How to run virtual meetings that keep your audience engaged

Now that we are all on virtual meetings all the time, or so it seems, we are hopefully learning what steps we can take as meeting hosts, to make the meetings better for all involved.  Whether your group is only three people, or has 100 participants, there are several helpful tips that hosts should leverage to keep the meeting running smoothly, keep the audience engaged and allow everyone to get the most out of it.


Select the appropriate virtual meeting service provider.  While a free Zoom account is fine for meeting with one other person, there is a time limit for meetings with more than two people.  If you regularly host meetings, consider getting a Pro account, which allows up to 100 people to meet for 24 hours for less than $20 a month.  There are alternatives to Zoom; currently Cisco GoToMeeting is free for 30 days for up to 100 users for unlimited meeting time.  And Microsoft is expanding Teams, formerly Skype for Business, and allowing non-enterprise uses.


Learn the technology.  Maintain and use the participant list and chat features.  The participant list allows for you to see who has their virtual hand raised, indicates who is on a break and can be used to mute and unmute participants.  Especially in a larger meeting, using the hand-raising feature allows the host to see who wishes a turn to speak, and is more effective than watching the screen.  You can chat privately with any member or with everyone, and key information can be shared; names, contact info, questions, and other helpful information.  There are also reactions that can be used; a thumbs up to signal approval, or clapping hands to applaud someone.


Get help – especially if you want to run an orderly meeting.  It is hard to try to do it all yourself, so split the host and moderator duties so that someone can track participants, look for raised hands, pose questions and make sure that everyone gets a turn to talk.  Preferably have someone other than the host managing the technology; don’t allow yourself to get distracted.


Use the Mute Button Liberally – Too much noise makes for an unruly meeting, so keep people muted until it is their turn to talk.  Establish and stick to an order to allow everyone to speak, and give the next person up some time to prepare.  Utilize the Chat feature.  You can chat to everyone, or privately; and guests can chat to the host.


Adding on Smaller Meetings – If your meetings break into smaller groups, there are add on features that allow you to have breakout rooms.  Make sure to check out the additional features, which cost extra, to see if they will be beneficial to your meetings.


And finally, HAVE FUN! If you are on Zoom, utilize virtual backgrounds; make it a challenge to see who can find the most creative backgrounds.  Or have someone mimic Room Rater (@ratemyskyperoom), who grades background on a 10 point scale; jokes aside, you can get a good idea of well set up rooms that are backdrops to your calls.  Host a virtual Happy Hour, where people can just unwind; but if it is a large group, you may still need to have a little structure to the meeting. 

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