We’ve all been in meetings where most of the time is spent listening to one person speak, at length, about one topic. Even with the best attention span, these meetings can feel tiring, overwhelming, and dull.
There’s an antidote to these painful, monologue-style meetings though — interactive meetings. A world of less passivity, more participating, and stacks of added value.
In this guide, we’ll explore:
- What an interactive meeting is
- Why interactive meetings are valuable
- How to make your meetings more interactive
Read on to discover why this should be the go-to approach for your future meetings and how you can make it happen.
What is an interactive meeting?
An interactive meeting is where the focus is on taking part, rather than sitting back and listening to the host. At an interactive meeting, all participants are encouraged to get involved, say what they’re thinking, and contribute to the discussion.
Any type of meeting can be an interactive one. Your team meetings are an especially useful place to introduce interactive elements, but they also work in other settings too — like an all-hands meeting, Q&A session, or brainstorming session.
Why interactive meetings are so valuable
A meeting that only involves listening is often wasted time for most of the participants — it could have been a slideshow or PowerPoint presentation. Meetings should be about collaboration, discussion, and taking the next step forward.
Interactive meetings make plenty of sense as they:
- 💡 Allow for better idea sharing and team collaboration
- 🌏 Foster a sense of inclusivity
- ⚒️ Improve problem-solving skills
- 💬 Enhance team communication and teamwork
- 🔗 Enable employee engagement
- 📈 Improve team productivity
- 💼 Increase the effectiveness of meetings
Plus, interactive meetings tend to be more enjoyable. Team members are likely to feel more upbeat and engaged if they’re welcome to suggest an idea, vote on a suggestion, or contribute to the topic of discussion.
11 ways to make your meetings more interactive
Once you know you want to make your meetings more interactive, it’s all about finding the right tactics and strategies that work for you and your team. Here are some of our go-to ideas and tips on how to increase participation in meetings.
1. Keep the group small
It’s almost impossible to encourage people to take part in a large group. Try to keep your meeting attendee list short, with only the participants you truly need — for both in-person and online meetings.
With a smaller group size, it’s easier to use digital workspaces, share ideas, and come to a decision if you need to make one. The smaller number also makes it more welcoming for introverted team members. If your meeting demands a larger audience, introduce breakout rooms to create space for more intimate and engaging discussions.
2. Collaborate on the meeting agenda
Your meeting can be interactive even before it happens. Start by taking a more collaborative approach to meeting prep and invite everyone to share their meeting ideas and suggestions on a shared agenda.
Before the next meeting, send a meeting agenda template around to everyone or use the Meeting Prep template by Polly to gather people’s suggestions. This asynchronous approach to coming up with a shared meeting agenda works well for remote work teams.
3. Use the right virtual meeting software
If you’re hosting virtual meetings or hybrid meetings, the software you use can have a bigger impact than you’d think. While some apps are designed for quick, functional calls, others offer you far more when it comes to interactivity — with features like screen sharing, whiteboards, and polls.
Apart from the basic features of the software you choose, consider the integrations it offers too. Polly works with Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams to bring plenty of engaging features to your video calls, so you can enjoy the same great experience whichever video conferencing software you use.
4. Offer a range of ways to get involved
Although many people prefer remote meetings to in-person ones, it’s still not always easy to virtually raise your hand and say what’s on your mind. For this reason, it’s important to always look for ways to embrace inclusivity in remote meetings.
Give your team members lots of different ways to get involved. Encourage people to speak up, use a virtual hand raise feature, type a message, submit an anonymous question, or direct message you to raise a point. Introduce anonymous voting for decision making, and strive to find ways to enable everyone to contribute in a way that matches their needs.
5. Start with an icebreaker
Make space at the start of your meeting for some light, refreshing introductions or games. Kick things off in a fun way with an icebreaker at your next virtual team meeting.
Play a round of hot takes, ask some “this or that” or “would you rather” questions, or see if you can spot the fabrication in a game of “two truths and a lie.” There are plenty of virtual team icebreakers — it’s all about finding a handful that really engage your group.
6. Be an active host and moderator
It’s easy to become a passive host, but what an interactive meeting really needs is someone to take the lead and encourage active participation from everyone in the (virtual) room.
Your role as a facilitator involves welcoming meeting participants, helping them settle in, and outlining what the purpose of the meeting is. From there, introduce discussion topics, ask questions, and pay close attention to where you can either let others lead or where you may need to step in. A great facilitator makes any meeting more valuable.
7. Introduce live polls
An easy way to ramp up the interactivity in your meetings is to run live polls. Instead of simply asking the group for their feedback, run a quick poll to get answers.
With Polly, it’s easy to add live polls or surveys (or pollys, as we call them!) to your virtual meetings. Set up a question, add some potential answers, and invite people to vote. See (and share) the results in real-time so you can make decisions faster as a group.
8. Use a digital whiteboard
Brainstorming sessions are collaborative by nature, and one way to increase participation and invite everyone to get involved is with a digital whiteboard.
Most virtual meeting software tools have whiteboards or virtual workspaces these days, or you can use a dedicated online whiteboard tool like Miro. Ask your remote team members to share their ideas on the board in real-time so you can map out ideas and work on those problem-solving skills together.
9. Add a team building exercise
Icebreakers are a great way to start a meeting, but they’re not the only fun team meeting idea out there. Add a team building game or activity into your meeting to increase participation and get everyone engaged.
There are plenty of virtual team building activities that work well for remote teams. Play a few rounds of trivia questions, host a mini scavenger hunt, or tackle a virtual puzzle together. While there isn’t time to do this in every meeting, it can be a useful way to increase engagement every now and again.
10. Leave space for conversation
Nobody likes meetings that run over time for no reason, and sticking to your agreed timing is a win for everyone. Your agenda shouldn’t be so rigid that there’s no space for conversation, though.
Intentionally create room in your meetings for ad-hoc discussions and conversation between team members. This unstructured time is often where you’ll find your best ideas, uncover hidden problems, and get to know the people around you even better.
11. Ask for meeting feedback
Inviting your team members to be an active participant extends beyond the duration of the meeting itself. At the end of the meeting, make a list of anything you need to follow up on. When you send that follow-up message or email, include a request for meeting feedback too.
Feedback is one of the best ways to learn what works well and how you can change for the better. Use the Meeting Feedback template to gather insights from your team members, either by name or anonymously, and use this to improve your meetings even further.
Host more engaging meetings
Interactive meetings are the way forward if you want higher levels of engagement, productivity, and efficiency. Not only are these meetings more effective, but they’re more rewarding too.
If your goal is to add interactivity to your meetings, look no further than Polly. Our meeting management features give you exciting ways to engage your team members before, during, and after your discussions.
Written by Nicola Scoon
Nicola Scoon is a freelance writer that's passionate about employee engagement and better workplace experiences. She draws on her experience in internal communications to help companies create content that empowers, encourages, and motivates people to create better experiences for all.