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October 16, 2020

Matching Audience and Zoom Engagement Strategies

Matching Zoom engagement strategies to your audience is just as important as understanding how each tool works. Misaligning the engagement strategy with your audience drains energy. No matter how great your content is, it is difficult to retain and maintain an audience’s attention. In this last post of my three part series, I cover how to match your audience with specific Zoom tools and methods.

When considering which Zoom engagement strategies to use, think about the type of Zoom meeting and audience make up. In quick terms, do attendees know each or not, how large of a group is it, and what is the purpose of the meeting. Keeping this mind will ensure you are matching the best Zoom engagement strategy with your audience.

If the meeting is part of your work at a company, the purpose of the meeting is an important component. If the Zoom meeting is a speaking gig, consider your audience in terms of demographics (e.g. men, women, mixed, age range) and the interest that brought them to the event (e.g. career - engineering; hobby - quilting; passion - climate change).


For a large group that has a shared interest, chat is an excellent way to build connection and energy. However, it is up to you as the presenter to make sure the audience knows to use chat. At the beginning of your presentation ask attendees to use the Chat feature to add comments and questions. Be clear on how the questions will be addressed such as at the end of the presentation.

While Chat is the easiest engagement strategy to implement, it isn’t the best method for every group type. A small working group of 4-6 people really doesn’t need to use chat. One reason is that it is easier to have a discussion or conversation. Another reason is the purpose of the meeting is different than a formal presentation.

If the meeting is company-wide and there is a formal hierarchy, employees in junior positions may be reluctant to engage in chat. This is particularly true if comments could be perceived as going against the grain or challenging a supervisor or manager.


Even though Polling is best for simple questions, it can be used with all meeting group types. For small working groups, the polling tool is good for a fun ice breaker (e.g. Which Riverdale character do you identify with the most?) at the beginning of the meeting to set the tone.

For larger groups, it is important to align your questions with the topic or focus of the meeting. It helps to scatter them throughout the meeting.

Also, make sure you have included the poll taking into the overall meeting period. Once a poll is available to the audience, an answer period of 30- 60 seconds is usually enough time.

Virtual Bulletin Boards

This engagement tool works best with large groups. Chat can sometimes become difficult to monitor and keep track of questions and comments. Also, it is quite common for many participants to opt out of commenting.

This engagement strategy gives those whose voice might be overrun in chat a way to express their thoughts. Additionally, being able to provide anonymous thoughts, questions, and ideas is often appealing to those who are reluctant to comment in chat.

Because a virtual bulletin board requires the audience to click a link to a web page, it becomes a natural break and can reengage the audience.

Unlike a poll, virtual bulletin boards do require more time during the presentation. Plan for about 5 minutes to allow everyone time to get to the web page and add their questions, comments, or ideas. Like chat, be clear on how questions will be addressed.

Breakout Rooms

Breakout Rooms are best for large groups and only if the focus of the meeting lends itself to small group discussion. For instance, breakout rooms probably are not the best option for a company-wide annual report meeting.

If audience members don’t have a shared interest or don’t know each other, breakout rooms can sometimes be awkward and potentially backfire. As the presenter, it is your responsibility to clearly convey the purpose and goal of the breakout room sessions.

// Quick Facilitation Tip //

Share a directions and questions file to download via chat or recommend attendees take a screenshot of the directions/questions slide.

Also, be aware that there are some people who loath small group discussion. Often they will opt to just leave the meeting rather than participate. Again, that is totally okay. If they are bringing negative energy to the meeting, it is best they leave.


A key strategy for successful Zoom meetings is to utilize engagement methods and tools. However, not all engagement strategies work with all audiences.

The three things to keep in mind during your planning is: 1) do attendees know each, 2) the size of the group, and 3) the purpose of the meeting.

If you aren’t sure how many people will be in attendance, chose an engagement method that works best for all group sizes. Another option is to prepare several strategies and then adjust once the meeting starts. The participant button shows a real time count of attendees.

Check out my two previous posts in this series. Part One is on Engaging Your Zoom Audience and Part Two is about How to Use Zoom Tools for Audience Engagement.

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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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