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Want People to Talk in Virtual Meetings?

Want  people  to talk  in virtual meetings?

     How to ask for ideas or feedback during a virtual meeting that gets valuable answers—and not only from the usual talkative people?  Face it- virtual meetings are here to stay.  Because  “keep it simple” is a great mantra, this blog  will include  “chat” but will not discuss, Q&A, breakout rooms, reaction icons, virtual whiteboards and the range of apps which can facilitate getting more information from people.*  But here are   quick and easy ways to get people to speak up  in virtual meetings and face-to-face meetings — or hybrid meetings with some persons face-to-face and others coming in on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype.

  1. Distribute  your Questions beforehand.  If asking people for insight. it’s only nice and fair to give them  enough time –as much time as possible–to think about the problem.   Email all participant no more than 5 questions you will be asking.
  •  Insert those questions in the meeting agenda and calendar so all know what’s coming and can prepare.

       Notably, if invited to a meeting without an agenda, it’s good virtual meeting etiquette to ask for one since time is the most precious resource.  Also ask for any pre-reading or “pre-work” participants can do to be ready.

  • Get rules that encourage participation. Easy it is for an idea-getting session to careen off course when people confuse developing ideas with debating the pros and cons.  Many will refuse to raise a virtual or real-life hand if they think their response will get shot down.  How to fix? State the purpose of the meeting with a statement, “This meeting’s purpose is only to  collect ideas and build on them if we can.  In the next meeting, we’ll assess them and pick our favorites,”

     To keep balanced speaking  time, communicate boundaries like “We’re limited to one hour, so keep your contributions brief to give everyone time to speak—one to three minutes is ideal.

     Keep things moving forward  by recommending long-running conversations be continued offline or by phone call after the meeting.

  • Start with easy questions and poll: “If you agree with choice 1, raise your left hand  or click in choice 1 in the chat box, if choice 2—right hand,  if both choices are equally agreeable to you, raise both hands or click in  both choice 1 and 2 in the chat box.

      For simple feedback,  “Share one thing you learned from last week’s event”  — or “this week’s meeting”—share verbally or put in the chat box.   Understand that  many people  feel more comfortable typing than talking,  so chat can elicit ideas that might be lost.

 The key to polling is ask for one short and specific contribution, versus a general question like  “What do you think about that?” or  “What questions are in your mind?”

                Once you’ve received answers to brief polling via gestures, brief vocal response or chat, the next step to encourage ideas or  feedback is:

  •  Follow Up on Those Questions   Now that you’ve broken the ice of discomfort by doing an easy first request, many people feel comfortable offering ideas and –notably with your help—can now elaborate on those ideas.

                  “William, can you unmute and tell us why you chose number 1?”

                   “Jenny, you called the product creative and innovative.  Could you unmute and share why?”

                    ”Eduardo, you shared how your team became more efficient. Unmute and share examples, OK”

   Even those unlikely to verbally respond, when they have already responded to a poll by gesture or chat ,find  it’s easier to speak a contribution.

     Effective also to encourage discussion on the topic is to ask for agreement:  ”Raise your hand or Type 1 in chat if you agree with  Olga or to suggest another descriptor for the product.”

     Final watchwords are  to call people by name and repeat their communication.That’s proof positive that you value the team  ideas and  increase comfort to verbal participation.

*For these, google Joel Schwartzberg  Virtual Meeting Tips.