What Do You Do About Latecomers?

24 AMAZING questions were asked during the last Member Engagement Lab, and we didn’t have time to answer them all, so I will start answering them here! By the way, if you couldn’t make the first Lab, no worries, join us for the next one.

Robin asked a question that I bet is on many people’s minds:

“We use Zoom a lot. What is the workaround for the chat, when people who join late can’t access all the chat history from before they joined? I think that inhibits their feeling of belonging and contributing since they don’t know what has already been shared.”


This is tricky because if we wait for latecomers to start the virtual meeting or webinar, the early birds start multi-tasking (and we may never win their attention back.) But life happens, so sometimes people log in late, and we still want to engage them, too.

Here are a few mechanics I use in my presentations and events as appropriate.

Make Chat Repeats Okay

When I arrive late to a conversation, I tend to stay quiet because I don’t want to say the same thing someone else has already said. But if the host makes it okay, even desirable, to have repeats, latecomers may not feel this inhibition. During a presentation, I may say something like this: “Don’t worry about repeats. Repeating something someone else may have said is great because we can see which ideas are bubbling to the top.”

Follow-up Later On

Latecomers often ask, “Can we have the chat transcript?” or “Can we have the recording?” Offering the recording and chat can be a great way to allow people to catch up on the information shared on their own time.

There is a trust issue, however. People know when you are recording, so they can opt into using their camera and verbally expressing themselves. But they might chat about something they don’t really want the world to see. If I send out the chat in a debrief report, I always anonymize the chat. I’ll pull the chat into an Excel spreadsheet, delete the column with the chatters’ names, and keep the substantive conversation.

Make it Fun to Come Early

I’m a massive fan of Unofficial Starts. Unofficial Starts happen in that time before the official start. So, let’s say your event starts at 2 PM; you might open the Zoom room at 1:55 or 1:57, assuming there are people in the waiting room. If there’s a small crowd or if everyone knows each other, the Unofficial Start can be a super casual check-in-style conversation. If the group is large and there are many first-timers, try a more structured activity. One person in the Lab said,

“[Unofficial Starts] avoid that awkward people-logging-in-and-everyone-feels-awkward-staring-at-each-other” feeling. Unofficial Starts can also raise energy, set the tone, build camaraderie, warm up the group, and help people feel more comfortable participating—not to mention get people excited about coming a little earlier the next time.
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