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How To Host Amazing Zoom Meetings

We don’t need to draw a picture to explain how important video conferencing tools have become in the past few months. While the good news is that distributed teams have realized that video meetings can be just as productive and effective as in-person meetings, the bad news is that many people are still struggling with making the most of virtual meetings.

We spoke to Maya Rimer, a participative and hosting specialist, about actionable steps managers can take before, during and after hosting Zoom meetings for their distributed teams. Let’s dive into it...

Before The Meeting

  1. Set clear expectations in advance: When setting a recurring meeting, whether that’s a weekly standup, or a department-wide catch-up, it’s important for managers to set clear expectations in advance. Maya recommends asking a powerful question that allows all participants to think about the subject before they login for the meeting. “You want your team member to show up at the meeting already engaged and invested. They need to know that they aren’t just invited as an audience and to hear the manager read out a report, but they are invited to participate in this discussion and that their opinions matter."

  2. Nominate a co-host: If, as the manager, you have decided to lead the meeting, then pick someone else from your team as the co-host. This person can be the meeting’s time-keeper or one who’s incharge of maintaining the decorum of this virtual space or harvesting all the notes and insights from the meeting. Maya says this co-host can be incharge of “recording the key points from the meeting and turning it into a word cloud, or keeping track of the overall mood of the meeting and its participants”.

During The Meeting

  1. Listen and Observe: Once the meeting has started, managers should keep a check on the overall energy of the meeting. If they feel there’s an energy drop, or there’s some kind of confrontation happening that may isolate one employee over another, then as the leader they should put a pause and offer everyone to take a deep breath or stretch. Maya says, “there’s a massive disconnect between the virtual world and our own physical world, it’s important for managers to create a space in these meetings where everyone feels equally involved”.

  2. To make sure every participant in the meeting gets speaking time: There’s always that one person in meetings who overpowers everyone, interrupts everyone with their comments, and takes over the spotlight. As a manager, if this is happening under your watch, Maya recommends to mute everyone and say something like, ‘I’d like to invite the voices who we haven’t heard from yet.’ This approach isn’t criticizing or poking at those participants who are speaking the most, but it’s also inviting introverts and telling them their opinions matter.

  3. When people join late: If someone is late to a meeting (which let’s be real, there’s always someone), Maya’s recommendation for managers and hosts is to always welcome them. “It’s a different feeling when someone is welcomed, instead of scorned at. As the meeting host, you can write a small welcome note, addressing the person who just joined, in the chat so you’re not interrupting the speaker.

After The Meeting

  1. Always send a follow-up email with actionable items: The meeting host should always end video meetings by communicating all relevant takeaways and implement a practice of sending follow-up emails with action items for each member of the team. This step will help you avoid that space where you’re having to chase up team members. This can be as simple as a bullet point list indicating what the meeting was about, the decisions made, and what each member is responsible for with deadlines.

  2. Collect feedback to improve processes: It’s no surprise we are big fans of data, here at Cassiopeia, but when Zoom meetings are concerned it’s important for managers to keep track of insights and feedback from meetings, especially the ones that are recurring and important for the department’s day-to-day duties. As the leader, ask your team what’s working and what’s not: Are you finding it difficult to log into the calls? Do you want us to incorporate muting rules? Was this meeting helpful or could the issues discussed have been resolved via email? These feedback sessions can help managers assess challenges and resolve them.

Best technical features on Zoom

  1. Hide Self View: As we move to a more virtual world, in all aspects of our work and social life, we have all been suddenly exposed to a world where there’s a constant mirror image of ours. Maya says, “Before the pandemic, we never used to walk around in our day-to-day life looking at ourselves all the time. But now, that’s changed”. Solution? Use the “hide self view” feature on Zoom, so you only see other participants and you’re less conscious.

  2. Use Breakout Rooms: This key feature on Zoom helps managers curate different kinds of spaces for their distributed teams. Especially if you have multiple meetings per day with the same people. “Managers are encouraged to create a speed-dating style meeting, where everyone has two minutes to speak, but in breakout rooms,” Maya adds.

BONUS: Essential keyboard shortcuts for Zoom

If you use Zoom multiple times a week, here are a couple of keyboard shortcuts worth learning to save you time:

‘I’ is for invite. Press Cmd+I (macOS) or Alt+I (Windows) to jump to the Invite window, where you can grab the link to the meeting or send invitations to others via email.

‘M’ is for mute. Press Cmd+Ctrl+M (macOS) or Alt+M (Windows) when you are the meeting host and want to mute everyone else on the line.

‘S’ is for Share. Press Cmd+Shift+S (macOS) or Alt+Shift+S (Windows) to share your screen.

Maya Rimer is an Art of Hosting practitioner, group facilitator & activist. If you’d like to learn more about hosting skills, you can join Maya for her course on The Art of Participatory Leadership, details here.

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