HOW To Have Better Zoom Meetings.
I’d bet during lockdown, we’ve all had out fair share of poor Zoom Calls. In the absence of in office communication, we are all having to communicate through a new medium and like any new changes, it takes some getting used to. So, how do we learn to have better Zoom Meetings.
Over the last few months, I’m sure we’ve all been in a meeting which we didn’t really need to attend. Or even a meeting which we’ve left thinking, ‘okay, what was that actually about? and what do I need to do next because of it?’. We are all negotiating this new way of working but there are some key principles you can apply to your calls that will help you have efficient and effective Zoom calls and meetings.
HOW to have better zoom meetings
A good meeting conducted through any medium starts with everyone being really clear on the intention of the meeting. About what needs to be achieved by the end of the meeting.
A great test you can do at the start of the meeting is to ask everyone who is present to state in a single sentence what the meeting is intended to achieve. If you get the same answer from everyone, then the meeting can proceed. If not, you have a problem and need to address that before any discussion starts.
A way to facilitate this is to clearly outline the intention in the meeting invite and associated emails. Then in the meeting, nominate someone to be responsible for keeping the meeting in line with that intention. Ask them to frequently ‘check in’ with the meeting intention and ask is this relevant to this meeting.
TIP: If the topic of discussion diverts away from the intention, ask ‘does this need another meeting to discuss?’. If the answer is ‘yes’, then make a record to schedule a specific meeting for that topic and note who would need to be present. A great rule to apply, is if a topic takes more that five minutes to discuss, then it warrants another meeting.
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What topics do we need to cover in the meeting. This is key to how to have better Zoom calls and meetings, as you are not all in the office there can be a tendency to have a ‘catch up’ on these calls. An agenda can be a great way to ensure you focus peoples minds, explore all the relevant points, the power to let everyone speak, know who you need to attend and creates the structure to keep track of decisions made on each of the agenda items.
TIP: Make sure you outline the intention and agenda ahead of time, give people at least 24 hours to read the information so they can come to the meeting prepared.
Who needs to be there?
With us all working from home, isolated from each other it can be tempting to ‘get everyone on the call’ for the opportunity to see others and help keep engaged. However, being clear about the purpose of a meeting also allows you to be clear about who actually needs to attend. There is no point people being present, if they are not engaged with the topics to be covered.
If you feel the need to have social interaction – maybe set up an office quiz for 30 minutes to allow some form of social interaction, outside of focused meetings.
With a clear intention and outline of what will be covered, you should create the environment in which people have the autonomy to decline a meeting if they need to. If they read the clearly outlined intention and the concise agenda and feel they cannot contribute to that discussion, they should be able to decide whether this purpose concerns them or if they have something to contribute. If you are a manager or leader in your organisation, you should be able to trust your team to discern what makes an effective use of their time.
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Set a time limit and stick to it. Apply Parkinson’s Law to your meetings.
In the fifties, the historian, C. Northcote Parkinson, published an essay in The Economist that began with the following observation:
“work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.
Be aware that the more time you allocate for a meeting, the longer the discussion. Less time will result in a concise discussion. Try capping meetings at 45 mins – no chance to overrun. Make someone responsible for ‘keeping time’ almost doing a countdown in the meeting ‘twenty minutes left’. It is a great way to keep meetings focused.
TIP: Use the 15 minutes after the call or meeting allows people time to write up their notes and create their plan for how they are going to achieve any task delegated to them.
This sounds mad, but it is key to how to have better zoom meetings. How many times have you come out of a meeting and realised, there was no outcome, no decision? Given this new way of working, it is imperative that communication is concise and each task/project has clear deadlines. Otherwise, you will have to deal with an influx of direct messages to clarify points not discussed in the meeting.
However, with your clear intention and agenda outlined you can tick off each as you discuss it and have an outcome from each.
TIP: At the end of your meeting, make sure you review you intention and ask have we achieved this? Next review each of the agenda items and go round all attendees towards the end of the meeting and confirm who is doing what and by when. Note down the clear objectives to implement and integrate in the coming days and weeks.
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In all conversations about efficiency and productivity, however, it is worth insisting on something again maybe a little obvious.
Many of us miss the work environment, the banter. Meetings are often a great place to bring teams together as human beings – rather than just as email addresses. They can be important reminders that people do work in teams, collaborate and co-create – something people forget when completing their own tasks.
Collaborating together and combining skills can be an amazing experience for all present. These interactions build company culture and forge relationships. So, make sure that this great opportunity of meetings is not missed.
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