Engaging 750 People Online You Can’t See

There was a time amid the height of the recent health pandemic I was invited to present a short session to a virtual audience in Pakistan.

I was one of three speakers that evening, and as we were the only people with our cameras turned on, I asked how many people would be tuned in to watch the broadcast.

The host casually said, “…more than 50,000…”

Yes, you read that right.

It still stands as the largest audience I have presented live to.


How Do I Engage a Large Virtual Audience Without Cameras?


This was exactly the question posed by a playmeo member last week via email.

When first presented with this gig, it had them scratching their head, wondering what to do to engage them all. Thankfully, they got what they were looking for in my response, helping them feel inspired, confident and brimming with dozens of ideas to engage their audience.

This is an extract of my response:


Yes, 750 people is a lot of people, but once you get past 30 to 50 people, it doesn’t matter how many folks are tuned in online. Engagement is the key.

First, let me describe a few tricks of the trade when presenting online when the audience cannot or will not switch on their cameras.

    1. Acknowledge that all participant responses will be via the Chat Room, ie this must influence the design of your program. This can be hard when almost all of our communication, even virtual, involves a visual cue.
    2. Invite responses or feedback as often as possible, ie check the pulse of your audience regularly.
    3. Frame any question you ask (requiring a substantive response) so you only engage a specific subgroup of your audience. For example, invite only those whose first name starts with M to respond to your question.
    4. In addition to the Chat function of your video conferencing software, consider directing audience responses to one of the dozens of third-party online forums, such as Facebook, Padlet, Kahoots, mmhmm, etc. The free versions of these apps are often a great way to elicit feedback and responses from your audience quickly, easily and anonymously.


Activity Ideas That Do Not Require a Camera


I’m going to list a few that I would do in your situation (in no particular order:)

    • Count Off – be sure to limit the number of people who can contribute (see above.)
    • Curiosity Ping Pong – this really works when you ask really interesting questions.
    • Ice-Breaker Questions Exchange – ditto above.
    • QOTD – pop this into your program, start, middle or end, to engage your audience. Avoid boring questions we’ve all heard before.
    • Panic Picture – inviting people to share their stories in chat, or possibly even via images (via one fo the free apps.)
    • Mandala – if you limit the number of people who can paint/colour to those whose name starts with M, for example 🙂
    • Dicebreakers – you roll the dice, and then invite all whose names start with F to answer, for example.
    • Name That List – first person with the correct list wins
    • Year of the Coin – anyone can respond with the memory of that year
    • Are You More Like / This or That / Must Choose – use a slide to display the spectrum of responses, and then invite people to use the Annotate > Stamp tool to respond to the scenario.


And this is just for starters.

There are tons more I could suggest (be sure to check the Virtual filter in our powerful activity search engine,) but first, explore the above ideas and choose those you think will work for you (and your group,) and you will be comfortable leading.

Have fun.

Need Help?


You are welcome to reach out to me, or one of my team of awesome group facilitators, to ask for help at any time. Just click the link below to get started.

Ask Mark



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