Another Zoom meeting? How to Ensure that You are Engaging Members Virtually

Updated: Oct. 12, 2020  |  Categories: Membership  

Another Zoom meeting?

Association chapters not holding virtual events by now may be finding their association members looking to other organizations for support. Interestingly, at the same time, those holding virtual events may be worried about the number of virtual events their members are attending, wondering how many are close to the “if I have to attend another virtual meeting, I’ll scream,” point.

Over the past few months, we’ve shared a number of ways to adjust the structures of your virtual meetings to avoid fatiguing your association members, including:

  • keeping your virtual meetings shorter than in person ones
  • breaking up sessions with Q&A, breakout sessions, polls, etc.
  • delivering interesting topics by strong speakers

However, even with those changes, virtual meetings can still be exhausting for your association members.

Why do some virtual meetings exhaust attendees?

In person, attendees relate more easily to speakers through the words they’re hearing as well as the cues they’re seeing, like the speaker’s tone, expressions, eye contact, body movements, etc. These cues help them stay engaged and more effectively process what they’re hearing. That connection is weaker with the distance that comes with virtual meetings. Especially if it’s a large group and, for the most part, everyone is staring at multiple small boxes on a screen. Virtual meeting attendees can’t easily read body language or necessarily hear the changes in a speaker’s voice. All of these limitations can cause virtual meeting attendees to have to work harder to pay attention.

That disconnect can be exhausting and cause attendees to focus on other things instead of the meeting. Their picture may be on the screen, but there’s a good chance they’re only paying partial attention, losing more and more interest as they also check email, work, post on social media, help a child with homework, etc.

Looking directly at a person indicates interest. In a virtual setting, that’s difficult to do successfully. In person, you still show interest even if you glance out a window or look around a room for a few seconds. With video, attendees worry that looking away is perceived as not paying attention, so they stare at the speaker, or worse, the small square of themselves, wondering if that’s really spinach in their teeth or how everyone else is interpreting how they look.

Changes to virtual meetings to increase member participation

Tell attendees it’s ok to take a break. Attempting to focus on multiple things simultaneously means nothing gets a person’s full attention. To get association members to focus primarily on your event, let them know it’s ok to:

  • look away from the screen for a few;
  • minimize the meeting window, so they’re listening but not actively watching;
  • limit the focus on the speaker/their own face; and
  • turn off their cameras when they’re not speaking.


Improve your connection with those you’re speaking with. Here are a few tips for your speakers and moderators.

  • look into the camera to make eye contact. Make your eyes express enthusiasm and gratitude and avoid staring at a single point for too long.
  • use gestures to make your points and for emphasis. Keep your arms open, not folded.
  • modulate your voice to indicate importance. Avoid speaking in a monotone; use a little more expression and passion than you might in person.

If the group isn’t too large, mention attendees by name. If it’s too big for individual mentions, compliment the group as a whole. Make them feel you know who they are and that you admire them. Always be empathetic. These are truly unusual times we’re living through; give a personal example to show you’re experiencing some of the same things as those you’re speaking to.

Avoid defaulting to video. Many people are uncomfortable seeing themselves on video and fixate on their own little square, becoming more uncomfortable each time they take a breath. On top of that, some will have attended multiple video meetings before they get to yours; they’re exhausted. Consider your non-video options. Is there a good reason for the full event to be on video? Would a conference call work? Or do you even need a meeting? Can you send updates by email?

BONUS TIP:  Reduce on-screen stimuli

What’s the space behind your speaker look like? Busy is distracting for attendees. Avoid a wall full of sticky notes and books, where there’s so much going on that attendees are more interested in figuring out book titles and what’s on the sticky notes.

Virtual meetings are here to stay. Decreasing the stress yours place on attendees shows you understand and empathize with what they are experiencing, and it will help you better engage association members and increase the chances they pick your event over another.

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  1. Kathleen Walther

    Oct. 13, 2020

    Nice article. Thanks!



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