Read this article to find out how you can get everyone to listen to you in online meetings and what you need to keep in mind in a hybrid setting.
How to maintain attention in online meetings
You know it – sometimes you are leading an online meeting and you get the feeling that the participants do not pay enough attention to you. Even if the topics discussed seem exciting to you, it is sometimes simply not possible to keep everyone on the ball. Read this article to find out how you can get everyone to listen to you in online meetings and what you need to keep in mind in a hybrid setting.
The beginning is everything
The very start of the meeting is important. In a virtual context, we often lack “arriving in the room.” That makes it more important to pave the way for a pleasant start: make brief small talk and ask how people are doing. This can often be enough before jumping right into the topic. Activation methods, which you should use thoughtfully and appropriately, have a further influence on attention.
It is also important to clarify the expectations of the meeting and its process right from the start. If you want people to listen and participate, you should make this clear from the beginning and mention that the meeting will not be a frontal lecture. Then your participants can prepare themselves. You should always avoid monologues – keep your participants active, let them talk and discuss, contribute actively. This way you will have their full attention right from the start.
To activate people, you can use simple techniques that also work well in face-to-face meetings. Ask lots of questions – These can be short chat questions that you address directly to individuals to get their attention. They can also be rhetorical questions that encourage participants to think. Short surveys using tools such as Slido or Mentimeter, as well as scale questions (e.g. from 1-10) also work very well.
Observe the energy Level
People love to self-assess. This can be a question about a specific topic, but it can also be a question about the energy level after some time in the meeting to decide if it needs a break. Break-out sessions create interaction and get quieter participants to become active. Make sure you have the right group size (never assign less than 3 and more than 5 participants to one team).
Also, try to make the content as interesting as possible. Think about what is appropriate for your audience and use storytelling to bring your facts and figures to life. Relevant examples will help you relate to your target audience. Dale Carnegie said nearly 100 years ago, “Talk to people about themselves and they’ll listen to you for hours.”
How to keep everyone in mind
As a facilitator, you should always keep an eye on the group, proactively address quieter participants, and cut frequent talkers short to the extent appropriate. For larger groups, you should work online with the “raise your hand” function. This allows you to keep a list of speakers and always see whose turn it is next. In addition, activate the view of the participants to always see all names and try to actively address people whose camera image you do not see. Otherwise you tend to address only the people you see in front of you.
Attention keeping in hybrid mode
Hybrid meetings bring additional challenges. The most important thing is not to forget the online participants. It’s best to have a separate screen for the video overview that everyone can see. In addition, practice has shown that an extra moderator on site for the virtual session is very beneficial. This can also simply be someone from the group who puts on the hat to look after the participants. In most cases, the overall quality of the meeting will suffer if you’re running the meeting and managing the virtual participants on the side.
As you can see, it is definitely possible to make your online meeting so exciting that your participants want to listen to you. Try out some of the tools next time!
Trainer, Coach & MDI Partner
Peter is a partner and trainer at MDI, advising major international corporations on implementing hybrid work policies and building a hybrid work and leadership culture.
He is considered an expert in training design. With his Webinar Guru Framework he has developed a tool that helps to design training content for successful and activating virtual learning.