What Does it Take to Engage With Your Participants?

Are you ready to create a better virtual training experiences for your participants?

You may have already searched the internet and talked to fellow training facilitators, but I hope to share my experience from supporting over 500 virtual trainings on what it takes to achieve the highest level of engagement during a virtual training session.

Many people believe it is ok to let participants stay off camera and sit back during a virtual training, but that is most likely hurting their learning opportunities.

If you’re struggling with how you fix the lack of cameras on and engagement, this is the place for you.

Ready to dive into a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into a more successful virtual training session?

Routine for Kicking Off Your Virtual Session Right

I am happy to say that I have helped training facilitators achieve better experiences in their virtual sessions, and this routine directly influences their ability to engage more effectively with their participants.

At the start of the virtual training session, as participants are logging in:

  • Greet each participant by name: This has a multitude of purposes. First it helps check a participants audio quality and second it helps make sure you are pronouncing the participants name correctly.
  • Use an icebreaker to kick things off: This helps get all of the participants involved right at the start of the session. If you ask for an answer in chat, that can help make sure the participants know where this important function resides and make sure they are comfortable using it. It also creates a fun and relaxing environment.
  • Ask the participants to use the “raise hand” feature if they need the participants guide or any other type of necessary documents: This guides the participants to use the “reactions” function and makes sure they know where these are. It also makes sure they already have the necessary documents before you get into the training, so they don’t interrupt training requesting it be sent to them.
  • Most importantly, address those who still have their cameras off: Find out if they plan to come on camera or if there is another reason they might need to stay off camera. Sometimes they just forget to turn on their camera or have bandwidth issues. There may be other reasons but it’s best to encourage them to turn on the camera. Might as well start with this encouragement right at the beginning of the session.

This routine will greatly improve your kick off and greatly improve the chance of all your participants being on camera and therefor being more engaged.

Don’t be afraid to challenge a participant who is discouraging or doesn’t have a good reason for being off camera. Be encouraging but don’t be afraid to push a bit, after all you were hired to provide training for these individuals.

Share with them that it helps you be a better training facilitator and that it’s going to help them have a much better experience with the material being taught. 

Helpful Post: Want to start strong by using Icebreakers at the start of your virtual session?

Bring Good Energy

Now, just because participants aren’t on camera or are lacking enthusiasm, doesn’t mean you can let it show during your training. Do not take it personally! It may have nothing to do with their interest in you or your training. There are so many factors that could be going on that you may not know about. 

It can be a balancing act between encouraging participants to engage and not being overbearing. Don’t be afraid to communicate your desire to see more faces on camera but be respectful that some may not have the ability to do so.

Lack of Engagement

If you ever find yourself in a situation where no one is on camera and their is a huge lack of engagement, here are a few suggestions:

    • Ask the participants if their is something distracting going on at their end: Sometimes their might be a big issue at the location where individuals are causing distractions. Can’t hurt to ask.
    • Talk to the company or individual who hired you: Reach out and have a conversation about how they might be able to help encourage participants in the future. Adding it to emails with the session links.
    • Increase chat questions, polls and breakout rooms: Revise the agenda and training materials to added more features that promote engagement. 

Engagement is such an important part of virtual trainings sessions. Encouraging participants to be on camera and using other tools available to drive engagement will make you a better training facilitator. You will enjoy yourself more and your participants will be raving about your sessions.

Do you follow any of the suggestions from this post? 

You are well on your way to having the most engaging and exciting virtual training sessions in your industry.

Check out my tips sheet that can help you in additional ways, specifically around using Zoom for virtual trainings.

Click here to download “BEST PRACTICES WITH ZOOM” Tip Sheet >>

I hope this post has been helpful!

Any questions? Comment below or shoot me a DM on https://www.instagram.com/jakevanness/ or shoot me a message HERE.

Starting Strong: How Icebreakers Can Enhance Engagement in Virtual Meetings and Trainings

In today’s business world, virtual meetings and training sessions are commonplace. While they have many benefits, including convenience, cost-effectiveness, and accessibility, they can also present unique challenges, such as a lack of engagement from participants, communication barriers, difficulty building connections, and struggles with technology. This is where the practice of using icebreakers can provide a strong and effective start to your virtual meetings or training sessions.

What is an Icebreaker?

