Top Tips to Keep Your Audience Engaged During Online Meetings

March 31st, 2020

I consider myself an experienced veteran of in-person
meetings.  I prep for these meetings, have an agenda, and know how to
engage the audience.  Online meetings have brought up a new set of
challenges that I found myself not prepared for. 

Keep audience engaged during online meetings.

doesn’t appear to be a reduction of stay at home mandates, and that means
employees will be Working from Home for the foreseeable future.  Online
meetings are here to stay, at least for a while.

So with online meetings growing in popularity, we thought
we’d take a look at the unique aspects of conducting an online meeting and
offer a few tips for how to keep your remote attendees—who you may or may not
be able to see—completely engaged.

Here are our top tips to help you master the art of engaging
online meetings.

The importance of preparation


First, avoid any confusion when you kick off the meeting by
sending out a clear agenda prior to the call. Make sure you clearly indicate
the meeting goals and everyone’s expected contribution, if applicable. If you’re
expecting a report on action items in this meeting, let attendees know in
advance so they don’t leave it until the meeting starts to read the agenda.


When you send the meeting invite, be sure to include login
details for your conference call/online meeting and arrive five to 10 minutes
early to check that they work. Making time for setup prior to the meeting will
put a stop to that embarrassing scramble to update the login details and adjust
the invite when you realize no one can connect.

Complementary materials

Next, decide what accompanying material you’ll be using in
the meeting. If you’ll be presenting, it’s a no-brainer, but even if you’re
just having a team or project meeting, consider what visual aids might be
useful for the remote attendees to feel fully involved. Whatever the format,
make sure your online meeting tools are set up for screen sharing and video
conferencing. Which brings me to my next tip.

Make sure you have the right remote work tools.

All of your careful preparation for a virtual meeting will
be fruitless unless you have the right online collaboration tools at your
disposal. If you find yourself having virtual meetings regularly, make sure you
have the software to suit your needs and allow easy screen sharing and clear,
crisp video conferencing.

A team messaging solution such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom is
a great way to bring virtual teams and individuals together, allowing video
calling and screen sharing at the touch of a button.

Screen sharing is a must-have feature for communicating
during virtual meetings. By sharing the presentation, visual aids, or even the
meeting agenda or notes, everyone can be kept in the loop and will be less
likely to get distracted.

Video conferencing is really where it’s at when you’re
looking to keep everyone engaged in a virtual meeting. It’s incredibly
difficult to relate to a voice at the end of a telephone line. When you can put
a face to the name, the barriers come down, connections can be made more
naturally, and contributing to the meeting becomes easier for everyone. Just
remember when your video screen is on to avoid being caught off guard!

Establish some housekeeping rules and stick to them.

Being a remote meeting attendee can often be a frustrating
experience. Side chatter, difficulty hearing the speaker, and struggling to get
your point across are just some things that can make a virtual meeting a
less-than-pleasant experience for remote workers.

By setting some general housekeeping rules for online
meetings and video conference calls, everyone will be more inclined to stay
tuned-in and more likely to accept your next invite. Here’s some inspiration
for your rule book:

  • No cross-chat or side
    conversations in meetings.
  • Be clear and concise,
    always keep remote attendees in mind.
  • Give people on the phone
    a chance to speak. Allow time for them, and be aware that they may have
    questions at any time, just like everyone in the room.
  • Civility and respect
    should be the norm. Be respectful of people’s time by being punctual and
    ready to dive in.

Make time for a few minutes of introductions.

Before you get down to business, make time for introductions
and small talk, preferably going beyond just the work chitchat. Make this fun
by asking attendees random questions and encouraging some banter. Think: “What
did everyone have for breakfast/lunch? What’s been the highlight of your week?”

There’s nothing quite like sharing a laugh to close the
distance between people and warm up the conversation. It can be hard enough to
develop connections with colleagues when you’re sitting in the same office
space, let alone when half a country or continent lies between you. Taking just
a short amount of time to build on relationships can do wonders for remote team

Keep everyone connected and involved.

Now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of the meeting.
Try to make it a collaborative affair. Avoid doing all the talking yourself. If
you’re presenting, pause to ask if everyone is still following or if there are
any questions. If these are regular meetings, keep everyone involved by
rotating tasks, such as taking minutes and tracking action items.

Whenever there’s a silence looming, encourage some group
participation in the meeting. You can also involve remote attendees more by
directing questions to each person on the line—only if it makes sense to, of
course. This could be as simple as asking for their input and feedback as the
meeting comes to a close.

Send a Follow Up Email.

As with in-person meetings, make sure that you send clear
notes, with action items if applicable, after the meeting. It’s always a good
idea to reach out directly to remote attendees to thank them for attending the
call and ask if they have any questions they didn’t get to ask during the
meeting. Show them you value their input by asking them for feedback on what
could be improved next time.

You’ve got this.

With our virtual meeting guide up your sleeve, you can confidently say good-bye to the typical online meeting frustrations and keep everyone connected and contributing, whether they’re remote or sitting in the seat next to you.