Online Meetings

Learning Objectives

Identify strategies for participating effectively in an online meeting.

A person in a skype meetingIf you are leading an online meeting like a webinar, there are ways to engage participants so they participate productively in the meeting. We’ll cover some of these strategies below.

Likewise, if you are a participant in an online meeting, keep these same strategies in mind as ways you can increase the quality of your own participation.

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Justin Hale and Joseph Grenny offer the following suggestions for getting people to participate in virtual meetings:

  1. The 60-second rule: First, never engage a group in solving a problem until they have understood the problem. If you want to engage a group in helping solve a problem, do something in the first 60 seconds to help them understand it. This works much like an attention-getter in a speech. You could provide an anecdote or startling statistic, for instance, that appeals to the experiences of your audience or that taps into their emotions. Help your audience understand the problem so they are more likely to engage with you.
  2. The responsibility rule: To get participants to be more than just observers, create an expectation of shared responsibility early on in the meeting. The next suggestion provides one example of how to do that.
  3. The nowhere-to-hide rule: There’s a phenomenon social psychologists have called diffusion of responsibility, which basically says if everyone is responsible, then no one feels responsible. In virtual meetings where it is easy to just hide rather than be an active participant, diffusion of responsibility is all too common. To counteract it, give people tasks that they can actively engage in so they have to be active, responsible participants. For instance, provide a problem that can be solved quickly, assign people to groups of two or three, and give them a place like a breakout room of chat to communicate and come up with a solution.
  4. The MVP rule: Here, MVP stands for Minimum Viable PowerPoint rather than Most Valuable Player. The idea behind this rule is if your goal is engagement, mix facts and stories rather than overload the audience with slide after slide of bullet points. Choose the least amount of data or information you need to put on your slides to inform and engage your audience. In other words, keep the number of slides you are using to an absolute minimum so your audience isn’t overwhelmed and will be more likely to listen to you.
  5. The five-minute rule: Don’t go longer than five minutes without giving your audience another problem to solve, question to answer, or opportunity to provide feedback through something like a poll. If you don’t keep up a constant expectation of meaningful involvement, your audience will retreat back into the observer role.[1]

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