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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Can we Zoom better?

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

people on a Zoom call

“Zooming” is already in the dictionary, as in “to move very quickly,” but it may soon have an additional definition: “To meet virtually over a video-conferencing platform.” After all, we made “google” a verb in 2006.

In the past week, I have attended 4 webinars, a Zoom Sunday School class, a Zoom Master Mind meeting, a Zoom Kindergarten graduation, a Zoom Toastmasters meeting, and a Zoom meeting with a future client. How many times did you Zoom?

Next week I have more Zoom meetings scheduled: to meet one-on-one with colleagues, for a non-profit board meeting, and a gathering with friends as an alternative to meeting at a restaurant. How about you? How are you Zooming?

Zoom is the new normal for meetings

Virtual meetings became the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic with mandates to work from home and to social distance. They are likely to remain a mainstay in how we do business.

Virtual meetings have many benefits but they also pose many challenges. Search online and find advice for Virtual Meeting Etiquette, overcoming Zoom Fatigue, and strategies for video conferencing with young children underfoot.

As we navigate this approach to communicating, it’s time to raise the bar from accepting mediocrity to establishing best practices for effective virtual meetings. This tip series is a starting point.

5 tips for more effective and successful virtual meetings:

Tip #1 Define your purpose

A virtual meeting, otherwise known as video conferencing, allows participants to gather for business, learning, or social networking from remote locations regardless of weather, travel limitations, or to prevent the spread of illness.

As with any meeting, in-person or virtual, convene for a reason and clearly communicate the purpose to the participants ahead of time.

Tip #2 Select the appropriate platform

Numerous platforms are available for online virtual meetings, such as GoToMeeting, Zoom, WebEx, Digitell, Skype, Adobe Connect, or Google Meet.

Select the one that best fits your organization’s technical needs and capabilities, budget, security concerns, and ease of use for participants. Make sure everyone has access to join and fully participate.

Tip #3 Provide instruction

Until all participants have maneuvered the meeting platform successfully, be sure to provide clear instructions.

This includes how to join the meeting, navigate the platform, how to contribute to the conversation, and how to use functions such as mute, screen share, chat, Q&A, and more.

A prior practice run for those new to virtual meetings is a welcome gesture for all.

Tip #4 Designate a host

Meetings are more successful when someone fills the role of moderator or host. This individual sends out the meeting invitation. They welcome participants upon “arrival” and make sure the meeting runs smoothly.

They direct the entire meeting including introductions, going over the purpose and agenda, leading discussions, keeping track of time, and summarizing outcomes.

Tip #5 Solicit full engagement

Meetings are most successful when all participants contribute and engage fully in discussions and decisions. Organize the meeting to allow for adequate opportunities for engagement.

Prepare participants ahead of time so they have the information needed for discussions. Structure the agenda and utilize the technology to allow everyone to have a voice.

In June 2020, I had the pleasure of presenting a webinar series, along with my colleagues, Marianne Smith Edge, Sonja Stetzler, and Julie Satterfeal. We explored numerous ways to successfully communicate and connect at the virtual table.

Creating this webinar forced us to build our knowledge and skills. Now that "zooming" is becoming as normal as meeting in person, and likely will continue to be, let's make it our collective goal to keep doing it better, and better, and better.

“Whoever invented the meeting must have had Hollywood in mind. I think they should consider giving Oscars for meetings: Best Meeting of the Year, Best Supporting Meeting, Best Meeting Based on Material from Another Meeting.” ~ William Goldman

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