Online meetings as in “remote meetings,” “Zoom meetings,” “virtual meetings”…

boardroom before online meetings
Remember this?

image: Unsplash @ febrianzakaria

Questions for you:

  • Have YOU ever multi-taskedwhen 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 in online meetings:

  1. Prepare for success
  2. Make it easy for participants to speak up
  3. Use names
  4. Use interactive tools


1️⃣ PREPARE FOR SUCCESS in your online meeting


success in online meetings
image: Unsplash @ joshuaearle

Pre-issue an agenda that highlights the meeting objective.
For example:

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

Highlight the expectation for active engagement.

  • Refer to meeting invitees as “PARTICIPANTS,” not “attendees”!

Invite only those who are necessary

  • The more people in attendance, the more people will feel anonymous
  • Every participant will be assigned at least one role (see below).

Keep slides to a minimum

  • If you’re not sure whether a slide is necessary, the answer is probably NO.
fall asleep
“Death by PowerPoint” is a thing!
image: Unsplash @ zhangkaiyv

Remind yourself of THESE “ZOOM 101” TIPS

  • Set a positive example for everyone. Adjust your camera to eye level. Yes, it’s exhausting, but look at the camera when you’re speaking.  And WEAR PANTS… ?


2️⃣ MAKE IT EASY TO SPEAK UP in your online meeting

If participants feel ignored, they will ignore you.  Engage directly with participants and make it as easy as possible for them to contribute.


  • 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”!
hands up
Hands up!
image: Unsplash @ priscilladupreez

Tell participants how to interject.

  • Instruct participants how to share their ideas, for example by:
    • using the chat function (best for larger groups);
    • physically raising their hand;
    • using the built-in REACTION function (??);
    • virtually raising their hand (in Zoom click PARTICIPANTS then RAISE HAND);  or
    • even by holding up a sign!

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.
tell a story
Share a story and get interactive
image: Unsplash @ benwhitephotography

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.  

3️⃣ LEVERAGE THE POWER OF NAMES in your online meeting


dale carnegie quote on names

Do you want “Joe” to pay attention and get involved?  Say his name

  • Challenge yourself to mention as many people as possible by name during the meeting.
  • You don’t have to cold-call Joe, but do mention his name – perhaps flatter him!
  • “I noticed yesterday that Joe was working hard on the…” or “Joe’s contribution to that project was invaluable…”
hello my name is
image: Unsplash @ jontyson

Introduce participants

  • 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!
  • 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:
    • Ask participants to introduce themselves in the chatroom while you’re going through meeting logistics.
    • 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 

  • Ask participants – what do you want to be called?
  • In Zoom, ask participants to simply click on their own name, and then they can change it (see also Slack, GoToMeetings,  MS Teams).
  • 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!

4️⃣USE INTERACTIVE TOOLS in your online meeting

Use built-in interactive tools.

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

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

The wordcloud generated in a recent Talk About Talk workshop on “Confidence”

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.

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.

Introduce a contest with a prize.

  • Contest ideas: Who can name the most books on my bookshelf behind me? Who told the funniest joke? How many stories did I tell?  How many times did I use my crutch word?  Who suggestd the most game-changing idea?…
  • Prize ideas: online gift cards, tech swag (mail them new videoconferencing headphones!), bragging rights,…
image: Unsplash @ giorgiotrovato 


If you do these four things, there’s no excuse for anyone to NOT pay attention and actively participate in your meeting, right?

Do you have other ideas?  Bring them on! Please email me.  I’d love ❤️to hear all about your online meetings – what’s working and what’s not.

Please forward this email to your friends who might also benefit from this advice on how to run a successful online meeting. THANK YOU!

Happy meetings!

Dr. Andrea Wojnicki - headshotDr. Andrea Wojnicki
Chief Talker & Communication Coach

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