What happens when you ask a question of a group of people?
As I’ve mentioned before, whenever someone hears a question, their attention is directed in a specific way. It’s almost impossible not to go inside and search for the answer.
If you’re in a one-on-one conversation, convention usually dictates that the person will also answer out loud. To do otherwise, letting the silence hang in the air, is almost unbearable…
For example, I might ask, “What would you like to have happen in this meeting?” People might take a moment to think, but eventually, someone will speak… even if it’s to say, “I don’t really know, I thought you had the agenda!”
But something rather different seems to happen in online meetings with more than two people. The effect is particularly marked in audio-only conference calls, but also happens in video calls.
When I ask a question of the whole group, often nobody will answer. Silence doesn’t seem to have the same effect online: people don’t speak up to end it. Presumably, they don’t feel the same kind of social pressure.
[bctt tweet=”Silence doesn’t seem to have the same effect online: people don’t speak up to end it.” username=”judyrees”]
So when I ask, “What would you like to have happen in this meeting?” I can wait… and wait… and wait… and eventually somebody may say, “Has the line gone dead?”
But I’ll rarely get an answer unless I call on a specific person – “What would you like to have happen in this meeting…. Mary?” – or ask everyone to respond at once, in a chat window or poll, for example.
This seems to be one of the main ways that facilitating an online group is quite different to facilitating a face-to-face group.
- Have you noticed anything similar? Or is your experience different? Please comment below.