Create engagement in remote meetings

Notes from a talk at Xero by Christina Rowe on September 29, 2020.

Build rapport

  • We are losing the sense of community and belonging
  • Create a sense of connection starting by building rapport
  • Rapport builder
    • Use at check-in
    • Starts the conversation
    • Helps people feel seen and heard
  • Missing variety?
    • Add an interesting new thing
    • Make people feel the time flew by
    • “How fast the time went!"
  • Feel you’re with your people, not that you’re staring at a tv screen


  • Engage in the first 6 minutes
  • Give participants time to process -create space
  • During a crisis make it bite-sized -we can retain less information
  • Vary interactions -don’t abuse the tools: chat, polls, breakouts

All humans have needs in the workplace

  • Recognition (seen/heard)
  • Valued (respect/appreciation)
  • Safety
    • Make people feel safe to share
    • Give them a hint on how to find the tools
  • What is the biggest challenge of working virtually in your role?
    • Lack of connection
    • Lack of empathy, sense of belonging
    • Reading the room

Why does engagement matter?

  • On-screen we are missing the small interactions
  • Talking about anything but work
  • Leverage the engagement tools that you have
  • Create warmups
  • Virtual needs clear instructions to be engaging
  • Interaction should happen early and often
  • Instruct how they can comment or share
  • We don’t have a sense of community if we don’t have the option to add and bring value into the community
  • Ask permission & set the expectation of interaction
  • Cueing counts for interactions
  • Directions should be specific & concise
  • Use chat to get consensus and call people to expand more
  • Everyone feels heard. People feel they all participated in the decision making
  • It may feel overly direct at first
  • Learn to be quiet, create a quiet space. Take 10 to 12 seconds for people to process and type something in the chat
  • Pauses are powerful
  • Ask permission or share that you’ll be asking for interaction

How could you make members feel safer to speak up during a virtual meeting?

  • Breakout rooms
  • Anonymous polling
  • Outline an agenda beforehand
  • Allow participants to be subject matter experts

There are many interaction tools

  • Share in the chat
  • Polls
  • Breakout rooms
  • Group discussion
  • Annotation (people’s favorite)
  • Countdown timers

Use breakouts

  • Use this time to organize thoughts
  • Controls time better for an important discussion
  • Option to report back verbally or in chat


What virtual meetings could benefit from more interaction?

  • Board meetings
  • All hands

How could you use interactions to gain involvement and collect important information?

  • Miro boards
  • Mentimeter
  • ‘Raise hands’ option


  • Make members feel seen, heard, valued, and safe
  • Be specific and direct
  • Tech will break
  • Be yourself

Further reading


There are services like Mentimeter that allow you to do live, interactive polls. People can see in real-time how their answers affect the final result.

Collaborative boards like Miro or Mural get people to participate in all sorts of activities that require collaboration and brainstorming.