Alongside making remote teams more accessible and allowing people to work from home, live webcasting services such as BlueJeans have allowed companies to become far more fair and equal by evening up the virtual playing field during meetings. Since everybody on a virtual call can be seen in a window of the same size, it provides a sense of equality that the board room doesn’t have. It can make everybody feel as if they are a valid part of the meeting rather than a drone or a bystander. Large conferences can make this more difficult, however, and leave the playing field uneven again. It is also common even during open discussions for one person to dominate a conversation, rudely talk over others, or not provide others with a chance to speak. If you are moderating a large online event, use these tips to make it fair and equal for everybody attending:
1- Set the Mood
When the meeting starts, establish a mood within the first few minutes to let people know what type of event it will be and when they will be able to express their ideas. If you will set aside time for a question and answer session or will be using the round robin method of letting people speak, communicate this early on so that you don’t get any unwanted interruptions. Allowing everyone on the call to introduce themselves briefly, if possible, is also a good way to begin building a rapport. You can establish a warm and friendly atmosphere rather than set the event up as a boring speech or lecture. By letting everyone know that you will not only be sharing knowledge with them but will be excited to hear their own contributions, they will know that their own opinions are valid and will be more willing to speak up. You can also relax yourself into the conference and gain the confidence and authority you need to lead it.
2- Play a Game
Eventbrite lists online games as a great event and socializing activity for conferences, and they have the added benefit of establishing fairness and equality as well. People will feel more relaxed and connected after playing friendly games with each other and they make for great ice breakers. Putting people in this positive mood will make them much more likely to engage and get along well during the rest of the event.
3- Mute Microphones
One surprising way you can make things fair for others is actually to mute their microphones until it is their turn to speak. This keeps the conversation flowing naturally as there will be no interruptions, background noise, or distortion from others until the current speaker has finished. You could use this feature to keep everyone else from interrupting until the question and answer session at the end or until the end of the current speech. As a moderator, learn when is best to allow for open discussion and when you should keep others quiet until they have reached their turn.
4- Back Up Others
Career website Mind Tools says that a good way to get yourself noticed in a meeting is to speak up for others, particularly if they haven’t had a chance to express their opinions. Say for instance that one person is dominating the conversation and has interrupted somebody else mid-conversation. Politely ask them to wrap up their point and let somebody else talk, then ask the interrupted person to finish what they were saying earlier. If somebody tries to take credit for another person’s idea, acknowledge the person who came up with it instead. Some people are naturally more dominant and can be rude without even realizing while others can be shyer and let themselves be interrupted without complaint. Keep an eye on how the conversation is going and try to give everyone at least some time to speak.
5- Keep it Informal
You may have important matters to discuss that are important for your business or sector, but you want to keep the mood much more like a chat down the pub rather than a debate at the UN. Formal talks imply one person having domination over the other or allowing for arguments that will fail to achieve anything. Informal talks can achieve a lot and communicate necessary information while still keeping everyone feeling included and validated. Try to find a good balance that will help the people in your team to reach decisions.
Moderating an online event isn’t easy but it is possible to make it as fair and equal as possible for every attendant. By keeping a close eye on the tone and flow of the conversation, using a good ice breaker, and keeping a friendly and informal mood, you will allow discussions to go ahead and for everybody to share their own ideas without descending into arguments or causing conflicts of interest.