It is actually quite simple to increase online meeting and event engagement, we have put together 5 steps to increase audience engagement and participation.

It’s a terrible myth that when giving a talk or being part of a meeting, the main activity needs to be listening. How boring. We say nay. The recent digitisation of the meeting and event has meant that your audience can and should do much more than just listen.

We’re all at war with online meeting fatigue and zoom gloom. The world got so excited that we could now connect everyone, everywhere that we demanded that we connect online all. The. time.

So what started off as this incredible opportunity for connectedness, has made our audiences even more passive than they were in the boardroom. And worse, distractions come easy in a digital world.

A distracted audie…Squirrel!

Online meetings foster distractions more than say a boardroom meeting or in-person talk/conference. For example, mobile phones are within easy reach. I addition, no one can see you check it. Notifications on both mobile and desktop come barging into the talk, alerting you to everything like an overeager assistant who won’t leave you alone.

  • “Hey Mike! Gmail here. Just letting you know you got an email from That Shop and they’re having a 30% sale.”
  • Or, “Hey Mike, Outlook here. This angry client wants to know why you’re not on deadline. Hold on. They seemed to have WhatsApp’d you as well. Please check both apps to view how angry they are.”
  • “Hi Mike! Your buddy Instagram here! I know you’re in a meeting right now but check out your mate having a blast in Thailand right now. Yolo.”

How can anyone “listen” with so much noise competing for their attention? How are you as a professional speaker supposed to give your audience a good return on their attention (ROA) if they’re distracted all the time?

The transactional relationship between audience & speaker

An audience pays for your talk with their attention (and sometimes some money). Therefore, they’re going to want a ROA (return of attention) from you. You the speaker, have paid for this event with the effort you put in (and also maybe some money). You wrote a strong narrative, you put engaging slides together, you put your time and effort into making this great with the hopes that your audience might take the action you want them to take. That’s your ROE (return on effort).

Ultimately, ROA + ROE = ROI. The return on investment should be a win-win result for both the audience and the speaker.

The question is, what can you do online to keep audiences actively engaged so you keep them away from distractions and steer them towards a higher ROA? Well, there are many tools available to virtual meetings and events so it becomes about harnessing those tools.

Using engagement tools to help your audience DO more

Some of these tips may seem rudimentary but it still stuns me to see how few of our clients are aware of these nifty hacks and how few people are willing to give their audience’s permission to engage. Because it’s one thing knowing how to keep them engaged (which you can read more about here) but it’s another thing, giving them permission to do so. Ultimately, that’s your responsibility. You must give them permission to participate. Some great ways to increase online meeting and event engagement include:

  1. Chat Function

    Using the chat function to create comment storms (encouraging a large number of comments from attendees) can be something really great. A comment storm gets everyone very pumped and ready to actively engage. Asking simple questions like where is everyone from or what were you just doing before this talk are great ways to create a flurry of comments.Using the chat function seems obvious but the key is to make sure all participants know they’re allowed to use it. Simply knowing this can significantly increase engagement.

  2. Polls

    Polls need to be prepped ahead of time (remember that ROE, though!) but they’re fantastic at getting your audience to really think about something you just said. Then you can collect data on what your audience thinks of that topic. Virtual meeting platforms like Zoom have their own built-in polling tools (Note: in Zoom, you have to prepopulate the questions). You can also use a site like which allows you to build your poll into your presentation.

  3. More slides with less

    Your audience needs something new to look at really often. That’s why we help our clients craft presentations with fewer words and content but always-changing slides. You want your audience to be like a kid at a carnival. “What’s that!?” “Oooo! What’s that?” “What’s that there!”

  4. Advanced Responses on Zoom

    You can harness the non-verbal response tools on Zoom. They’re these buttons that allow people to click a “yes” or “no” or “go slower.” Few people know about them but once you discover them, they really help increase audience activity. See below:

  5. Make your last action request an easy one

    Al Gore’s ask for action at the end of his 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”, was for his audience to change the world. That’s a colossal action. Too big! Instead, he got them to do one small, easy action – swap your light bulbs at home for energy-saving ones. Easy peasy.You should always apply the same concept to your online talk or meeting. Make the last action small and easy. Signing a contract might be a monumental ask, but directing your audience to your website into your ecosystem is easier.

I’m not going to beat around the bush here. Your audience has meeting fatigue. They have online event fatigue. There is so much happening online and no one can escape it. But if you want your talk to be something worth them investing their attention in, you need to come ready to fight that fatigue and those distractions to the death. You have the tools to increase online meeting and event engagement. It’s time to use them smartly.

Speaking of Smartly…

If you find yourself the conductor of many meetings, events or professional speaking gigs, you could do worse than to explore our various Academy courses which help to level up your events, presentations and meetings. If you need some friendly, practical advice, this is the best place to start.

Check out our Presentation Series Boredom Slayers

How to present online like a pro


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