Virtual Meetings – Dealing with the Challenge

It is clear that at some point many companies will return to a physical office presence after the devastation of the pandemic. This will happen but it is also clear that virtual meetings are here to stay, with all the challenges and issues and annoyances that come with them. We will shortly have more in-person encounters, but the hybrid meeting will be part of the future for us all.

We have learned a lot about how to deal with the techno challenges that present themselves in the virtual world – for example finding the “mute” button and learning how to share our slides (but not the rest of our content), but we are now confronted with the more adaptive challenge of leading an effective and efficient virtual meeting.

We did some research recently where we discovered that people are giving fewer presentations due to the pandemic, but they are speaking more than ever in virtual meetings. To add more to this point, they are getting frustrated. From our research we find that the same questions keep popping up from our clients, regardless of whether they work in SME’s or global Fortune 50 companies. These questions are:

“How do I speak up in a virtual meeting? How do my team and I keep from talking over each other?”

“My team and I are constantly interrupting each other, and it’s embarrassing when we do it in front of our clients.”

Here’s the point, our leadership readiness is measured in part by our willingness to speak up in meetings. In the absence of in-person opportunities, how we engage with others in a virtual environment is the primary driver of our relationships, professional or otherwise. With that in mind, here are three tips to being able to speak up in a virtual meeting, and three warnings for when to hold back.

  1. Prepare for it in advance. If you know you want to say a few words at an upcoming meeting, let the organiser/facilitator know in advance. That way, they can easily acknowledge you so that you don’t have to interrupt someone while speaking. In our view it is important to use a facilitator or leader for any meeting of five or more people. This person will keep you focused and on time. With clients, it ensures a united, professional front that upholds your brand.
  1. Use a filler word as a strategic wedge to jump into the conversation. What is a ‘filler word’ you might ask. These are words like “um” and “ah” can actually be useful. Using a strategic filler like “actually” or “so” in a virtual meeting lets others know that you would like to speak. Use it when you sense someone has finished a thought, so the platform activates your video and gives people advanced notice that you are intending to contribute. If someone tries that when you’re the speaker and you’re not done speaking, you can confidently say, “Hold that thought. I’ll turn it over to you in a minute.”
  1. Compliment and build: If you must interrupt, compliment the person speaking (“Thanks for that great point, Jane, I’d like to build on that”) and then take the point in whichever direction you would like. It maintains the previous speaker’s credibility while giving you the space to jump in. If you think you might be interrupting someone but want to speak up anyway, own it: “I’m going to take the risk of interrupting Jane here, but I want to build on her point by saying…” This is particularly effective for hybrid meetings when you’re virtual and you cannot read other people’s body language.

If two people speak up at the same time, and there is no facilitator don’t fall victim to the ‘‘after you Claude’’ situation. Instead try this (while keeping local cultures and organisational politics in mind):

  • If you have already spoken up in this meeting, concede to the other person by saying, “Please, you go first” and let the other person speak.
  • If you have not yet spoken up in this meeting, say “Thank you, I’ll be brief” and then continue.

Conversely, some of our greatest frustrations focus on those who spend too much time speaking in the meeting. So, if you feel like you might be that person, when should you hold back?

Holding Back

When the meeting was supposed to end five minutes ago. These days, many of our clients are lamenting about back-to-back virtual meetings without even a minute to breathe in between. If you know the meeting is going over its allotted time and what you have to say is not critical, hold back.

When what you have to say doesn’t require a decision from the people on the call. If your contribution can be emailed to the attendees as an FYI, consider that method instead of speaking up and using precious meeting time.

If you’ve spoken for the majority of the meeting. Some people spend more time than others formulating their thoughts. If you like to jump in and speak immediately, you might be taking the opportunity away from a colleague who has something equally valuable to say.


As every business starts to return to the office at different times, we will have both virtual and hybrid meetings for the foreseeable future. The versatile communicator will need to seamlessly navigate this reality at a moment’s notice. Use these tips to be prepared and effective regardless of whether you are in-person or virtual. You will save time, reduce frustration, and create a more productive work environment.

If you need help and support in running effective face to face, virtual or hybrid  meetings get in touch with us at, or call on 0116 232 5231


The Tinderbox Team