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For many of us, video conferencing is an exciting opportunity. Even introverts around the world who were previously overwhelmed by in-person social situations have found solace in online meetings. In fact, there’s a psychiatrist who is using Zoom to reach her patients specifically because of this.
While most of us are excited about video collaboration, not everyone is as interested in being active participants. There are people who prefer to be passive viewers. The reasons why this happens can vary. For example, some may be afraid of being shunned for their ideas. In the worst of case, what you end up with is only two or three active speakers and a bunch of passive listeners. This is a lopsided meeting.
When you are dealing with people who don’t give a lot of input, you don’t really know what ideas they could have. You’re missing out on what could potentially be groundbreaking superjuice for your organization. It’s a wasted Zoom meeting. Zoom doesn’t like it when you waste meetings. So here is advice on how to work some magic that will breathe life into those who “zombie” in the meeting. And by the way, this advice can apply to teachers using Zoom and hoping to reach out to their most quiet students too.
No, we’re not asking you to do a corny icebreaker game (though on second thought, it might help). What you should do, first and foremost, is to approach any individual who typically falls silent during meetings before your next one. Let this person know how important their role in the team is. Consider the following scenario:
You: “Hello, Jim. I am meeting with you today to ask you what I can do for you, so that you may take a more active role in our meetings.”
You: “Sit back. Relax. This isn’t the Inquisition (cue Monty Python montage). I just want to know how you feel about our meetings, and what we can do to improve them to get you to participate.”
Jim: “Oh! Yeah, sometimes I don’t feel like I’m part of the team. I prefer not to present ideas that may seem too outlandish for fear that everyone won’t like them.”
You: “Nonsense, Jim! Your role in this team is as important as anyone’s. I want you to blurt out whatever idea you may have without worrying about being ostracized. We’re here to reach all of our goals together, and if you have a better way of doing it, I’m sure the team wants to hear about it!”
Jim: “Now that you mention it, I want to talk about an idea I have to raise morale in the team. I call it Pizza Thursdays!”
You see? You even got pizza involved! Having these kinds of talks with team members can be highly beneficial to individual self-esteem. Feeling like an important asset makes people act accordingly. They become more proactive and feel less intimidated by the idea of having to present material to the rest of the squad.
This may come as a shock to some, but hanging a question out in the air isn’t always going to inspire everyone to come up with an answer. Focus your attention on someone who’s being very quiet and throw them an easy question. This way, the individual will feel like the question is directed at him, but will also feel at ease because the situation isn’t tense. Here’s an example:
You: “Stacy’s birthday is coming up and I think we should get her some cake as a surprise. Jim, do you know any good bakeries nearby?”
Jim: “Uhm.. Uh.. I don’t really know the area very well, but I do know there’s a bakery on fifth street about two blocks from here.”
You: “What do you think about us all pitching in for some birthday decorations, Jim?”
Jim: “Sounds great! I think I can set up some streamers by the desk tomorrow morning before she arrives for her shift.”
You: “Awesome! Anyone else have something they’d like to contribute?”
Now we have pizza and cake. Believe it or not, this strategy works wonderfully when you choose the right time. It has to be a moment when everyone’s laid back. Avoid throwing curve balls at first (hence asking a literal piece-of-cake question) as this might reverse what you’re trying to do and push the participant further away from the meeting. You don’t want to end up with no-shows.
Email an agenda to all the participants ahead of time with the various items you’ll be covering in your upcoming meeting. If you want specific people to talk about their area of expertise, label that on the agenda. For example:
9:45-9:55 – Market expansion into Japan (Jim)
Be sure to give Jim the head’s up before the meeting (in case he misses the email), so he’ll have time to prepare a few remarks.
Zoom has a couple features that could be of great help in encouraging your reticent attendees.
During the meeting send a private chat out to your quiet attendees asking them to contribute on a specific topic. Or ask questions to everyone over group chat – maybe some people will feel more comfortable answering over chat.
Did your last meeting feel a little lopsided? Use our recording feature to record and play back your meetings. Look for anyone interrupting and taking over the meeting, or for those who looked like they had something to say but kept mum or were talked over by another participant. Zoom’s HD video and high quality audio means you might be able to pick up on some of these cues when you watch it again and take better charge of your next meeting.
Don’t forget what Zoom is about: we want to bring people closer together, so get to it! If you don’t have Zoom, sign up for free today!