October 2, 2020

Engaging Your Zoom Audience

Engaging your Zoom audience is now a must have skill. For many of us at the beginning of working remotely, we fumbled and stumbled through Zoom meetings. Now several months later, the expectations are higher, and people want smoother and more polished experiences. In this post, learn about four tools that can boost engagement in any meeting.

Benefits of Engaging Your Zoom Audience

During a presentation, audience members don’t want to just sit and listen. Like any presentation, you really shouldn’t spend the entire time just talking. Any speaker who engages with their audience, immediately builds a stronger rapport with them. Fortunately, there are several strategies you can use to engage your Zoom audience.

Encourage Attendees to Use Chat as a Method of Zoom Engagement


The Chat Feature offers an easy way to engage your Zoom audience during a presenting. Right at the beginning of the presentation, encourage them to use the Chat feature to add ideas, thoughts, and questions.

Some people believe that if attendees are writing in chat they aren’t listening to you, but the opposite is actually true. It means people are connecting with your message and want to participate in the conversation. As a presenter you should be encouraging this activity. Fortunately, Zoom makes this type of engagement really easy.

By letting your audience know that you want them to share and ask questions, they will be more intent on listening to what you have to say. When attendees are active in chat, periodically pause, check what is being shared, and use it as an opportunity to respond. It becomes more of a two-way conversation instead of you just talking.

For Simple Questions Use Polling to Engage Attendees


Image courtesy of Tufts University Technology Services

Within Zoom, and most similar platforms, the Polling feature isn’t super robust. However, for questions that require Yes/No, True/False, or short multiple-choice answers, it is a good way to involve your audience.

It is also an opportunity to get a sense of what is of interest to the audience. If you have the flexibility to do so, you can adjust what you were going to cover, or at least incorporate more of some content, based on the Poll responses.

Also, what is nice about a poll is that it creates a natural break. It gives you a chance to rest your voice. The audience can shift their attention from passive listening to active participation. Just like Chat, it is a signal to the audience that you want to know what they are thinking and to provide input.

What you want to avoid, is doing a poll and never addressing that question. Or doing a poll for just for sake of doing a poll. Nothing is more frustrating for an audience than being asked a unrelated question or the presenter never looping back to the question being asked. Connect the poll to what you are talking about and presenting.

Use a Virtual Bulletin Board for Audience Engagement


Image image courtesy of V. David-McGonnell

Currently, Zoom does not have a bulletin board feature, so this does require attendees to go to an external web page. Fortunately, a virtual bulletin board, like Padlet or Google Jam Board, is an easy and low-tech way for people to participate and provide feedback.

For you, as the presenter, it does require some advanced setup. However, most virtual bulletin board tools make this process straightforward. During the presentation, just paste the URL into the chat. Then you can share your screen and comment as people are adding to the board.

This is a great audience engagement tool because it is anonymous. Those who may be reluctant or anxious to participate in other ways will appreciate this option. This is a particularly useful tool for more sensitive topics and issues.

As with a Poll, request comments, thoughts, and feedback that is actually connected to your presentation topic and message. Once the comment period is over, try to connect some of the ideas into what you are covering. Like any engagement activity, don't frustrate attendees by asking them to do something that isn’t connected to the presentation.

Engage Your Zoom Audience in Small Group Discussion with Breakout Rooms


Image courtesy of Zoom

For groups of ten or more people, breakout rooms are a good technique for Zoom attendees to join the conversation. Because some individuals feel intimidated speaking up in a large group setting, talking to a smaller group may feel more comfortable for them.

Another benefit is that it gives the audience an opportunity to reflect and process what has been covered so far. Additionally, it can be a nice bridging exercise to help the audience refocus as you move to the next portion of your presentation. Remember, just like the other activities this engagement activity has to be relevant to your message and content.

Breakout Rooms do require some preplanning. You will need to decide how large each group will be, the length of time for the discussion, and what you want participants to do within the small group discussions. It is important to provide clear instructions. The small groups will flounder and waste time trying to figure out what they are supposed to do. Providing a handout to guide the discuss is a good strategy.


Engaging your Zoom audience doesn’t need to be an overly complicated process. Using the tools already available within Zoom or simple free resources are easy strategies for engaging with attendees. While these engagement strategies may seem simple and straightforward, the benefits of incorporating these into your presentation allows you to develop a stronger connection with your audience. Most importantly, it gives attendees a pathway to participate during a Zoom presentation.

In the next post, I will cover how to use these engagement tools.

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Jennifer Sharkey is known as the Virtual Presentation Specialist. Being passionate about seeing people shine and be heard, she leans into her 20+ years of public speaking experience and uses what she has learned from presenting, both in-person and virtually, to small groups all the way up to 5000 people. Jennifer draws from her experience as an associate professor, academic librarian, and coach to help holistic coaches master virtual presentations to grow their business. Her unique immersive program provides practical strategies and methods to build confidence, engage audiences, and generate authenticity and authority.

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