Friday, September 29, 2023

How to Make Online Meetings Engaging

Are your online meetings dull? They’re not well known for being something people look forward to, but they’re even worse when they’re boring. Web conferences are necessary for business proceedings, which means you need to be productive. But you cannot be productive if no one is paying attention.

How do you make your virtual meetings more compelling? Work would be much more enjoyable and efficient if people did not dread them, so here are a few ways to make each session more engaging:

Start with some fun

People have busy schedules, so do you do not want to consume too much of their time. However, if appropriate (such as internal team meetings instead of gathering with clients you have never met before) start each session with something fun. Ask “would you rather” questions, play a game, have themed discussions, or anything else that makes people laugh and gets their creative juices flowing. Even if you are meeting with people you don’t know very well, it’s okay to make a bit of small talk.

Use lots of visuals

One of the reasons conference calls are tedious is due to monotony. Standard phone calls are like this, especially. Even if the speaker’s voice is animated, people have nothing visually holding their attention, so their thoughts stray and they end up checking social media. It’s slightly better with video calls, but it’s still unexciting to watch nothing but someone’s face the entire time.

Mix up the meeting’s visuals. Use videos, images, graphs, slide shows, and other media so that there’s always something new to see. Not only will attendees be more intrigued, but visual tools will also help communicate your message.

Give people something to work on

Don’t only make people watch their screens, though. Rany Ng, director of meeting solutions and product management at Google Cloud, advises:

A great way to avoid distractions is to make the meeting more interactive. For starters, working out of a live shared doc allows everyone to contribute in real-time. You can also have participants take turns presenting to the group with screen sharing to maintain engagement. By introducing interactive components to a meeting, you can encourage a fruitful conversation while capturing attendees’ attention.”

The meeting is meant to accomplish something, right? Then don’t drone on with status reports and updates. Make your presentations interactive through polls, engage everyone in brainstorm sessions, and give them other things to work on. Everyone’s thoughts will be less likely to stray.

Assign roles

Besides working on a project, assign individuals roles at the beginning of the meeting. One of the most important duties is that of a moderator: this person will announce the meeting’s agenda and steer the conversation in the right direction when it starts to become unproductive. This person can also ask questions to fill awkward silences and introduce people when they speak.

Other roles include timekeepers, note-takers, and technical support. Timekeepers will make sure that the meeting ends punctually, note-takers will summarize the essential points of the conversation, and technical supporters will tend to any technical issues (hopefully this will not be a problem, though, if you are using a specially designed online meeting solution). Shake up who will perform each duty for recurring team meetings.

Invite the right people

Another reason why people may be bored: they don’t need to be there at all. Why should someone pay attention to a meeting when it’s not relevant to them? You’ll also make the meeting dull to people who do need to be there, but you spend time catching everyone else up. Resist the temptation to over-invite. While you might assume you’d rather have more people, you’ll do a service by only inviting people who have something to gain.

Address people directly

People will be more engaged if you speak to them directly. Use individuals’ names when asking them questions, and segue into other conversation topics by saying, “Martin will now tell us about…” You don’t want to force people to pay attention because you could call on them at any moment (and maybe catch them off guard, which is awkward for everyone), but if you genuinely care what people think, you’ll use their names (and prevent participants from speaking over each other).

Be animated

One of the most critical things you can do is be animated. Sit or stand confidently, speak dramatically, and use hand motions. The meeting will be more compelling if you are a captivating presenter, so practice your communication and be someone worth paying attention to.

Online meetings can be challenging to master, but they will be more productive if everyone enjoys participating. How do you try to make web conferences more interactive and engaging?

Andy Debolt
Andy is a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a Bachelors Degree in Journalism. When he isn't writing Andy enjoys water sports and spending time on the golf course.


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