An icebreaker is an activity, game or question that is designed to break down barriers, encourage participation, and create a relaxed and inclusive atmosphere. Icebreakers are typically used at the beginning of meetings or training sessions to help participants feel more comfortable and establish connections with each other. They are also useful for promoting diversity and inclusion by creating opportunities for participants to share their backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.

While it is thought that the original term icebreaker was used back in the 19th century in social, in person gatherings to describe someone who helped break the ice or alleviate some of the tension at the beginning of a gathering, the use of the term in the corporate setting is believed to have been adopted somewhere in the 20th century.

Benefits of Using Icebreakers

Icebreakers  can provide a variety of benefits for virtual meetings and training sessions. Here are some of the main benefits:

  • Encouraging Participation – Icebreakers can help to encourage participation by providing a relaxed and inclusive atmosphere where participants feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas.
  • Building Connections – Icebreakers can help to build connections between participants by creating opportunities for them to get to know each other and find common ground.
  • Promoting Diversity and Inclusion – Icebreakers can promote diversity and inclusion by creating opportunities for participants to share their backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.
  • Increases Creativity – Icebreakers can help to stimulate creativity and encourage attendees to think outside the box. This can be especially useful in brainstorming sessions or when trying to generate new ideas.
  • Display Comfort or Challenges with Technology – Icebreakers help participants find the chat function on the platform and can also allow them to find the ability to unmute and mute themselves. While many are more familiar than ever with virtual platforms, some may need directions on specific platforms they don’t use day to day.

Icebreaker Length

Most icebreakers should take no more than 10-15 minutes, although some activities may be shorter or longer depending on the complexity or number of participants. It can also vary based on the overall length of the planned virtual meeting or training session. It’s important to keep in mind that icebreakers should be fun and engaging, but also relevant to the purpose of the meeting or training. If an icebreaker goes on for too long or becomes too involved, it may lose its effectiveness and become a distraction rather than a useful tool for building connections and engagement.

Examples of Icebreakers

There are many different types of icebreakers that can be used in virtual meetings and training sessions. Here are some examples:

  • Introduce Yourself – Ask participants to introduce themselves and share something unique or interesting about themselves. Location can be an important part of this icebreaker, as participants could be anywhere in the world.
  • Two Truths and a Lie – Ask participants to share three statements about themselves, two of which are true and one of which is false. Other participants then have to guess which statement is the lie. This game can be a fun and interactive way to get to know each other and encourage participation. This typically brings out some humor and some surprises.
  • What are you currently watching, listening to or reading? – Ask participants to share their favorite television series, movie, podcast, or book. It’s always fun to discover new entertainment options.
  • Would You Rather? – Ask participants to choose between two different options, such as “would you rather be able to fly or be invisible?” This game can be a fun and lighthearted way to get participants engaged and thinking creatively.
  • What is your next vacation destination? – Sharing where we have been on vacation or where we plan to go is always a big topic around the company water cooler. For this reason it makes a wonderful ice breakers because most people are looking forward to their next vacation.

Tips for Using Icebreakers Effectively

Here are some tips for using icebreakers effectively in virtual meetings and training sessions:

  • Be Mindful of Cultural Differences – When choosing icebreakers, be mindful of cultural differences and avoid activities that may be insensitive or offensive to some participants.
  • Be Sensitive to Time Constraints – Icebreakers should be long enough to allow participants to feel more comfortable and establish connections with each other, but not so long that they take up too much time from the overall meeting or training session.
  • Keep it Engaging – Choose icebreakers that are fun and interactive to keep participants engaged and motivated. This can help to create a positive and productive atmosphere for the rest of the meeting or training session.
  • Be Creative – Try to choose icebreakers that are creative and unique, rather than relying on the same activities every time. This can help to keep participants interested and engaged.
  • Be Open to Feedback – After using icebreakers in a virtual meeting or training session, be open to feedback from participants. This can help to improve the effectiveness of the icebreakers for future sessions.


In conclusion, icebreakers can be a powerful tool for opening virtual meetings and training sessions more effectively. By providing a relaxed and inclusive atmosphere, building connections between participants, and promoting diversity and inclusion, icebreakers can help to enhance engagement and productivity in virtual communication. By following the tips outlined above, you can use icebreakers effectively and create a positive and productive experience for all your participants.