Interaction Is the Tip of the Meeting Iceberg

Arya P Dinesh

At Slido, we’ve spent the last 11 years helping companies create more interaction in meetings. From all-hands to team meetings, we have helped our users build better relationships with their meeting participants through meaningful engagement.

While interaction and engagement are always top of mind for Slido users, could there be a deeper motivation lurking below the surface?

Some of our most successful users have told us that they’ve been using Slido to build trust within their teams. By increasing interaction in meetings, they’ve been helping their team members feel more engaged and empowered in their roles, inspiring more inclusion, transparency, and trust within their wider organizations.

In our experience, interaction has a ripple effect.

It may be starting at the team level, but interactive meetings have the potential to affect change across organizations. The secret to this comes down to building a great meeting culture that is rooted in democratic principles.

In this blog, we’ll use the concept of the Slido Iceberg to deep dive into what meeting culture is and the positive effect of interaction in meetings.

What is meeting culture and why is it important?

In every training session held by our Customer Success Managers, we ask our users what their biggest meeting struggles are. There are three classic answers: no interaction, no engagement, and the same people speaking up, while others stay quiet. 

But why does this happen? Looking at these somewhat universal struggles surrounding meetings, it’s hard not to imagine a common cause. Turns out there are four common reasons why people don’t speak up:

  • Feeling like their input will not be accepted or supported
  • Not feeling connected to the meeting or its agenda
  • Thinking that the decision has already been made
  • Lacking the context of what’s being shared in the meeting

This is where meeting culture – the sum of all your meeting behaviors both good and bad – comes into play. 

By setting up the right meeting rituals and processes, you can drive significant changes through interaction in your meetings. As with any element of culture, you can improve your meetings by intentionally making small changes.

A great meeting culture can help you achieve this by connecting with your people more meaningfully and powering impactful conversations that can drive results.

The Slido Iceberg demonstrates how interaction in meetings help enhance trust in the wider organization

This includes how you prepare for your meetings, how you encourage and enable everyone to have their voice heard, and how you wrap up.

Let the Slido iceberg guide you!

Read also: What is a great meeting culture and how to build one

Breaking the culture of silence

A good meeting culture begins with a seemingly small, insignificant part of the meeting: interaction. Here’s why.

If you’ve invited someone to your meeting, capturing their input is and must be considered crucial. Meeting hosts need to ensure that the participants are provided with every opportunity to use their voice.

Interaction in meetings enables two functions for you in this regard:

  • Letting your participants know that they have a voice: creating multiple channels for people to provide input and ask questions
  • Inspiring your participants to use their voice: encouraging them to speak up using a story or thought-provoking question 

We recently had a meeting with Slido’s Customer Success team to reimagine how we do things. It was quite an intense subject and none of us knew where to start. 

So our leader kicked the meeting off with a simple icebreaker poll: “If you could make one thing in your life easier, what would it be?”. 

Starting with a “how can we improve x” icebreaker exercise, we were able to easily switch to the more serious “how can we improve y” activity and engage people in a more productive manner. By encouraging all of us to speak up from the beginning, she set the tone for the rest of the meeting.

The point is, interaction is only the tip of the iceberg. When leveraged well, interactive meetings can help you set the stage up for bigger things.

Find more inspiration at 80 poll questions to ask your meeting participants.

Building a culture of engagement

What’s harder than getting your meeting participants’ attention? From our experience, we would vote for “keeping them engaged”. After all, it is scientifically confirmed that our attention span is shrinking. 

In her latest book titled Attention Span, psychologist Gloria Mark states that our average attention span has gone from 2 and half minutes in 2004 to just 47 seconds in 2023. That’s a significant drop!

When applying these statistics to meetings, you can immediately imagine the work required to keep the attention of participants in an eight-person meeting or a 1000-person all-hands meeting.

To fully engage your audience, you may need to mix up the interaction in your meetings. This is where meaningful engagement becomes extremely important.

Running your monthly retention numbers or quarterly goals as a fun virtual quiz, or making people guess the correct answer doesn’t just create interaction in the meeting, it helps them to engage more intentionally with the content – and therefore your business. 

Meaningful engagement helps people connect data or information with their roles better. As a meeting organizer, you’re helping participants build a better context of how they fit into your action items or how they can contribute more effectively.

When you do this, engagement gets elevated to the next level: empowerment.

