Virtual Meeting Madness | Why The Same Game Doesn’t Work

Article contributed by Lenore Abarre

What is it about the virtual space that causes people to say, “It’s just not as effective.” Is that true? What if we used a sneaker in place of a hammer. Considering the soft rubber sole and the pointed tip of the nail, we could essentially call the sneaker ‘ineffective’. Would that be true? As a sneaker, worn to walk and run, it’s highly effective. When we use the sneaker as a tool out of its intended context, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t mean the tool is ineffective, it means we’re using it the wrong way.

Virtual meeting rooms are no different. When we try to conduct meetings the same way we used to in a physical space, now inside the virtual space, it doesn’t seem to work. While meetings, in general, haven’t had the reputation of being engaging, trying to conduct them the same way inside the virtual space is ripening a situation for total disengagement.

What if instead, we used the virtual rooms the way they were intended? Virtual meeting spaces were designed specifically to get the same work done, just accomplished in a different way.

Shared audio space. While in a conference room, more than one person can be talking to each other. Catching up on projects, casually checking in. In the virtual meeting room, when more than one person attempts to talk at the same time, it makes it nearly impossible to communicate. The result? Silence. People hesitate to jump into a space where they are unsure if it’s their turn to speak or whether they will get cut off by someone else jumping in. The more significant result? Missed opportunity to hear ideas, concerns, perspectives and to connect with one another.

Because of shared audio space, tools such as chat, annotation and breakout rooms were created to engage everyone during a meeting. As a facilitator of the meeting, you should be creating opportunities to engage EVERYONE, which means you need to use the tools.

Here are two virtual meeting tips to engage everyone

Set ground rules. Be clear about how you want individuals participating and reinforce these ‘rules’ each time you meet. For example, if you want people to raise their virtual hand and you’ll call on them, make sure the tool is being used.

Ask participants to manage microphones (remain muted until they speak) to ensure as little audio disruption as possible. Mute participants yourself if need be.

Create space for everyone to talk. At the start of the meeting, rather than call on everyone individually, divide your group up into smaller groups inside separate breakout rooms. Give each group a prompt to explore together, which can be topic-related, personal related or just for fun.


  • What is one thing you brought to the meeting you want to share?
  • What is the biggest challenge you anticipate customers experiencing with this new process/product?
  • What is one thing on your plate for the week you can’t wait to take off?
  • If you could be anywhere else in the world right now, where would you be? What would you be doing?

Conducting engaging and productive meetings is simple. Start with the goal of giving everyone a voice, and integrate one or two virtual tools to help make that happen.

Curious to learn what else you can be doing to create an engaging virtual meeting experience? Check out our upcoming WOW Webinars 3.0 coming up, 3 Sure-Fire Strategies to Up-Level Your Next Virtual Meeting.