Just a few weeks ago, very few people had heard of Zoom, never mind “been zoomed”, or rarely attended a virtual meeting. But here we are in COVID-19 times and suddenly many of us are stuck at our desks (working from home ones obviously) and on Zoom or equivalent virtual meeting platforms all day long, barely coming up for air, or to take part in that online yoga class we keep promising ourselves we will do – via Zoom of course!

I have spoken to many broken Zoom meeting warriors in recent days, “it wasn’t meant to be like this Jo.” I hear you, but we are where we are and for the time being need to manage as best as we can, so here are some pointers which I hope will help you with your busy online meeting schedules.

  1. Everything takes longer virtually.  Allow time for that, internet connections, people getting used to tech, introductions at the start of the meeting etc. DO NOT accept an invite to a meeting if its back to back with a previous meeting, schedule a 10-15 minute gap to allow for things taking longer and to give you time to move from one to the other – mentally!
  2. Insist on one/and or write it yourself with timings and stick to it! If there isn’t an agenda, look to business guru Stephen Covey, one of his seven habits of highly effective people is “to start with the end in sight”. Translate this into your meeting and ask or state at the start – “why are we are here, and what do we want to achieve by the end of the meeting?” Or, in other words, get super clear on how you want your precious time to be used.
  3. Share out the roles. Yes we know you are fabulous and brilliant, but you’re not that brilliant, trust me! It will be much easier if you don’t try to chair a meeting, keep time and take notes and actions. Share the load and allocate tasks out being clear on who is doing what.
  4. Become an expert. Whatever tech you are using, learn it and learn it fast. If needs be, practice it with a buddy first. Understand the functionality and then be very clear with the people attending the meeting on how you want them to use it. Cameras on or off? Mute when not speaking? Using a chat function to ask questions or indicate you want to speak etc.
  5. Channel your inner Graham Norton. If you are chairing the meeting, you will need to dial up your energy levels. Introduce people, manage the pace and flow, bring people into the conversations and ask the right questions. And as for the “Red Chair” moment at the end of the meeting – will leave that one to you!
  6. Good practice….. regardless of your role in the meeting it goes without saying that good practice is:
    1. Be present and focused on the meeting in hand, so that you don’t have to ask for things to be repeated because your mind had wandered off.
    2. Dress “appropriately”- or not! Your call, you choose how people see you, only you know what image you want to present!
    3. Peace- if possible minimise background noise, tricky in these days of everyone being at home, but at the very least put yourself and kids/dogs/neighbours etc on mute.
    4. Announce yourself when you join a meeting and maybe before each time you speak in case the other attendees don’t know you very well.
  7. A “touch of fun”and keeping it light needs to be factored into virtual meetings, of course being respective to the situation, work that needs to done and discussed and peoples moods. How about a quick round of “what did everyone have for dinner last night?”  Or, if you are living with other people, pretend they are your co-workers, describe their bad behaviour to your team”. “Yesterday, my co-worker scribbled all over my notebook whilst I was on a Zoom call”. “My co-workers insist on stopping for lunch at midday and then won’t eat anything I prepare for them”. “My co-worker drank all my beer!” You get the drift – your “co-workers” could be your kids, your partner, your flatmates etc…

It’s really all about amplifying and dialling up all the normal good meeting practices that you use for standard face to face meetings – planning, organising, chairing, involving, engaging and getting stuff done efficiently and effectively.

If all else fails – you could invite a goat to your meeting. Hold that thought!

Jo Redman