How to Run Effective Meetings… in the Time of Zoom [infographic]
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How to Run Effective Meetings… in the Time of Zoom [infographic]

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Running effective meetings is a key skill for any executive. However, data indicates that ineffective meetings waste billions of dollars per year in lost productivity – a fact which will likely come as no surprise to many.

In 2020 and beyond, the pandemic has only exacerbated this issue. A business in 2021 may still need as many meetings, but they’re now often held online, which creates a new set of challenges.

Increased productivity isn’t the only or even most important reason to make meetings effective. An executive or leader that can create a culture of purposeful, engaging and effective meetings – whether in person or remote – can also increase teamwork and overall happiness on the job.

With this in mind, here are five best practices for effective meetings… in the time of Zoom:

1. Make Meetings Essential

The first and most obvious problem with some meetings is that they didn’t need to be meetings at all. To avoid a meeting that isn’t essential, just ask questions such as: Is this meeting necessary? Would an email suffice? Is there truly new information to share?

Make no mistake, some meetings need to be had – and there’s even value in the routine of a regular meeting – but if attendees won’t leave a meeting with the feeling that it was beneficial, you may want to reconsider it.

… in the time of Zoom: Remote meetings are easy in one sense. Many fall prey to the fallacy of “because we can, we should.” Avoid this.

Even remote meetings cost time and energy.

2. Start (and End) on Time

If you’re going to have a meeting, it’s vital that you start on time. Doing so shows respect and sets a productive tone. Similarly, meeting attendees should know approximately how long a meeting will last and should be able to expect it won’t go long.

There’s also nothing wrong with ending a meeting early, if everything has been sufficiently covered. Doing so sends a message of respect for the value of the attendees’ time.

… in the time of Zoom: Start and end times are even more vital for remote meetings, since people have to plan extra time for logging in and other technical considerations.

What’s more, data is showing that remote meetings are draining for attendees in a way that physical meetings are not. Make sure to start and end on time accordingly, as well as keeping meeting lengths to a minimum and including breaks.

3. Have (and Follow) an Agenda

When you hold a meeting, make sure there’s an agenda and make sure it gets followed.

People like to know what to expect and an agenda makes it easier to keep people engaged, resulting in a more effective meeting.

… in the time of Zoom: It’s usually possible to screen share during a remote meeting and many people are more engaged by visuals. For this reason, consider sharing your agenda on-screen during remote meetings.

4. Encourage Engagement

There are many great ways to do this:

  • Teach attendees about effective listening, and encourage note taking and other strategies that will help focus attention and build engagement.
  • Seek regular input from attendees, but “call on” attendees sparingly, as some may not respond well to this.
  • Consider assigning roles to as many attendees as possible – roles such as note taker, time keeper and so on.
  • Most importantly, control the meeting, but not the conversation. If the meeting takes a turn you didn’t anticipate, but is still bringing value, don’t discourage the engagement.

… in the time of Zoom: In a remote meeting, “tuning out” is far easier than in an in-person meeting. Encourage remote meeting attendees to limit distractions such as their phones. If having attendees on video is an option, consider doing so – being able to see others and be seen is also an aid to engagement.

5. Finish With Next Steps (and Know Who Owns Them)

Many meetings generate a list of “To-Do” items. In order to ensure progress continues beyond the meeting room, consider finishing the meeting with next steps or action steps. It’s also important to know who is responsible for which steps, and consider including deadlines and a next meeting date as well, depending on the situation.

… in the time of Zoom: Once again, allow remote meeting technology to work for you and share action steps on screen. After the meeting, you could also follow up with a next meeting invite, link to a video of the meeting, related documents or links, etc.

Making the Complex Simple

Running an effective meeting is an important skill. The rise of remote meetings during the pandemic has made developing and deploying this skill even more critical.

With best practices like these, any executive or leader will have helpful tools to meet this challenge.

Please also see the helpful infographic below: