How to Host an Engaging Virtual Meeting

Covid-19 moved virtual meetings into the spotlight, even more than in-person ones. As a result of isolation, quarantine, and social distancing many offices saw improvements in virtual meetings. With everything from new video conference software to the release of the Metaverse, which offers a 3D virtual reality office. Though, despite the positive response, and improvements undertaken, virtual meetings don’t have it all. They have a lot to offer don’t get me wrong — taking conferences in your own home is an unmatched comfort. Though, you might find yourself in the middle of a call wondering “is anyone actually listening to me?”. In a physical meeting room, it’s easy to tell who’s not quite on the ball. With the dormant listeners often sneaking phones under the table or playing with pens. With virtual meetings, it’s not the same. How do we know they’re not off browsing on a different tab? Shopping for shoes? It’s not easy.


There has been efforts on the software side of things to help with this. For example, Zoom’s attention tracking. Zoom is able to check whether the video window was in the foreground of a person’s display. It also doesn’t allow a user to exit for more than 30 seconds, without an idle icon appearing next to their name. Though are these attention trackers the best way to handle the problem?


Read on to see our top recommendations on how to keep employees engaged, without relying on software.


1. Set a concrete agenda

Online meetings can have participants getting quickly distracted. This can lead to derailed meetings and a tendency for things to drag along. Avoid this by sending out a meeting agenda before the calls even begun. This will help you save time during the meeting as you won’t have to outline the discussion. It also creates a goal post for employees when on the call. It creates a sense of progression in the meeting, as employees move through the agenda.

Sending an agenda before hand also works to give employees a heads up on preparation. Assign specific deliverables to employees that correlate with discussion. This way each member of the team comes to the meeting with something to say. It allows everyone to participate and feel like they’re a part of the discussion.

Virtual meeting


2. Ask Questions

If you’re hosting a digital meeting — make sure it feels like one. If one person is talking for an extended period of time, employees will start to feel like audience members. Keep things engaging by asking questions, looking for feedback, and enticing opinions. Here’s some engaging hooks by Miro to get you started:

-Are you happy with it?

-What interests you the most and why?

-What is your favourite / least favourite part?

-If you could change anything what would it be? Why?

-What’s one thing that could increase your satisfaction with this project, and why?

It’s also important to work on forming a question-oriented agenda. When writing your meeting agenda, put a focus on solving problems. Think not just about where we are now, but where we want to go, and how we can discuss that as a team. This will work to open discussion and ensure a collaborative meeting space.


3. Have some start-of-the-call small talk

In an online meeting small talk can make a big difference. It creates initial interest for the meeting and gets everyone off on the right foot. Allowing open discussion early on will make employees more relaxed to engage later on. It also helps team members familiarise themselves with one another, especially if there are new faces around.

Virtual meeting


4. Follow the “One pizza rule”

Heard of the “Two pizza rule” before? According to the two-pizza rule, your meeting should be small enough that two pizzas will feed all attendees. The rule was popularised by Bezos who thought that even in large companies — small teams were important. Invite too many people to a meeting, and suddenly no one gets a real say. Keeping things smaller makes for more engaged, more vocal employees. Which largely, makes for better solutions and outcomes.

But in an online space, does this rule still hold? Wayne Cognar doesn’t think so. For virtual meetings, teams should go even smaller. Make sure everyone in your virtual meeting could be fed with one large pizza, not two. Virtual meetings create a drop in social cues and body language, making it harder to tell when to speak. In larger groups, this complication is magnified. So, keep it simple. Smaller groups makes it more likely for employees to speak up, without talking over one another.


5. Have participants turn their video on

This is the oldest trick in the book for virtual meetings. Having employees join in on voice call alone just isn’t the same. It makes it harder to track engagement, body language, and also makes the call less entertaining. Seeing friendly faces in the call is what’s necessary for keeping employees engaged in a virtual meeting.

Virtual meeting


6. Keep it interactive

Todays video conference software offers plenty to help make meetings interesting. Keep your team engaged by making the most of the digital space. Make the most of digital whiteboards to form ideas in a collaborative manner. You can also think about setting up a brainstorming space using virtual sticky notes through software like Miro. If you’re looking at files in the meeting, InVision gives great options to annotate files together. This makes employees engage as they enter a more creative and social space.


7. Assign meeting roles

It’s easy to tune out if you’ve got nothing to do. Assigning roles and tasks prior to the meeting gives each team member a reason to pay attention. From timekeeper to scribe, it’s important that every person plays some sort of role. Additionally, make sure you’re switching roles between meetings. No one wants to be the scribe for every meeting now until infinity.


8. Make it personal

Employees should feel like people, not drones. Bring a personal touch to every meeting by using employees names and show active listening. Make sure to stop every now and then to seek input and opinions from others. Respond to their concerns, ideas, and give credit when it’s due. When reviewing work, show appreciation for anyone who put time into it. Giving the meeting a personal touch is a great way to increase engagement.


How do your employees feel about digital?

The increase in a hybrid digital work dynamic comes with some uncertainty about its efficiency. Is working from home a preference for your employees? Do they enjoy chiming into digital meetings, or do they prefer face to face? How do they feel their productivity or mental health has changed? When changes come along, it can be hard to tell how employees are affected. That’s when a CiVS employee survey can help. Employee surveys provide companies with an unbiased view of how their employees are feeling. It’s insights can generate necessary action and influence major decisions, helping your company reach its targets.

To learn more contact the CiVS team at or give us a call at (08) 6314 0580.