How to get people involved in a webmeting

Nov 10 2011 by Wayne Turmel Print This Article

When you're running a virtual meeting, and looking for input, it's often frustrating. Have you ever felt like no one was paying attention or was willing to speak up? It might be that the technology is getting in the way. More likely, you are.

When we lead meetings online, we often forget a lot of the basic facilitation skills that we use (or should be using, that's between you and your concscience) all the time in face to face settings.

For example, asking a question like "does that make sense?" often sounds like a rhetorical question and so no one volunteers a response. If you're legitimately looking for input, that can be deadly. What you need to do is have a questioning strategy in place before you fire up GoToMeeting. WebEX or LiveMeeting ( or whichever tool you use).

There are three types of questions you should be asking:

"Anyone" type questions. These are also known as "overhead" questions. You just throw them out and hope someone answers them. The good news is, that you should be able to get lots of input. The problem is it's often from the same people all the time. Again, you sometimes are met with silence.

First, remind them that these are NOT rhetorical questions and you expect an answer. Don't be afraid of silence. They may need time to think (heaven forbid someone think about an answer) or even to unmute their phone before anyone can hear them.

"Someone we haven't heard from" questions. As the leader, you often have to direct the conversational traffic. If you're hearing from the same people over and over, the introverts and the less confident will be left out. This will also help the people on the line who are rolling their eyes when someone starts to hijack the conversation.

"Directed" questions. In smaller meetings, don't be afraid to call on people by name. Sometimes this will be because you know they have valuable insight. Sometimes it will be just to make sure they're not answering email. Either way, you have to be aware of the dynamics of the meeting and facilitate everyone's participation.

Here are a couple of points about your questioning strategy. First, plan when to do your questions. in the heat of the moment, especially online when you can't see the participants eyes glaze over, it's very easy to just plow through and not generate enough discussion and answer important questions.

Secondly, don't just rely on questions by voice. Use the tools like the raise hand button (if your platform has one), and written questions through chat or Q and A tools. Many people are more comfortable writing their questions than speaking them. Allow private chat so people don't have to ask their question in front of everyone.

Good meeting facilitation, in person or online, doesn't happen by accident.

Having these three types of questions in mind, and using them properly, will help increase the return on investment for your team's time and energy.

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

For almost 30 years, Wayne Turmel has been obsessed with how people communicate - or don't - at work. He has spent the last 20 years focused on remote and virtual work, recognized as one of the top 40 Remote Work Experts in the world. Besides writing for Management Issues, he has authored or co-authored 15 books, including The Long-Distance Leader and The Long-Distance Teammate. He is the lead Remote and Hybrid Work subject matter expert for the The Kevin Eikenberry Group. Originally from Canada, he now makes his home in Las Vegas, US.