Day #1 – Combat the Awkward Silence

This blog post is part of my Personal Coronavirus Challenge where I write about remote working and facilitation every day for as long as the imposed quarantine lasts with the intent to get into the habit of writing regularly and (hopefully) getting better at it.

You are leading a remote video call and pose a question to all attendees. What follows is awkward silence…nobody says anything for a long painful moment.
While meeting facilitators need to be comfortable with silence in general, having these moments in a remote meeting is particularly painful. What goes through your head are questions like – ‘Did they understand the question?’ – ‘Did they hear me or was there a connection issue?’ – ‘Did they listen at all?’
Sound familiar? Here are a few tips on how to combat these moments or at least reduce them to a minimum.

Select a person to answer the question

Call out a person shortly after posing the question to break the silence: “John, you seem to be ready. What are your thoughts on this?”, or address the question directly to a particular person: “Jane, what are your thoughts on XYZ?

Go around the virtual table

If people are not talking, go “around the table” to each person on the call and have them contribute something. You can do this by calling each person one after the other, or you start with one person and this person selects the next person to contribute until everybody said something.

Send them into breakout rooms

If you use a system that supports breakout rooms such as Zoom or Bluejeans, send the participants into breakout rooms in Dyads or Triads, let them discuss the question for a short amount of time (2 minutes) and share their insights back to the group afterward.

Try it out!