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Maximizing Engagement in Your Virtual Meetings

May 4, 2020 1:41 pm

You may have noticed that meeting leaders need to work harder to engage participants during virtual meetings. Compared to face-to-face meetings, there is a tendency in a virtual meeting for participants to feel like they can take a back seat and just “watch” the proceedings, or their attention is easily drawn away by emails and multi-tasking. As well, speaking up on a virtual call can be intimidating or even confusing with participants thinking: Should I speak now? How do I get the facilitator’s attention? Should I record my idea in Chat, raise my hand or just unmute? Why is Malcolm allowed to ramble on and on?

As facilitators, it is our role to set clear expectations regarding participation when we open a  meeting – especially in virtual meetings. Here are a few tips drawn from our Managing and Engaging Participants in Virtual Meetings micro-workshop that might help: 

Set Expectations Regarding Participation ­– do this at the outset so participants know that they will be called on to provide input:

  • Set a ‘participation norm’ e.g. Everyone is expected to contribute at least one idea per topic
    • If status or power is an issue, set an ‘equal status’ norm e.g. all opinions are valued, regardless of position/status
    • If fear of repercussion is an issue, set a ‘safety’ norm e.g. what’s said here stays here, or no repercussions will occur (better yet, have the leader set this norm)
    • Quickly referee broken norms or intervene – Park off-topic remarks
  • Establish the cues to be used by participants during video meetings that will indicate when they want to speak e.g. using a raised hand or thumbs up icon, unmute, or visually raise your hand, or use the chat
  • Create and use a Participation Map to gauge how often people participate. Let participants know that you will be calling on them to ensure equitable participation

Participation Map Example

Name Participation
Omar √ √ √ √
Bryce √ √


For more practical tips to raise engagement in your virtual meetings, check out our Virtual Facilitator Series of Micro-Workshops

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