Enabling a culture of empowerment

Research from Google shows that one of the most common reasons behind low interaction is the lack of psychological safety. To turn this around, leaders need to build a space where people feel confident speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.

While the foundations of psychological safety are built with interaction and engagement, empowerment is the central piece.

For some teams, it will be more important to share their input or explore their ideas further. Using open text polls in Slido can help you significantly here.

For others, the priority might be using the Q&A feature so they can have their most pertinent questions addressed, and move forward more confidently. You can address all of these needs by being more accessible to your people. Ask Me Anything sessions provide a great avenue for this.

By actively executing the feedback that’s coming your way, you can demonstrate to your team how impactful and important they are.

Such tangible results will nudge your teams toward being more vocal and empowered in their roles, and drive better business outcomes. But, in a hybrid world, empowerment goes hand-in-hand with creating an equitable meeting experience. This brings us to inclusion.

Read also: Why psychological safety is essential for performance in the workplace

Fostering a culture of inclusion

How do we define an equal meeting experience when your team isn’t sitting together in one room? 

In distributed teams that are working across different time zones, basic meeting goals such as “getting input” becomes almost impossible. What you need here is meeting equity: where you enable everybody based on their different needs.

The moment polls are added to a meeting, each participant has an opportunity to respond. But exactly who are we including or bringing into the conversation? Let’s take a look:

  • Remote or online participants who feel left out during the “in-room” conversations
  • Gender minorities who often feel ignored or “not listened to”  in meetings 
  • Racial minorities who may experience challenges speaking up
  • Non-native English speakers who hold themselves back fearing judgment
  • Neurodiverse participants who appreciate the time to digest information and make informed decisions

There are many more such sub-groups within all of our teams who feel left out of the conversation. For them, interaction in meetings goes beyond engagement.

By enabling polls and Q&A in your meetings, you can give a platform to anyone who’s struggling to speak up. Features such as anonymous responses can go a long way in helping your people find their voice.

Embracing a culture of transparency

Once your teams feel empowered and included in the meetings, you may face more tough questions seeking clarity into the how and why behind business decisions. 

Being transparent is difficult to navigate for leaders because you may not have answers to all the questions coming at you. Or you’re not at liberty to share sensitive information yet.

Here’s an example from Slido. We recently wrote a blog about democratic decision-making at the leadership level. The article touches on a “key decision” we made regarding our company’s direction.

To avoid confusion and misinformation, we created an accompanying piece which was shared internally to help our people understand the context better. The key here is to be open and vulnerable with your teams. Acknowledge what you don’t know and share what you can. 

Let your people know that they can count on you to always maintain the right level of transparency. It often comes down to sharing updates at the right time with the right people.

Explore a real-life example here: How HUMANOO is building a culture of transparency with Slido

Leading with a culture of trust

To nurture a healthy culture within your organization, you need to demonstrate trusting or trust-enhancing behaviors wherever possible. 

For a 5,000-person or 80,000-person company operating in a hybrid work setup, there are few avenues to demonstrate such behaviors at an organizational level.

When leveraged well, meetings can become the perfect avenue for leaders to model the behaviors they want to instill in their teams. Answering a tough question with humility or acknowledging a mistake in a shared platform shows your team that you care and that you’re willing to listen.

Done over time, this will help you build trust and unlock true diversity of thought, allowing people to speak up and facilitate productive dialogue across your organization.

In fact, that’s exactly what TomTom, a leading location technology company, achieved by using Slido in their all-hands meetings.

“Slido helps our teams feel like valued and active participants, talking to a leadership that’s committed to being open and transparent. This has an impact on the openness and culture of the whole company,” says Victoria Lim, Head of People Communications at TomTom.

When it comes to building trust, there’s one rule above all: intentionally create room for interaction in every meeting. 

💡 See how Swiggy, Cisco, Glovo , Humanoo and many others are driving their business agendas forward with Slido. 

Final thoughts

The fundamentals of meeting culture come down to being intentional. It depends on enabling meaningful dialogue in your teams, across in-person, hybrid, and remote settings.

Slido can help you do this by:

  • Helping your people find their voice
  • Keeping employees engaged through meaningful interaction in meetings
  • Empowering teams through collaborative decision-making 
  • Including everyone regardless of location and work setup
  • Providing teams with the right amount of transparency 

When designed with democratic principles, interactive meetings can inspire trust and transparency among people, allowing you to build high-performing teams and unlock productive collaboration across the organization.

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