How to Run a Productive Zoom Call

COVID-19 has changed the way we work in many ways. The pandemic has created a boom for Zoom, creating a space for virtual holidays, celebrations, team meetings, and club events.

While Zoom has been great in connecting us, we all know that it also has its challenges.

Here’s a list of things we’ve all seen on Zoom calls:

  • People often zone out because they’re not paying attention.
  • Multi-Tasking. You’d be amazed at how many people are on Amazon shopping or completing other tasks, like email!
  • Family members in the background.
  • People forgetting to mute/unmute themselves.
  • Not being able to see the presenter’s screens.
  • Terrible lighting coming from behind that gives the impression you’re talking to a shadow.
  • They only see half your face.
  • Lost connection (this one might not be your fault. It’s technology. Enough said.)

Virtual meetings don’t have to be frustrating or unproductive. They can be more efficient than in-person meetings. Here are a few tips for making that happen:

Video: On

Be On Camera!  55% of all communication is done through sight! By showing your face, you make others feel like you are all meeting in person. Video conferencing, as opposed to just audio, makes the meeting feel more personalized. It’s easier to engage and stay focused when you can see the people you are talking to. This will allow you and those you are meeting with to see physical reactions as well.

Start with Pleasantries..and Don’t Make it All About You!

Dale Carnegie said, “I made more friends being interested in 2 months than being interesting for 2 years!”  Don’t start each meeting by getting into business right away. Show interest in your peers, ask how they are doing, and engage in a quick conversation. When they ask about you, brevity is your friend. Be sincere, but getting the ball back into their court to get them to talk about themselves is a perfect way to build rapport and trust.

Create an Agenda

Just as you would in a regular meeting, create an agenda for the meeting and stick to it. (Quick Tip: Send the agenda beforehand so everyone knows what to expect!)

This will keep the call organized and efficient. Share the agenda with the other participants on the call so they know what to expect. If the meeting is long, allow for a few-minute break so your peers can stretch, grab a glass of water, or use the restroom. This will also help to prevent “Zoom fatigue.”

The 40 Minute Meeting

After working from home for so long, people are tired of staring at their screens all day. Keep your meetings to the important topics and make sure that you are concise. One great way to accommodate this is to have all your calls be named, “The 40 Minute Meeting.”  In reality, 30 minutes is usually too short. Saying “40” just rolls off the tongue and people like it.  Plus it allows you to focus so people can move on to other things before the next meeting at the top of the hour...which most likely is 60 minutes!  Plus, having the extra 20 minutes before your next meeting allows you to summarize the meeting via email, send a note to individuals about clear next steps, use the restroom, stretch your legs, etc. Try it. People love it!

Practice the Technology

“Amateurs practice until they get it right. Professionals practice until they never get it wrong.”

We all know the feeling of watching someone struggle with their Zoom during a meeting. It’s awkward watching someone spend a long time trying to share their screen or talking for five minutes without forgetting to unmute. It’s helpful to practice the technology ahead of time so you know how to work everything. Zoom is regularly providing updates to their platform to make meetings run smoother so be sure to check these features ahead of time. By familiarizing yourself with the software, you can also be a source of help for others on your team.

Don’t Be Afraid of Discussion

If you’re having a meeting that discusses tough issues, don’t be afraid to have it over Zoom. It might be easier to have these hard conversations in person, but that might not be an option right now. Having meetings virtually takes practice but practice can make progress. After a few meetings online, you’ll find yourself feeling much more comfortable with an online platform.

Encourage Participation

Getting people to participate is hard, especially if it’s in a virtual setting. By encouraging others to participate, they are more likely to be engaged and contribute to the conversation. You can ask for feedback to find out what went well and what didn’t. The more participation, the more productive your meeting will be!

Note:  Set up a visual reminder card that says, “ENGAGE.” You can also use a 3-minute sand timer. Try to turn it over throughout the presentation. If you speak for more than 3 minutes without engaging the others, you are talking too long.

Record the Meeting

Whether in the office or at home, someone will be bound to have a conflict with a meeting eventually. One great benefit of having meetings online is that Zoom has a recording feature where you can screen record the meeting. If someone misses a meeting, they can access this recording and watch it to see what they missed. This feature is very helpful in keeping everyone on your team on the same page.

Send a Follow-Up

After a Zoom meeting is done, send your team a follow-up email with the next steps. If anyone had Internet troubles or distractions during the meeting, this follow-up can help everyone understand the relevant takeaways. This will avoid any misunderstandings and allow everyone to have a permanent record of what was discussed. Make the subject line “Meeting about (Topic): (Date)”, so everyone can easily find it in their inbox.

Ask for Feedback

It never hurts to ask for feedback to improve your processes. Ask your team members what works well and what doesn’t with Zoom meetings. This can help you to structure your future meetings, both as a team and on individual calls. Some obstacles may be out of your control, such as noisy neighbors or a bad Internet connection, there are others that you can help to fix. For example, you can work collaboratively to make meetings more efficient and engaging.

While Zoom meetings may be awkward and not your favorite, there are ways to make them enjoyable and productive. By using these tips, researching what others are doing, and asking for feedback, you can make your Zoom calls helpful. These tricks will help you make your meetings run as smoothly as they would if they were in your office, if not more!

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