With the enforced work from home that a lot of us are doing right now I find myself joining more and more videoconferences. One issue we keep having is multiple people talking at the same time. Those of you who have been working from home for a while--any suggestions on how to run a videoconference in such a way that people can politely say their piece without talking over each other?


Someone pointed out in one of the comments that I should discuss what I've tried and what I'm looking for. We've tried having folks make sure their cameras are on and having them raise their index finger to indicate they want to speak. We've also had moderators; that is, everyone is muted by default and then they put something into the chat to indicate they have a question or comment and then the moderator says "Joe Dokes has a comment or question" and unmutes them.

I was hoping that people might have other ideas which I had not considered; that's why I asked the question.

  • 3
    How would you handle this in a face to face meeting? The same should apply to a video conference.
    – sf02
    May 1 '20 at 15:37
  • 2
    Voice chat for friends is good for 2 - 5 people, 6 - 10 becomes noisy at times even with people that have VC for years. 10+ and you're normally just asking for problems. You can probably make 10+ work, but you're not going to be encouraging teamwork you'll just be dictating who can talk.
    – user44202
    May 2 '20 at 2:14

As sf02 already wrote in the comments, you can basically handle it exactly as you would in a face-to-face meeting:

  • Ask all participants to have their video on and watch the other people's body language
  • Raise your hand if you want to say something
  • Have a moderator who decides who to talk next
  • All those approaches have been tried (and they work just fine). I asked because I thought I might find other ideas that I hadn't heard about. May 1 '20 at 19:02
  • 4
    @OnorioCatenacci if you tried A,B, and C, you should edit it into question with "these don't work because of reasons". May 1 '20 at 20:11

There is a direct answer, and a suggestion to re-frame your problem.

  1. Somebody should regulate the traffic. Mute everyone, and then unmute people who want to contribute, perhaps using round-robin scheme. This is absolutely professional, as it allows the decision making to move forward, and reduces noise.
  2. Move as much work as possible outside of the meeting. Have a shared google doc as a whiteboard where everyone can contribute outside of the meeting, writing pros and cons of certain decision, comment on proposals and such. The meeting is about making a decision (I hope at least) which can be done outside of face-to-face interactions

Whatever you pick, you should clearly define who is making the final decision, and who is allowed or asked to provide input. If you have a committee, somebody has to chair it and represent the decision to stake holders.

  • +1 Great answer. As spickermann alludes to, there are similarities with F2F meetings but there are also additional challenges. Narrowing the scope and reducing noise are definitely steps in the right direction.
    – Robbie Dee
    May 3 '20 at 21:48

If you have admin privileges, most video conferencing software should allow you to mute others, as well as not allow others to speak until they have "raised their hand" and been given permission by you to do so (at least in the case of Zoom) and restrict outsiders from joining

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