Nowadays, it’s undeniable that virtual meetings have made workplace communications simpler. Arranging and attending virtual meetings (count how many Zoom meetings you have now compared to live meetings you had then) is easier than ever, thanks to features like chat, Q&A, breakout rooms, reaction icons, virtual whiteboards, and a range of apps. This makes it easier than ever to ask questions or requests ideas from meeting attendees.
Share the questions before the meeting
So you’ve come up with a question for your remote colleagues during your next virtual meeting, but how can you be sure to get meaningful answers rather than just from the usual outspoken people? Here’s an age-old question with a modern twist: How do you ask for ideas or feedback in a way that returns valuable answers?
Set rules that foster engagement
If you’re asking for people’s insights, it’s only fair to give them as much time as possible to think about the problem at hand. Email them up to five of the questions you will be asking before the meeting, and place those questions in the agenda and calendar listing, so everyone knows what’s coming.
Make sure everyone understands the purpose of the meeting before beginning. This will help to discourage debating ideas and keep the discussion on track. Remind participants that the goal is to collect ideas, not argue about them. In a future meeting, they will have an opportunity to assess all ideas and choose their favorites.
Keep the questions simple
In virtual meetings, ask people to submit their thoughts and ideas in writing through the chat window. This will allow everyone to think about what they want to say before saying it, which can help avoid distractions and keep the conversation flowing.
Don’t let the questions stop here. The original request was easy, so many people felt comfortable contributing ideas and — with your help — can now elaborate on those ideas.
Be clear and direct with your questions
When you want to motivate responses without applying direct pressure, say, “I’m just looking for a couple of ideas.” This relieves some anxiety because it’s clear you don’t need everyone to talk, but it also raises the stakes because we’re not proceeding until you get your three ideas.
Don’t adversely single anyone out
Don’t shame attendees. Nobody shames their team on purpose, but some meeting leaders unintentionally impact when they complain about the lack of response. “Nobody has any questions? Nobody? Come on! I can’t believe it.”
Remember to keep evolving
Virtual meetings give you more tools than in-person ones when trying to get people to respond during a meeting. If all else fails, there is always another opportunity a few seconds away.