it stays flat) and tape it on the outside edge of my monitor, right beside the camera.  That way I stay focused on the framework, I never lose my words, and I’m looking at the camera! 

 

You might also want to print the agenda to help you stay focused, and even write out what your personal objective is for the meeting. 

 

LEADING ONLINE MEETINGS

 

How to maximize engagement and interaction from other online meeting participants, in other words, how to get people talking

 

 This can be a HUGE challenge, can’t it?  I mean, back to us ourselves focusing on other’s meetings.

  • Have YOU ever “multi-tasked” when you were supposed to be focused during an online meeting? Checked your email or social media?
  • Do you ever wonder whether the people with their cameras turned off in online meetings are paying attention?  Are they even there? 
  • Have you heard of people looping videos of themselves paying attention during online meetings and classes?

 

Here’s the thing: Active participation is critical to the success of any meeting.  If active participation in the meeting isn’t required, then WHY are we meeting?

And it’s definitely more challenging to make people feel engaged and connected in ONLINE MEETINGS, right?  Well… I’ve got your back!

 

Here are 4 ways to encourage engagement and interaction when you’re leading online meetings:

  1. Prepare for success (yes, this is a common theme.  Preparation makes perfect.)
  2. Make it as easy as possible for participants to speak up
  3. Use names
  4. Use interactive tools

 

 PREPARE FOR SUCCESS


Start by highlighting in the meeting invitation that there’s an expectation for active engagement. Be explicit about it.

 

You can also be implicit.  For example by referring to meeting invitees as “PARTICIPANTS,” not “attendees”!  They’ll be participating not just listening!

 

Then, invite-only those who are necessary. The more people in attendance, the more people will feel anonymous

 

It also helps to pre-issuing an agenda that highlights the meeting objective. For example:

  • teaching or informing
  • selling or influencing
  • decision-making
  • problem-solving
  • relationship strengthening

 

Keep slides to a minimum. If you’re not sure whether a slide is necessary, the answer is probably NO. Yes, Death by PowerPoint is a thing!!!

 

MAKE IT EASY for participants TO SPEAK UP 

 

Here’s the thing: If participants feel ignored, they’ll ignore you.  So engage directly with participants and make it as easy as possible for them to contribute.

 

Logistically:

  • At the beginning of the meeting, check-in not just on the agenda, but also on technology: audio and video.
  • Typically cameras should be ON, with audio on mute.
  • Ask everyone to silence their phones and turn calendar notifications off.

 

Assign roles for everyone

  • Of course, there’s the typical leader/facilitator, a timekeeper, a minute-taker,… 
  • Assign someone to moderate the chatroom.
  • Other “advocates”: the devil’s advocate, the customer-advocate, the diversity-advocate, the quality-advocate, the efficiency advocate, the profit advocate, the environmental advocate,…
  • For larger meetings, highlight that everyone has a role in accomplishing the meeting objective. Remember, we are PARTICIPANTS, not attendees. And certainly, no one takes the role of “observer”!

 

Then, tell participants how to interject. Instruct participants how to share their ideas, for example by using the tactics I listed a minute ago:

  • physically raising their hand;
  • virtually raising their hand
  • using the chat function (best for larger groups);
  • even by holding up a hand-written sign!

 

Start off with a bang. Once logistics are covered, share a story and get interactive. Don’t wait until the end of the meeting for the Q&A or a survey.

 

Research shows that meeting participants will engage more throughout the meeting when it starts with interaction. Get everyone engaged in the first few minutes.  

 

Record the meeting. Letting participants know that the meeting is being recorded signals the significance of the meeting and it encourages people to sit up and pay attention. And they certainly don’t want to be caught snoozing on camera!

 

LEVERAGE THE POWER OF NAMES 

Do you want “CHRIS” to pay attention and get involved? Well,  say his name! Challenge yourself to mention as many people as possible by name during the meeting. You don’t have to cold-call Chris, but do mention his name – perhaps flatter him!

 

“I noticed yesterday that Chris was working hard on the…” or “Chris contribution to that project was invaluable…”

 

Speaking of names, there are several valid reasons why round-table introductions are standard at most face-to-face meetings. But introductions in virtual meetings can be complicated, so be creative!

 

Depending on how many people are in attendance, you might create a slide in advance that lists all meeting participants, then use this list to queue the introductions

 

Pre-issue a question that each person can prepare to introduce themselves (e.g. “What room in your house are you Zooming from?” or “What has surprised you about working from home?” or “Show-&-Tell: Show us one of your favourite books…” )

 

For larger groups:

  1. Ask participants to introduce themselves in the chat room while you’re going through meeting logistics.
  2. Split participants into sub-groups of 3-5 to meet separately.  Then, at least participants will personally get to know 2-4 people in the meeting.

 

Ask participants to change their display name 

  • In Zoom, ask participants to simply click on their own name, and then they can change it (see also SlackGoToMeeting,  MS Teams).
  • Ask participants – what do you want to be called? Or make it a game.  Ask people to include their first name and a nickname.
  • Yes, updating your meeting display name can be a fun, interactive exercise in itself! There’s “Andrea – she/her” or “AN-dree-a” or “Big Red”…  Be creative!

 

Beyond your meeting preparation and using names, how else can you encourage active engagement in that online meeting you’re hosting? Well, how about

 

USING INTERACTIVE TOOLS in your online meeting

 

Most obvious here. There are built-in interactive tools. As a meeting host, you can pre-program various polling options with multiple-choice surveys, yes/no questions, etc.

 

You can also use the chat function. I’ve attended online conferences where the chatroom was the best part of the event – fast-paced, on-topic, and fun!

 

Assign one of your meeting participants to monitor the chatroom.  If no one’s engaging, they can ask questions to get the chat started.

 

The chatroom can also be ideal for brainstorming.

 

You might also introduce other interactive platforms. Your meeting participants can create beautiful word clouds, answer questions to create visual rankings or scales, or even compete in real-time quizzes and contests.

 

Many organizations use kahoot.com. I’ve been using mentimeter.com in my online workshops. It’s easy and it’s free! You should see some of the gorgeous and insightful word clouds that my workshop participants have created in real life.  It’s pretty cool.

 

For large meetings, create sub-groups.  Videoconferencing platforms like Zoom and Teams have a sub-groups feature built-in.

 

Assign a question and ask each subgroup to discuss the question in a given time period.

 

Another option: share a pre-prepared slide with the question and participant names listed into subgroups. Instruct the subgroups to discuss the question in another medium that works for your organization – such as phone, text, Slack, Zoom, etc.

Phew – that’s a lot of things to consider, isn’t it?

Yes, I really do all of these things myself when I’m going into an important meeting or when I’m leading an online corporate workshop. 

 

I hope this helps!  Please let me know. And if you think it might help your friends or colleagues, I hope you’ll direct them to this episode.

 

There’s a lot to remember, but you can access the summary easily if you go to TalkAboutTalk.com and click on PODCASTS.  There’s a printable summary for you there, plus the transcript.

 

While you’re there, I really hope you’ll sign up for the Talk About Talk newsletter, if you’re not already!  This is your chance to get free communication skills coaching from me every week in a simple to digest email.  I promise  no spam and no more than once per week.  Just go to talk abouttalk.com to sign up or email me directly  and I’ll add you to the list. You can email me anytime at [email protected].

 

Good luck with your online meetings.

THANKS for listening – and Talk soon!

 

 

READING!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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