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Choosing courage over comfort

As we facilitate online meetings, it can be difficult to engage our participants and keep them engaged (especially if it is a particularly long meeting!). One of the strategies that has helped participants stay engaged is to call on people directly – in a kind and encouraging way. It definitely takes courage as a facilitator and as a participant!  With practice, this approach can help your online meetings keep people engaged and focused on accomplishing the meeting purpose together. Join me this week as I provide three ways to call people out directly – in the kindest way possible. 🙂

Set expectations for participation

As you plan your meeting, consider your purpose and your structure, you can include expectations for participation in the invitation. When people are deciding whether or not to attend your meeting, they can know that if they DO attend, there is an expectation for participation. When you set the expectation that you are going to call on people directly (in a very encouraging and supportive way of course), then folks are going to be more inclined to engage and it helps participants feel valued and important. If meeting attendees know you may ask for their feedback or recommendations, they will be more likely to pay attention and be “ready” then if they know they can sit back and multi-task on other projects while attending your meeting. Of course, you need to consider the context and comfort of your participants and do your best to create a safe environment for people to be courageous. For some participants, the best setting for engagement is participating in a breakout session rather than a large-group session where being asked directly is a lower risk.

Be encouraging in your approach

This is essential! You are not calling on people to “call them out” on something but you are calling on people because you value their input and expertise. You know that their participation will help the group make better decisions and accomplish more by working together. Here are a few ways you can be encouraging and supportive: “Elizabeth, is this a similar challenge that your organization is facing?” “Michelle, would you agree with the direction we are headed or do we need to consider something else?”   “Matthew, I know you have expertise in this area, what else is missing?”  If someone has already shared, you can thank the person who has shared and ask others who may not have said anything if they agree, disagree or if they have other thoughts or ideas to build on this idea.

Provide multiple options for participation

If your team is just getting to know one another, you may encourage folks to use the chat feature initially so that it’s a “lower risk” of participation until they feel more comfortable unmuting themselves to provide their perspective. If your team has some existing trust issues, this may be particularly challenging and you may need to do some “pre-meeting” work to ask some of your members to be particularly courageous. You can ask their permission prior to the meeting to be “called on” for feedback in order to help build trust and support future engagement. You may also want to consider calling on a group rather than an individual. As I mentioned in my #3 tip about setting expectations, one of my favorite facilitators and colleagues, Ryan Soisson, provides the “group ask.” He divides people into color groups and then calls on the “color” to participate. This is a great way to engage your meeting participants without putting them specifically on the spot — ok red team – what do you think about this suggestion?

So what about you? What has worked for you in “calling on people kindly” as you facilitate online meetings?

As you plan your next online meeting, check out my free resource, How to Lead Your Best Online Meeting Yet

Photo by Camylla Battani on Unsplash

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