Engaging Participants Virtually

engaging virtual events

Tools to better engage with learners and participants virtually


We’ve all been in what feels like a million Zoom or Teams meetings in the last 12 months – those with PowerPoint presentations, breakout rooms, polls, whiteboards and screen sharing. Most participants and students are now jaded and engaging them is becoming increasingly difficult.

So what else is available to make your meetings and education more interactive? And how much of it is free?

I’ve recently discovered Mentimeter https://www.mentimeter.com and use it for icebreakers, quiz questions and PowerPoint-like content. Questions can be used to create LIVE multiple choice graphs, word clouds, scales, rankings, simple displays of answers, or quizzes with live scores. Content slides can have text, images, videos, and quotes, just like PowerPoint. Participants get involved using their mobile device, joining simply by going to a website and entering a numerical code on the top of the presentation screen, then entering their response, which appears live a few seconds later. Simple, quick and quite engaging, with the ability to filter out profanity and inappropriate content from free text responses. All responses are anonymous. The creation and use of presentations with limited slides is free, but the basic paid plan is as little as $10 per month, though discounts (30%) are available for those working in education. Paid versions also allow you to download PowerPoint presentations into Mentimeter to integrate with Mentimeter slide features.

Slido https://www.sli.do/ works in a similar way for quizzes, surveys and Q&A, but also has some extra features: QR code scan in live polls to enable quick poll entry, the ability to integrate into PowerPoint, Teams and Google Slides, and analytics to analyse participation and responses. Pricing plans again are a similar price to Mentimeter, with similar additional features available.

For interaction with content prior to, during and after webinars, workshops and education sessions, there are a couple of tools that are useful.

The first is Padlet. Padlet https://padlet.com  is a free web application featuring a virtual wall where multiple users can post comments and media. It is useful to encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing (such as brainstorming), peer learning, and gauging understanding – and can be used for face-to-face or online activities, or both. Participants don’t need to sign up to use it. Once participants post, it is instantly available to view; similar to using post it notes or butcher’s paper in workshops. Different media can also be added to posts e.g. podcasts, images, video or documents. Copies of walls can be shared or exported in a variety of formats, particularly useful for text heavy walls. The free version gives you three customisable padlets, unlimited posts, and immortal padlets (i.e. they are not deleted even if inactive). Paid versions are again around $10 per month, and give the additional features of unlimited padlets, bigger file uploads and folders. Some paid versions also give full control of content. Padlet can also be embedded into WordPress websites, as you can see in the test padlet below.

The second is Miro https://miro.com . Miro’s free plan is available for as long as you want and for as many people as you want, for you to visualise, collect & share ideas. Every Miro user has their own profile, and team (or account) is the space where your boards are stored and where you can invite new members. All invited users are made part of your team and have access to all boards (no private boards). You can be a member of multiple teams (accounts). All team members can create boards, but only the 3 most recently created boards in your account are available for editing. The rest are inactive and locked in view only mode. Paid accounts are on a per member basis, making this a little more expensive than the other products, but paid accounts allow you to create private boards, to video chat, to have commenting guests, to back up your boards, to password protect public boards, and have a number of other additional features that the free account doesn’t.

Trello https://trello.com is another option that is similar in that boards are created with individual posts, but it also allows filtering, checklists, labels, & due date for tasks. Up to 10 boards can be created in the free version, with unlimited members, unlimited storage, & unlimited activity log. Paid accounts start at $10 per month, and allow advanced views of content, & larger file sizes, as well as further customisable options.

This list is definitely not intended to be extensive, nor does it include all the multitude of programs – free and paid – that are available. What works for you will depend on the features you want the programs to have, and your budget. Hopefully though it will give you ideas to make your virtual sessions that much more interesting and interactive for you and your participants.


Trish Thorpe

Associate Lecturer, Rural Placement Co-ordinator

Going Rural Health Ballarat

Clinical Biochemist/Medical Scientist & Teacher