Zooming to Success

As working from home becomes the norm, encouraging employees to participate actively in online meetings isn’t always easy. The secret is providing the kind of leadership that’s crucial to getting everyone to join in. Consider these tips:

Break larger meetings into smaller ones with a focused topic. Assign each group a topic to discuss, then have one person serve as spokesperson in a larger meeting to keep things streamlined.

• Open with a very safe agenda topic. Stay away from problematic issues until people are warmed up and ready to speak freely.

• Don’t change gears too suddenly. You can’t turn discussions on and off instantly. Don’t get everyone talking, then silence them for a long speech in the middle of the meeting, as discussion isn’t likely to quickly start up again.

By the same token, don’t wait until you really need participation before encouraging it. Provide breaks and clear transitions, so employees know what to do.

• Use the right language. “Meeting” can sound dull and passive. Call it a “working session” or a seminar. Think of and refer to people in the room as participants, not employees or audience members.

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