Are Your Phone Meeting Participants Lost in the Wilderness?


stage-3-explorer-clickSometimes, ok let’s be real, almost always, having to be the one on the phone call when everyone else is in the F2F (Face to Face) meeting, is challenging flushed-face, boring sleeping-face and even a waste of your time face-with-rolling-eyes! This blog talks about how to change that if you are frequently running integrated meetings where some are on the phone and others are present in the room. What this blog is NOT is how to run a virtual meeting. This blog is the bare bones basics on ensuring the old fashioned phone meeting will go well. Let’s face it…we still all participate in them so we may as well make them go incredibly well.

Meeting leader or organizer: What can you do to ensure 100% participation of everyone – on the phone or not?

Phone participant: If you cannot hear or see what is being offered, and everyone ignores you, how can you advocate for yourself?

Here are seven overarching ways and 20 sub-points to help you do relatively easy things to ensure you or others on the phone are not “lost in the wilderness”. Some of these will also work well when everyone is on the conference call. Emoji your way into the blog please for details!



  • Send them questions ahead of time and ask them to brainstorm answers.
  • Talk to virtual participants ahead of time to show how much you are trying to involve them.
  • Ask for ways they’d like to be involved ahead of time.



  • Take photos of data on whiteboard or flipchart and send to them via text or email.
  • Find ways to show virtual participants that their ideas are being incorporated.
  • Do a “walk about” and take virtual participants “around“ to each Flipchart or white board where data is being recorded using smart phone, taking photos as you go (obviously cannot do if security is an issue).



  • Give virtual participants a role as an expert at key parts of meeting.
  • Give virtual participant(s) roles as small group facilitators; they can do this via a separate call to their small group (may require a break-out room).



  • Send an advance photo of all participants – everyone sends in a fun shot of themselves to upload to Google docs, Dropbox or some shared folder.
  • Email the seating arrangement diagram of the F2F meeting participants soon after meeting starts.
  • Set up webcam in an area of the room so they can see the facilitator and the group.



  • Have whole group watch a relevant YouTube video – everyone (F2F and virtual) can watch at same time.
  • Take frequent breaks.
  • Set up webcam and do brain gym with them seeing you.



  • Do round robins often. Phone people go first.
  • Ask them once in a while what their impressions of the meeting are.
  • Have them “meet” in small groups via a separate phone call (e.g., Robin and Fara call each other to discuss the topic while everyone else meets in pairs in the room to discuss same question. Phone people call back in at appointed end time.)



  • Facilitator writes self a note as a reminder to ask those on phone for their ideas.
  • Ensure speakerphones are centrally placed.
  • Coach participants in the room throughout to speak loudly, clearly, one at a time and self identify each time they speak. If no speaker phone, have participants pass around a smart phone so they can speak directly into cellphone.


Bonus Tip: When Everyone’s On the Call

Be sure to set up a speaking order. Write down everyone’s names, one per post-it alphabetically. Start with that order or a speaking order that addresses power imbalances (e.g., invite the younger people to speak first). Change up the order everyone once in awhile so everyone gets a chance to go first. Just rearrange your post-it note names so you remember the new order! This way, everyone knows when they will be called upon to offer ideas. Thanks to my colleague Carol Turner for the latter adaptation I had not used but deliciously experienced in last minute conference call organized yesterday when weather suggested we should not stray too far from our homes. Thanks also to my colleague Rangineh Azimzadeh Tosang for helping me fully embrace emojis!



Additional Resource

Telephone Conference Tips

P.S. If you’re wondering about the Stage 3 button above, just click on it!

Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.

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