What do you do while waiting for more people to join?
Updated: Aug 4, 2020
You're hosting a gathering. You've got your plan ready to go, you've got all your resources from EU Online, and you can't wait to hear what everyone else thinks during your discussion time. Now you're just waiting for people to arrive.
Ding dong! People are starting to arrive! You let them in from the waiting room, and then... awkwardness. You had planned another ten minutes before formally starting because you wanted to give people time to arrive. But now that there are people trickling in to your meeting, there's an awful lot of awkward silence. And ten minutes is a long time to wait!
Take charge of the waiting time
As a leader of your gathering, you need to consider waiting time as part of your meeting time. So take charge of it!
If you know it will take ten minutes for people to slowly arrive, why not own the time and use it to personally welcome each person as they come? Online meetings don't have a venue for people to make themselves at home in; and they don't give a lot of room for the little greetings you might make in a physical space, like saying hello to a friend or introducing yourself to the person you're sitting next to.
So if you're leading the meeting, you need to recreate something of those moments by being the one who makes small talk. Say hello and ask people gentle questions. As others eavesdrop on the little "hellos" and "how are you's", you are helping them become more comfortable by the friendliness of your conversation, and the sense of getting to know the other people present, even if it is just superficial.
You could try other things too:
Play a countdown video with some background music.
Play a game that people can enter at any time. For example, have people guess via chat the picture you're drawing on the screen.
Set up breakout rooms from the very beginning so that you can welcome people as they arrive, and then assign them to be able to chat in small rooms before the main event starts.
Whatever you choose to do, you can help people have the best first impression of your gathering by taking charge of the waiting time before you formally start. Get over the initial awkwardness by being a leader in that space.
And if it's still a bit awkward anyway? At least you'll have thought about it and made an effort. Most people seem to appreciate that. And you can always try again next week.