Keeping people engaged in-person certainly has its challenges. And as more and more meetings are conducted online, the need to improve engagement during virtual meetings has never been greater.
- In an in-person environment, we can greet attendees at the door, shake their hand, engage in small talk, and put read-ahead material in their seat. During the meeting we can hover next to them to gain their attention, call their name, take organized breaks, etc.
- In a virtual environment, however, those same attendees can avoid all of that if they want. Instead of engaging with our topic, they can browse online, nosh on leftovers, or play with their dog.
To improve engagement during virtual meetings, try these antidotes for the potentially-disengaged.
Before the meeting starts:
- Present a placeholder image or question to spark the viewer's imagination.
- Instead of or in addition to a title slide, an abstract image or question can attract the viewer's attention while waiting for the meeting to start.
- Example: displaying an image of a duck during a rain storm could offer a clue about a forthcoming topic about resilience.
- Example: posing a question about misinterpreted song lyrics could fuel a later discussion about effective communication.
During the meeting:
- Present a poll, a question, or a challenge.
- Prompt the viewer to submit their answer in the chat box or other interactive element within the video meeting.
- The simple action of clicking a link, button, etc. demonstrates attentiveness and engagement, even if it is slightly off-topic.
- Example: Ask the viewers to vote on whether they support changing the color of the break room from grey to blue.
- Begin sharing a story.
- Spread out short and suspenseful passages throughout the meeting.
- Conclude the story when the meeting concludes.
- Example: "This one time at band camp ..."
After the meeting ends:
- Encourage recall by asking for participation.
- Present another interactive poll that reflects the meeting topics.
- Example: ask a participant to summarize the meeting, ask viewers to rank the meeting's main takeaways, etc.
Even for important, weighty, and consequential topics, a little creativity goes a long way to lighten the mood and engage the viewer.
What About Attendees?
If you're an attendee to a virtual meeting, just as you would with an in-person session, ask for and expect to receive an agenda of what will be covered in the meeting. Including:
- Intended outcomes
- Expected or needed contributions
- Questions that need answering
Being able to follow along, anticipate and prepare enables us to engage and contribute for everyone's benefit.
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