With the current global pandemic still ongoing, many office workers are still operating out of their homes. The video conferencing platform, Zoom, has very much become the glue that holds teams together, allowing colleagues to continue meeting to discuss business goals, upcoming project deadlines, and any obstacles that need to be addressed to continue with forward-motion.
However, it’s easy for Zoom meetings to become unproductive if they’re not properly managed. In the comfort of their homes, people are more prone to long-windedness in conversation, which can easily turn a simple 30-minute meeting into one that lasts for over an hour. There are also more distractions to deal with (crying children, barking dogs) and a different way of interacting (video boxes as opposed to face-to-face conversation) that can prove challenging initially when maximising the effectiveness of your Zoom meetings.
However, it is possible to make your Zoom meetings more productive, allowing your employees to have more productive workdays in turn and thus enabling your team as a whole to get more done throughout the week.
Here are some tips for making your Zoom meetings more effective and productive:
Set an agenda
An agenda can be as simple as a bullet-point list of items that are to be covered in the meeting.
Ideally, you would distribute an agenda to your attendees at least one day before the meeting. This allows them to come to the meeting prepared for a specific discussion and allows you to spend less time needing to expound upon a situation and its relevant details.
You can also make the agenda an open document on a platform such as Google Docs or Asana, which allows your team members to add to it if there are topics they would like to bring up during the meeting. This allows you to get a sense of the meeting’s flow in advance and make any necessary preparations to properly guide discussions.
One important thing to note is to include an objective on your agenda. In other words, what’s the purpose of the meeting? Is it to discuss an issue, or is it to make a decision on an issue (or both)? Again, this helps your attendees adequately prepare.
The benefit of using a platform like Zoom is that its screen-sharing capability will allow all attendees to see the agenda at once while the meeting is in operation. This enables your employees to visualize the meeting’s progress at any given time and see what topics are coming up in discussion.
Stay on task
One of the reasons meetings are notorious for running long is because any subject matter introduced during a discussion tends to become fair-game. As a result, the meeting doesn’t stay on task and doesn’t adhere to the prepared agenda.
To avoid this, it’s important to guide the discussion and keep it going in the right direction, with no detours.
You might say something to the effect of: “Thank you for bringing that up, Laura. For the purpose of time, let’s table that discussion for next week. I’ll include it in our next agenda, and we can more fully dive into the topic then.”
Again, allowing employees the opportunity to add to a shared agenda in advance offers you the ability to see what subjects are on team members’ minds and can help you determine which topics can be included in the upcoming meeting and which may need to be postponed for the next.
You might even make an announcement at the meeting’s start to let everyone know which topics will be discussed on that day and which will need to be tabled for later in order to end the meeting on time.
Watch the clock
This brings us to our next tip: watch the clock! Again, meetings have a bad reputation for running long. One of the causes of never-ending meetings is the simple fact that someone hasn’t been put in charge of managing the time. As a result, meetings become unfocused and no work gets done.
Always start your meetings on time and end them on time as well. Stay organized with your agenda. If certain topics need to be tabled for later discussion, make a note of them and address them in a later, follow-up meeting.
Most importantly, have someone serve as time-keeper. When you’re set against the clock, meetings have a way of becoming more laser-focused and effective.
Consider the attendees
Chances are, not everyone in your workplace will need to be in every single meeting you hold. If this is the case, there’s nothing wrong with letting select employees off the hook if the meeting’s topic doesn’t concern them.
In the same vein, if your meeting requires a key person to be present (a manager or executive, for instance), make sure they’ll be in attendance. Otherwise, the meeting holds no real purpose, as a significant decision can’t be made without that person’s presence. Follow up with any key people well in advance of the meeting to ensure they’ll still be able to attend.
Distractions will be inevitable when your team members are working out of a home office. YouTube is now inundated with amusing videos of professionals working from home and being interrupted by curious pets, crying children, or unsuspecting spouses.
It’s important to be understanding that your employees are doing their best to manage this new form of work-life balance. That said, a dog that won’t stop barking or a baby that refuses to be consoled can make it hard for others to hear what’s being discussed in a meeting.
Remind your participants at the start of each meeting to mute their microphones (easily achieved with the simple click of a button within Zoom). This allows everyone the opportunity to clearly hear whoever’s speaking at any given time. If someone needs to briefly step away from their computer for whatever reason (letting the dog out, helping a child), they can momentarily turn off their camera through Zoom as to not distract their colleagues with an empty desk chair.
These simple practices, though small, help make for better cohesion and communication in Zoom meetings.
End with clear action items
Perhaps the most important part of a meeting is deciding what happens next. Make sure that your team members know what needs to be done, who needs to do it, and when it needs to be accomplished.
Meetings should also close with a record of decisions that have been made. Too many meetings make decisions and they are never recorded so people forget, or they leave with differing ideas about what was decided!
If someone is taking notes during the meeting (which someone should be), make sure they send out a copy of those notes by email to everyone who attended, so that everyone has a copy of the action items and who’s responsible for them, as well as all decisions that were made during the meeting. This will increase productivity and keep everyone accountable to their goals.
Asana and other project management tools like it are great platforms to have open in Zoom’s screen-sharing mode so that tasks can be assigned to employees on the spot as needed or so that projects can be scheduled on a calendar with the necessary collaborators attached to it.
Zoom meetings are excellent tools to keep remote workers engaged and productive. They provide a way to dispense important information, make decisions, and get work done.
Using the strategies above, you can hold Zoom meetings that are purpose-filled and beneficial to all parties involved, ensuring that your workplace stays as productive as possible—even when dispersed across multiple home offices.
Which strategy will you start using this week?