Do you encourage engagement when you LEAD ONLINE MEETINGS?

I have a quick STORY for you…

lead online meetings - start by telling a story

Recently when I was leading an online corporate workshop, I noticed that about 1/2 of the participants had their cameras turned OFF. (For the record, I prefer cameras are on, but it’s not necessary.) The workshop went well and the group was interactive, especially for the Q&A at the end. Once we were done, the woman who hired me thanked me on behalf of the group and people started logging off.  Two screens of participants dwindled down to one screen, and slowly all the boxes disappeared – except two. It was just me and two black squares with their names.  So I called out their names, and asked, “ARE YOU THERE?”  No, they weren’t!  I laughed, took a screenshot, and logged off.

Two questions based on this story:

  1. Should I tell their boss? (Just kidding – No I didn’t and no I won’t!)
  2. How can we keep people engaged in our online meetings?


Let’s look at this 2nd question right now! Read on to learn 4 ways to ENCOURAGE ENGAGEMENT when you lead online meetings:

  1. Set expectations in advance of the meeting
  2. Make it as easy as possible for participants to speak up
  3. Use names
  4. Use interactive tools


1️⃣ SET EXPECTATIONS IN ADVANCE when you lead Online Meetings

Ensure meeting participants arrive at the meeting expecting to participate:


Be explicit

  • Highlight the expectation for active engagement in the meeting invitation.
  • Pre-issue an agenda that articulates the meeting objective(s). For example teaching, selling, decision-making, brainstorming, etc. That way people understand why they’re there.

Be implicit:

  • Refer to meeting invitees as “participants.” (Not “attendees”!) 

Minimize the number of attendees. 

  • The more people in attendance, the more people will feel anonymous and disengaged. (Less is more!)


2️⃣ MAKE IT EASY TO SPEAK UP when you lead Online Meetings

Engage directly with participants and make it as easy as possible for them to contribute. 

easy peasy

Tell participants how to interject
. Choose one or more of these suggestions and instruct meeting participants to use them:

  • Physically raise your hand (old school, but it works!)
  • Virtually raise your hand (click “reactions” then “raise hand”)
  • Use the chat function (best for larger groups)
  • Hold up a hand-written sign! (keep paper and a thick marker nearby)

Assign roles for everyone. There’s the typical moderator/facilitator, the timekeeper, a minute-taker. What else?

  • Assign someone to moderate the chatroom.
  • Assign other “advocates”: the devil’s advocate, the customer-advocate, the diversity-advocate, the quality-advocate, the environmental advocate,… (you get the idea!)
  • 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”!

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.  



when you lead Online Meetings

People love to hear their name!  There’s no other word that has the same effect.

use names when you lead online meetings

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 her name – perhaps flatter her! (“Chris did a fantastic job last week with the…”)

Round-table introductions can be complicated online, so be creative!

  • Round table introductions get people talking immediately.
  • Create a slide in advance that lists participants, then use this list to queue introductions
  • Ask a question that each person can use to introduce themselves (e.g. “What room in your house are you Zooming from?” or  “Show-&-Tell: Show us one of your favourite books…” )

Two ideas for introductions with larger groups:

  1. Ask participants to introduce themselves in the chatroom 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 SlackGoToMeetings,  MS Teams).
  • Updating your meeting display name can be a funinteractive exercise in itself! There’s “Andrea – she/her” or “AN-dree-a” or “Big Red”…  Be creative!
  • Ask participants – what do you want to be called?
  • Make it a game.  For example, ask people to include their first name and a nickname.



when you lead Online Meetings


use interactive tools when you lead online meetings

Use built-in interactive tools.

  • As a meeting host, you can pre-program various polling options with multiple-choice surveys, yes/no questions, etc.

Enable 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. They can ask questions to get the chat started.
  • The chatroom can also be ideal for brainstorming.

Try other interactive platforms

  • Many organizations use I’ve been using in my online workshops. It’s easy and it’s free! 
  • 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.

Try using 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.




Over the past few weeks we’ve covered how to PREPARE, how to MANAGE OUR ENERGY, and now how to PARTICIPATE in and lead online meetings

We got this!

For more on what to do during online meetings, whether you’re PARTICIPATING OR LEADING, check out this week’s Talk About Talk ?podcast episode #70.

successfully lead online meetings

talk about talk lips Click HERE to listen directly on the Talk About Talk website


Click HERE to listen on your favourite podcast player


Click HERE to read the printable shownotes


Please forward this email to anyone who might appreciate some advice on communication skills and online meetingsThank you very much!  

Have a great week.