How to Increase Engagement in Online Sessions

engagement psychological safety

Has engagement dropped in your online sessions?
Let’s explore why and what we can do about it  

The most obvious indicator that engagement is low in your online sessions is when you attend online sessions where participants log on and keep their cameras turned off. Maybe this is you. It’s understandable. People have a lot going on in their lives. It’s so easy to do online. And it can become a habit that can spread to others as acceptable behavior.

That's not a judgement. I get it because I’m guilty of it too. Let's take a look at how it got this way.

Some people like to listen to music or podcasts as they work. Some like to sign up for webinars, listen to TED talks, or online classes hoping to learn something while trying to multi-task. These habits and behaviors can spill over into online sessions where we meet. But for meetings, team meetings, the kind that have a purpose, where decisions will be made, and where work can get accomplished—meetings need engaged participants.

Successful meetings commonly have three attributes.
i call this having E3 Power or E to the Power of 3. Becoming a tech host, either as part or all of your role will help make meetings smoother and more meaningful.

Can you guess what three attributes every meeting needs?
Here are the three E’s:

  • Engagement
  • Efficiency
  • Equity

Without these, many people experience frustration. Too many meetings without this and fatigue can set in, even burnout.

Quick side note: Do you know what causes burnout? Not being able to recover from what you did yesterday.

Let me say that another way.

The definition of burnout is not being able to recover from what you did today by tomorrow.

This is a real issue. Has this happened to you? More than once? Is it habitual?

Burnout is real. And most people don’t recognize that they are burned out.

And these people are in your meetings!

This is why I created the course and why tech hosting works for me and so many others. It gives me the flexibility to attend meetings at my pace so that I don’t burn out and I can stay engaged whether I am a meeting attendee or supporting a meeting by tech hosting. And by tech hosting, I don’t have to be in hot seat teaching or facilitating all of the time.

By being engaged, you, me, and others can increase efficiency in our meetings.

Did you know that:

Efficiency is the #1 thing managers and bosses want from their employees because it directly relates to the bottom line.

“Of the 62 monthly meetings that the average employee attends, 32% are a complete waste of time.”

These numbers are from the article: Meeting Costs: What are They and How to Reduce Them

The article goes on to say:

“Now let’s say you have 100 employees. That's $193,750 worth of time, every month, spent in meetings. Which is $2,325,000 per year.”

In large hierarchical organizations, those making decisions at the top are often far removed from the individual contributors and how they do their work. They have little to no reach in influencing an employee’s productivity. It’s the direct managers who have the most influence and are held accountable for their team.

In matrix or smaller organizations, collaboration is key and how individuals do this falls on their shoulders, sharing responsibility for an organization’s success more equally.

But here’s the thing...
If you are only focused on engagement and efficiency, then you are losing out on a large portion of your potential by not ensuring that everyone’s voice is being heard.

Remember, everyone in your organization was hired for a role. The hiring manager saw the value and the organization invested in them. And everyone has the potential to exceed the expectations of that role and do their best work, but only if the system they are working in supports that.

Do you know how others on your team or in your meetings like to communicate and express themselves?
This is important to know so you as the tech host, facilitator, or meeting organizer can recommend the right tech meaning online collaboration tools, the right meeting activity, or approach to reaching the objective or desired outcome of the meeting.

When everyone in an online session has an opportunity to share ideas and express themselves, they feel heard and what they share can be a valuable contribution to the group.

So WHY is engagement dropping?

I mentioned before that the most obvious way we are seeing a lack of engagement is when people come onto the call and not share their video.

Yes, there are valid reasons why. They:

  • don’t have the internet bandwidth to share,
  • are driving,
  • are eating,
  • just rolled out of bed,
  • are breastfeeding, or
  • are taking care of someone else.

Life, I get it.

But for those who aren’t experiencing this, they often have their camera off because they may be:

  • trying to multi-task,
  • feeling like they aren't in a safe environment, or
  • are unengaged and are just showing up because it’s required of them.

How you will know when people are engaged?

 People can feel if an online space is safe. When they do, they turn on their cameras, share their ideas, and participate in the process. Once they start contributing, that psychological safety can grow into feeling a sense of belonging, and build self-esteem so they can do their best work.

I like to reference Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to illustrate what we need in order to be successful.


What can you do to increase engagement?
Here are just a few examples of how you as a tech host can contribute.

Foster psychological safety
While the meeting organizer or facilitator carries the bulk of this responsibility, a tech host can help with the technology and the tools needed to carry out the facilitated process.

People freak out when technology goes wrong. That goes for both presenters and participants. At Tech Host Academy, we have two lessons on presence because the needs of the presenter differ from those of the participants.

It’s easy to assume that our meetings have psychological safety when we simply agree to show up. But in order to for us to reach our full potential, we need safety and security. A tech host can give individual attention so that person can feel supported, a sense of belonging and give them the confidence they need to contribute to a meeting. 

Fostering psychological safety directly maps to engagement.

Ensure the purpose of the meeting is clear.
Again the meeting organizer or facilitator will communicate the meeting objectives, but as a tech host, you just have to ask during the discovery meeting what the purpose is. Not only does that help you understand what kind of meeting you are supporting, it helps the client to clarify their desired outcomes. And if someone does arrive late to a session and ask for help, you can communicate the purpose to them and help them get up to speed.

Ensuring the purpose of a meeting directly maps to helping meetings be more efficient. There are many other ways to ensure efficiency. Meeting with the presenter to learn what online collaborative tools they plan to use will help you prepare to help participants as they navigate using those tools.

Meeting agreements can help set the tone and norms for how participants show up and behave in an online session. It’s important that everyone gets an opportunity to share what they need in order to be successful. Meeting agreements can help build an equitable foundation from which to work.
Some meeting agreements may include:

  • Respect everyone’s time
    • An example of how to support this agreement is to share and make room for others to share
  • Bring your best self
    • By doing your best work, you model the way and inspire others to do the same
  • Agree, disagree, and commit
    • Allow conversations to be authentic so breakthroughs can be made.

While it’s simple, it’s not always easy to keep participants engaged. If it were, you and your team would have figured it out by now. Remember, you don’t have to do it alone anymore. You can learn from those who have found what works and call on experts for support.


Meet the Experts at Tech Host Academy

This video features an “Ah-ha Moment with Muddy” from a recent Quest session inside Tech Host Academy. He shares that visual aids are powerful communication tools during meetings.

Hand drawn visuals are more engaging because in comparison to typed or digital visuals—which appear to be a finished product—drawings are perceived as drafts and people lean into the process more.

Muddy not only demonstrates the power of visuals during online meetings, he also shows us the setups so we as presenters, facilitators, and tech hosts supporting meetings can successfully use visuals in our online sessions.

Lauren Green, hybrid meeting expert at Tech Host Academy, offers up additional meeting agreements in her Facilitator Hub here:

Brian Tarallo, online meeting expert at Tech Host Academy, offers more ways to increase engagement and is the author of the award-winning book, Surviving the Horror of Online Meetings. If you are thinking of joining Tech Host Academy, you get a copy of his book mailed to you upon registration.

To increase engagement your online sessions and learn more ways to E3 your meetings, I offer a free training so you can get a glimpse of the framework we use to increase engagement in online sessions and what we are doing inside of Tech Host Academy.

You can also learn more about how to ensure E3 in The Winning Equation for Meaningful Online Meetings.

Want a behind-the-scenes pass to learn what it takes to be a professional tech host?

Check out the free training webinar:

How to Create Thriving Online Environments
without needing to Be a Tech Geek

No offense tech geeks! We love you!

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