How to increase engagement in 7 seconds

By Marianne Renner, Leadership Coach, Author, Speaker

“Does anyone have any questions?”
“Does anyone have any comments?”

If you’re like most leaders, you’ve probably been met with the screaming sound of silence after posing those questions to a group.


Let’s get real.

It’s painful when the only sounds you hear are crickets after asking for feedback.

Why can it be so tough to engage in a meeting or other group setting?

It’s probably not because you did such a great job explaining your content, although we’d all like to believe that’s the case.

Engagement is one of the most talked about topics in the workplace, and understandably so.


The facts.

Gallup reports that fewer than 35 percent of employees are fully engaged in their organizations. Yet, we know that engaged team members are more productive and more committed to an organization’s success.

Let’s take a look at three reasons you might not be getting the engagement you’d like in your meetings.


3 reasons.

  1. Processor speed. I’m not talking about your computer. I’m referring to the rate at which people process information in their minds. We’re all forming thoughts at different rates. Many times, team members are reflecting on the question posed to them. They’re soaking in the nuances and details. They want to be sure they fully understand the situation so they can thoughtfully respond.

    As a leader you may be a quick processor. You’re already familiar with the subject matter. You expect a response more quickly because you’re approaching the topic from your paradigm. But your audience is thinking it through. They just need a little more time to answer.


  1. Awkward sounds of silence. Most of us are uncomfortable with silence. We’re so used to filling every second of our day, that even a few seconds of silence feels like an eternity. We can hardly take a single breath without feeling like something is wrong. We ask for thoughts or questions, but we move on when the silence seems awkward.


  1. A long path to “yes.” The path to “yes,” can be a long and winding road. Your audience is wondering if they should respond. They’re asking themselves “is anyone else going to speak first? Should I say what I’m thinking? Is this a good idea? What will others think? Will I look stupid?” By the time they develop an inner “yes,” to sharing, it’s too late. You’ve moved on, and their window of opportunity has closed.

In summary, as leaders, we simply don’t give our audience enough time to respond.


If you can count to 7.

Let me introduce you to a little tool I affectionately refer to as the “7-second Rule.” This tool is so powerful, in part because it’s so simple. You can use this right now, and you’ll get immediate results.


Here’s how it works.

Step 1: Ask for audience response: “Does anyone have any questions?”

Step 2: Pause for 7 seconds. To help you become comfortable with the uncomfortable, simply take a slow, deep breath. One long, deep breath will consume about 7 seconds of time. Be sure to count to 7 as you breathe. This will get your mind off the silence.

Your 7 seconds of silence may feel like an eternity when you first try it. I assure you, it’s not.

You will begin to hear ideas you hadn’t heard before. You will hear from team members you’ve never heard from before. You’ll start to love your 7 seconds of silence because you know great things are coming.

As more people start to share, you’ll notice your teams loosen up. They’ll become more comfortable. They’ll begin to engage in fewer than 7 seconds. In no time, you’ll see a definitive increase in overall engagement.

If you liked this article, you’ll enjoy this resource: Download How to get people to follow your lead.

2 replies
  1. Floyd Brown
    Floyd Brown says:

    I used your 7 second rule in my most recent virtual training and got a lot more engagement from the group. Once we got a couple questions flowing, the fear of being wrong went away and the learning experienced was enhanced.

    • Marianne Renner
      Marianne Renner says:

      Floyd this is FANTASTIC! I love the results you saw immediately. What makes this tool so powerful is its simplicity. Way to go!


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