There are many tactics for making virtual meetings more engaging, chief among them is the use of a digital platform’s interactive features. It’s critical that facilitators understand at least some of the interactive features of the digital platform that they use.
For example, in platforms such as Zoom or MS Teams, launching breakout rooms is quite easy yet seldom used. You can utilize breakout rooms to create more intimacy among participants, particularly if you’re facilitating larger groups. Another strategy that’s imperative for creating engagement is to use your chat window and assign someone to be a Chat Monitor, thus freeing up the facilitator to attend to the group’s verbal conversation. The Chat Monitor gently interrupts the facilitator to acknowledge a question or insight related to the current conversation. This enables participants to ask questions or add comments without having to publicly speak – for some this is far more comfortable than having to speak in front of the group.
In most digital platforms, meeting participants can post questions or insights that they perhaps wouldn’t want to post in an in-person meeting for fear of being judged. They can do this anonymously through a direct message to the facilitator via chat. The facilitator can then read out these questions/insights without attribution so that anonymity is preserved.
An engaging facilitator provides frequently a variety of chances for all participants to have their voice heard during a meeting. To do this, use a Whiteboard which allows people to individually add their own ideas. Facilitators could also use Polls for building in interactivity, or post a question in Chat, or throw people into a Breakout room followed by a large group debrief. There needs to be interaction going on at least every 15 minutes to maintain high group engagement.
Beyond the use of the interactive features, if you’re not hearing from someone, you should call on them. You might use what’s called a Participation Map. Write down the names of everyone in the meeting, and every time someone speaks, put a checkmark next to them. If after ten minutes you notice that someone hasn’t participated, call on them to participate (e.g., ask a question or get them to comment on what someone else just said). Identify that you’re going to be monitoring participation right up front by letting them know that you will be calling on participants to ensure we are inclusive and everyone has a voice. Also allow people to pass if they don’t have a response.
In summary, use interactive features in your digital meeting platform to ensure your virtual meetings are engaging.
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