Have you been getting too many blank stares, awkward silences, and people multitasking during your virtual presentations or meetings? You’re certainly not alone. Getting your audience to participate and stay engaged remotely is a challenge.
And the fact is, virtual collaboration is here to stay. Consider these two findings:
451 Research, a unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence, polled 575 IT decision-makers from a range of industries and found that “67% of respondents expect their work-from-home policies will remain in place permanently or at least for the long term.”
IBM surveyed 25,000 people about remote work and found that “…more than 75 percent indicate they would like to continue to work remotely at least occasionally, while more than half—54 percent—would like this to be their primary way of working.”
So, if virtual presentations, meetings, and communication are the new norm, we need to make them as engaging as possible. Three of our Master Facilitators offer their favorite tips for keeping engagement high:
Three of our Master Facilitators offer their favorite tips for keeping engagement high:
Tip #1: Grab their attention early
Payal Gandhi Hoon, India
While it’s not the same as physical in-person gatherings, virtual meetings are real-time interactions; for this is one safe space where your audience can turn up without their cloth masks! Make the most of the virtual environment from the start with these tips:
Be “on camera” and “into camera”
- Turn your camera on and be presentable, to demonstrate that this meeting matters.
- Look into the camera to make eye contact with the attendees.
You had me at “Hello”
One of my all-time favorite lines from a movie, “You had me at Hello” (Tom Cruise in “Jerry Maguire”) says it all:
- Greet your audience with a warm “hello” and acknowledge the different time zones they are logging in from.
- Address people by their first name to build a stronger personal connection. (Caution: don’t overdo it)
Pique their interest—and their self-interest
- After greeting your audience, give them a clear, one-line statement of the purpose and desired outcome of the meeting. For example, “This meeting is aimed at helping you get the approval you are seeking.”
- A startling fact is always an attention-getter: “According to a study done by Forbes, 73% of employees say that video conferencing is the way to increase intra-team collaboration in organizations.”
- Ask for a vote that relates to what they’ll get from the meeting: “How many of you would like to get an approval on your business proposal?”
Tip #2: Use interactive tools to make participation easy and safe
Ralf Wolter, Germany
Often one of the biggest challenges with virtual meetings and presentations is keeping participation high—especially among introverts or people who, for whatever reason, are hesitant to make their “voices” heard. (Researchers estimate that introverts make up approximately 26 - 50% of the population)
To encourage participation, try these interactive tools:
- Your tool of first choice is “chat,” which allows people to type their responses and questions, which you or a meeting moderator can monitor and use during the session.
- Try the “reaction” button in Zoom (or other tools) to get a response from 100% of your audience.
- Ask a closed question (yes/no), instructing people to use a green check mark for “yes” or a red x for “no.”
- Looking for volunteers for an experiment? Ask the audience to raise their hands virtually, by clicking the icon. Alternatively, suggest raising their real hands in front of the camera.
- You want to find out what your audience thinks on a specific topic? Use a poll with one or multiple answers.
- All of this is not enough? How about sharing a virtual white board so that everyone can contribute.
No matter what you do, pattern disruption is a great way to avoid “Zoom fatigue” and increase participation among your audience. The easier you make it for them to respond, the more they like it—and so will you.
Tip #3: Create a Social Experience Throughout
Rachel Rodriguez, United States
Now more than ever in your virtual meetings and presentations, you want to plan for the kind of engagement that enables attendees to interact with each other—not just with you.
Here are several ideas to make your virtual gathering more social:
- In advance of the meeting, have an engaging, interactive question ready for people who arrive a few minutes early. It could tie directly to your meeting topic or presentation. Or, it could be lighter and more social, like, “Where do you want to travel after the pandemic?” Use their responses to encourage dialogue among the attendees. (This would also be a nice opener once all of the attendees are present)
- Pause slide sharing and go to “gallery view” to spark a “face-to-face” discussion.
- Breakout rooms are another way to disrupt the pattern of your presentation and stimulate interaction. Pose a meaningful question or challenge to your participants, then send them off in pairs or trios to discuss it for a few minutes.
Want more virtual meeting tips? Check out our recent blog, “Zoom Fatigue Got You Down?”