Lutz Mueller 

Retrospectives with low engagement are arduous for you as a facilitator. In the current situation where most teams work from home, you might encounter low engagement during virtual retrospectives, and it is a pain in the ass.

In this article, I want to highlight actions you can do to increase your retrospective participation.

The retrospective is the Scrum event where you, as a Scrum Master, can work directly with your team on improvements. But what do you do if there is silence? Participants hardly contribute unless you ask a direct question. Maybe your team brings up very little to work with. That makes it difficult to get useful action items, which means it is tough to follow up on them and improve collaboration.

Take the Pressure off Yourself

First, every Scrum Master has been in the same situation. It is quite common that nobody speaks during a retrospective, at least if you are new in a team.

Second, you can only work with what you have. Some people are introverted, and some have problems speaking about their pains and problems.

Remember: Your goal is not to facilitate the most extraordinary meeting ever, where every participant will tweet about how cool and exciting the meeting was. Your goal is to guide the team during the retrospective to identify problems and decide on action items for improvement.

However, there are some ideas you can try to increase engagement during your retrospectives.

What You Can Do to Increase Engagement

The one thing that helps to increase engagement during the remaining retrospective (and other meetings, too) is to let everyone speak as soon as possible right after the beginning of the meeting. Participants who do not speak at the beginning of a meeting have implicit permission to remain silent for the rest of the meeting. That is even more important in remote retrospectives.

Make It Easy for them to Start Talking

Start your retrospective with a small activity where participants have to do something (for example, write a sticky note) and let them explain what they mean.

Here are some questions/task you can use:

  1. Post a picture of your favorite place on earth.
  2. What is your favorite movie/tv show?
  3. What was your first job?
  4. What is your favorite programming language?

Use questions and tasks which are very easy to answer. Don’t start with very personal details. At this stage in your retrospective, you want people talking. No matter what.

When everybody is done writing down a sticky note, start showing your note and explain it in a few sentences. Choose the next person directly and let this person choose the next person and so on.


  1. Let everybody talk at the beginning of the meeting.
  2. Let participants write down or post something.
  3. Let them explain or say 1-2 sentences about their sticky note or posting.
  4. Lead by example: Start yourself and explain your sticky note or posting.
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