Siim Sutrop, Learning & Development Architect, February 1, 2021
I have noticed a recurring challenge in the recent remote-heavy world: Meetings, where the majority has their cameras off, mics on mute, and on average 1 person speaks and presents 99% of the meeting. There is no real interaction going on. It does not sound like the most productive, fun, and useful meeting, right? Frankly, it is tedious for everyone involved, and I decided to share a list of best practices to tackle the challenge.
So, what can be done to foster an active participation in the meetings if you facilitate or organize it?
1. I would say right at the beginning, with a smile or joke,“Hey, everyone! Welcome! By the way, I can’t see your faces and lovely smiles. Can you please turn your camera on, so I can see if what I tell you today makes sense or if you’ve fallen asleep.”
2. In the introduction, I state my expectation in terms of communication, i.e., whether I will take questions during the conference, take them at the end, or maybe only via chat.
3. One trick to get people to participate, for example, is to ask everyone at the beginning to state their expectation: “Before we begin, I’d like to hear very briefly from everybody about your expectations and what you want to take away from today’s meeting.”
4. When I present, I check in every five minutes or so with questions like: “Is this understandable?” / “Does this make sense?” / “What do you think about this?”
5. If you have a smaller group, it’s also an option to call on people directly by name, e.g., “Siim, does this make sense to you?” / “Mary, I’m curious how you see yourself using this approach?” / “John, how do you like what I’m presenting so far – I’m curious about your feedback.”
Since you are so invested in improving your skills:
6. It would make sense to talk to that silent person directly after the meeting in private and give them feedback. Something like, “Hey, I noticed you didn’t ask any questions or voice your opinion during our meeting. This means we don’t get to hear your ideas, and the whole team is poorer for it. Plus, I don’t know if what I was talking about was valuable to you or a waste of time. What are your thoughts?”
The truth is, the facilitator can do a lot to make the meeting more interactive and meaningful for everyone. Don’t be afraid to test different styles.
And to wrap up this topic, here are a couple of suggestions for supporting a purposeful meeting if you are the one participating:
For further reading, here you can find more tips on how to run effective meetings, both online and offline.