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How to Include “Silent Zoomers” in Your Virtual Meetings

by | Jan 12, 2021 | 4 comments

how to include silent zoomers at virtual meetings“I communicate well at in-person meetings – from Board of Directors down to town-hall events – but not so much on Zoom,” says one of my SVP (Senior Vice President) clients.

Your new Speak For Yourself® term: the Silent Zoomer.

The videoconferencing tool, Zoom, now boasts over 300 million users worldwide – up from 10 million in December, 2019. And Silent Zoomers appear in every one of those  meetings.

You are losing valuable input by NOT accessing their voices.

Meetings Can Crush Your Soul

Dolly Chugh, a Harvard-educated, award-winning social psychologist at the NYU Stern School of Business, admits, “Meetings can crush your soul.” Chugh’s wise observations about meeting default patterns*:

• Whoever speaks first sets the direction of the conversation.
• The higher-power, more extroverted, majority-demographic people are more likely to take up disproportionate airtime, receive credit, be given the benefit of the doubt and interrupt others.
• The larger the group, the less meaningful the conversation.
• Whatever we did in the last meeting, we are likely to do again in the next meeting.

Epiphany: We can do better at meeting management – as the chair or participant. A virtual format can even be an advantage on how to improve the paradigm.

3 Tips for the Meeting Chair

Have a facilitator. Zoom incorporates the Host Feature. Use it wisely. Be a “host” with awareness. Ask for participation equally amongst your group. Create a meeting culture that expects participation from all.

Share different perspectives. Being virtual means you can invite from outside your usual group. Examples: a customer during a meeting on branding, a field employee in a discussion about market strategy, or the book author at a book club. Use your virtual platform to break out of your regular network.

Rotate in and out of smaller discussions. In the virtual world you can do this with a click. Chugh says, “The key to a good breakout is clear instructions about timing, purpose, and deliverables (if any). No need to endure default big group discussions.”

3 Tips for the Silent Zoomer:

  • Make a pact with yourself to say something at your next meeting.
  • Write problem solving comments in “chat”.
  • Be the one to ask another Silent Zoomer for their opinion.

In a perfect world you’ll have facilitators with high EQ for all of your inclusive meetings. In reality, the Silent Zoomer must also take responsibility.


Source: * https://ideas.ted.com/how-to-have-inclusive-meetings-over-zoom/

Source: thank you to @SVP for suggesting this blog topic.


© 2021 Karen Cortell Reisman, All rights reserved

Karen Cortell Reisman book on sellingWant a customized Speak For Yourself® virtual workshop on how to communicate formally, informally, and electronically?

Email Karen@SpeakForYourself.com

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Karen Cortell Reisman, MS, Executive Communication Author & Speaker


  1. Roger

    Useful and germane tips as usual. There is a discussion among educators here in Norway about students who turn off their cameras becoming “silent zoomers”. They are the ones who perform poorly on exams and group projects. Turn on those cameras!

    • Karen Cortell Reisman

      Roger – you bring up an excellent point. Turning off the camera excludes you from the conversation and is a challenge for the meeting facilitator. Sometimes it’s a good default — when the listener is just that, a passive listener. But – to be engaged in the meeting your camera must be turned on. Thanks for your feedback.

  2. Michael Gallant

    Thank God I do not have to deal with this. Zoom is a necessary evil.

    • Karen Cortell Reisman

      Michael – Yes – Zoom is a necessary evil AND when used well can be turned into an even better platform to get results. It’s a challenge to use virtual methods.

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