Get rid of Zoom fatigue for good
When was the last time you took a look at the way you conducted team meetings? If the answer is “never,” you’re not alone. Analyzing meeting systems are not always on every leader’s agenda. However, with the amount of data and research that’s available on meetings and productivity, it should be. One study showed that pointless meetings are costing U.S. companies approximately $399 billion a year. This jarring figure is fueling more companies to host fewer meetings that are action-oriented as opposed to more meetings filled with fluff.
Additionally, the channels of which most meetings are conducted have shifted entirely over the last year. Offices around the world went from in-person interaction to quickly learning how to adapt and fully operate in a virtual setting. Many companies are leveraging Zoom, a seemingly harmless tool that facilitates meeting needs. Unfortunately, many of these virtual meetings are conducted the same as if they were in-person. Only, virtual is not the same. Research has proven that processing an overwhelming number of social cues from a grid of individuals through a screen can be physically draining. This mental burnout may even lead to us turning off our cameras in an attempt to self-preserve.
Whether we remain remote or progress into a hybrid workplace, meeting systems and proceedings need to be reevaluated and evolve regularly. Learning how to properly run effective meetings is a critical component to a team’s success. Here is our guideline to effective meeting strategies that will leave everyone more engaged and less exhausted.
1. Determine the need for the meeting.
Too many Zoom meetings are leaving attendees virtually exhausted. Therefore, every meeting you schedule should have clear objectives and move projects forward. Meetings “just because” not only waste resources and time, they damage company culture. Before you dive into planning, make sure that the meeting is necessary. Status updates or announcements may be better shared through asynchronous communication or team huddles.
Furthermore, determine who is needed for the meeting. Do not over-invite. If the meeting only requires certain participants to reach the objectives, be sure to only invite those individuals. We can easily fall into the habit of inviting everyone. But if someone attends that doesn’t provide value, it can actually be counterproductive to the overall efficiency of your meeting.
2. Prepare in advance.
Prepping for a meeting is as important as the meeting itself. Many elements need to be ready before the meeting commences. One of those key items includes a strategic agenda. The agenda outlines the start time, meeting duration, end time, and clearly defined topics that will be discussed. Another important aspect of preparation is to determine the tools you’ll use. Although Zoom has become a default for many teams, there are scores of new tools that are available to enhance your meeting and participant engagement. Whatever tools you use, familiarize yourself with each through demos and videos. Recruit volunteers for a test-run so you absolutely know it will complement your meeting needs. The meeting itself is not the time or place to experiment with brand new software.
Lastly, refresh your facilitation skills. At times, you may need to bring in a professional facilitator. Not only do they have the expertise and tools to lead your meeting, but they can navigate your team through difficult or sensitive subject matter. It truly can be helpful to have an unbiased facilitator lead a meeting from a fully objective perspective.
3. Share expectations and goals.
At the start of every meeting, outline what you expect from participants as well as the meeting’s end goals. Expectations can range from keeping cameras on (if virtual) to being respectful of everyone’s time. If working remotely, you may want to remind everyone that virtual isn’t a pass to multitask. For a meeting to fully run efficiently, attendees need to be present and focused. Ground rules will not only help with the flow of the meeting, but they also promote dynamic engagement. If an issue arises, you can reference your meeting expectations at any time to keep everyone on track.
4. Create a safe space.
One of Voltage Controls’ holy grails for a successful meeting is to foster emotional safety. The heart of this concept is to create an environment where every attendee feels safe to be themselves and participate in the discussion. Everyone should feel comfortable sharing their ideas. This may mean monitoring those who dominate the conversation or calling upon those who are quiet. Pay attention to ways you can amplify voices. If someone gets cut off, make it a point to circle back to their thought or idea. Hiring a meeting facilitator helps with this process because they are experts in understanding unconscious bias and cultivating an inclusive environment for everyone.
5. Stay on track and redirect.
Resolving items that aren’t on the agenda can be tempting, but you should remain loyal to your objectives. Veering off course will only eat up time and you’ll lose valuable steam. If you notice the conversation drifting away from the agenda, redirect. Suggest that the conversation be taken offline or saved for a future meeting. Additionally, attendees shouldn’t spend too much time on one subject. Pay attention to the clock and move the topics along to remain at a productive pace.
6. Recap and gather feedback.
Ending the meeting with a group debrief is an integral part of an effective meeting. Share an overview of the next steps and deadlines. Everyone’s responsibilities should be made clear. Additionally, allow time for participants to offer any significant takeaways. To strengthen your weaknesses, you’ll also need to receive feedback from attendees. Constructive feedback can be used to adapt to group needs that you may be blinded to and improve future meetings.
All the work you put into the meeting is wasted if nothing is achieved and projects don’t move forward. Following up reinforces what was achieved at the meeting and reminds everyone of their role in next steps. With everything fresh in your mind, a follow-up email should be sent directly after the meeting if possible. If not, within a 24-hour window is ideal. Huddles may be needed for updates on any hurdles your team is facing.
Meetings don’t have to be met with eye-rolls or yawns. If designed with purpose and intent, they can inspire deep and creative thinking. Meetings can also draw teams closer, even at a distance. This requires the right facilitation skills that take time to master. To hone in on your technique, join us for our virtual community facilitation practices. These free weekly meet-ups help facilitators perfect their craft and improve meeting quality. You will practice your facilitation approach, discuss fresh trends, and connect with and learn from fellow facilitators. Exceptional meetings begin with exceptional facilitators.