Virtual Meetings Are Here To Stay
June 23, 2020
Six months ago, many of us had no clue what someone meant when they said they had a Zoom meeting to attend. Today, it’s become the newest version of Band-Aid® versus adhesive bandage. Zoom has become more than a brand name, it’s come to represent video conferencing even for those conducted with a different app.
Sertoma staff and clubs have all put Zoom to good use over the past few months as a way to stay in touch, connect with friends, and conduct business, all while staying safe during this pandemic. Training on our national Zoom account was included last year at convention for the board and specialists’ use, yet for a year, only one or two asked to use the service. Now? Well, rarely does a day go by without at least one club or Sertoma leader asking a question about Zoom use or submitting a reservation request. And that’s not the end of it. Many of the clubs plan to continue to incorporate Zoom meetings from this point forward when face-to-face gatherings are not practical—think snowstorms as a quick example.
Now that we’ve all been able to move past the new-technology jitters, how about we take a quick look at how to make this new meeting format as bright and shiny as possible? There aren’t any hard and fast rules to follow when video conferencing, any more than there is with an in-person meeting. There are always considerations when making plans, but there are some tips and guidelines that make it all run smoothly.
- Develop an agenda beforehand and share it with participants when appropriate. Include the following:
- Who will be in attendance
- Topics of discusion
- Meeting structure such as time limits on topic discussions, etc.
- Because Sertomans are such a friendly bunch, consider building in the first few minutes as “chat” time where everyone does a quick catch up.
- Be sure to cover meeting guidelines at the start of the meeting:
- Rules of engagement such as all participants remaining muted until the host requests a participant to unmute, or will everyone be unmuted and allowed to talk as they wish
- How to access Zoom’s chat functionality or if it will not be part of the meeting structure
- Cameras are to remain off unless requested, or can they be on at all times
- When possible, introduce everyone. If self-introductions are allowed, be prepared to limit each individual to a quick 1-2 minute slot to keep things moving.
- If you are the host or are making a presentation for the first time, remember to look at others faces. It will feel more natural and you’ll appear less awkward.
- Be sure to incorporate others into the meeting by assigning portions of the meeting to another attendee. This can help keep the meeting flowing, fresh, and fun.
- Be concise and to the point to maintain participant attention. Be prepared to redirect when needed, even if that means redirecting yourself.
- Sending out post-meeting minutes—a simple email with bullet points is all that is needed really—may be a great way to keep between-meeting assignments visible and to share what went on with those who were unable to attend.
- And last but not least, don’t take your laptop, smartphone or tablet with you into that one room we usually use alone!
We’ve all attended meetings where it was obvious that Attendee ABC was there only in person. Their gaze indicated there were mentally in a galaxy far far away. The same can happen during video conferences, and can be far more distractive in this meeting style that they might be in a meeting where attendees were unable to see everyone’s faces. Here are a few common recommendations of things to avoid doing.
- If an agenda was provided, review prior to joining the conference
- If you’re accessing the meeting by computer, then don’t play with a smartphone or tablet (similar to the far far away gaze)
- Remember to let others finish their sentence or statement before starting to speak
- Access the meeting a few minutes before the start time so any technology speed bumps can be traversed without causing undue stress
- Refrain from working on other tasks (paperwork, answering emails, cooking dinner, etc.)
- Locate yourself in an area where the chance for interruption is as reduced as much as possible
- Remember that politeness is just as important in this meeting format as it is when meeting in person
At first glance many felt video conferencing was less personal than an in-person meeting, but we have branched out from necessity and have visited living rooms, offices, kitchens, and backyard patios, met cats and dogs, kids, and significant others, all while attending a meeting. In some ways, we have expanded our understanding of each other by learning we are each more than just an individual sitting in a chair. We are all part of a family, have a home life, we have pets, kids, extended family, hobbies—the list goes on. Maybe, just maybe we know each other a little better by learning a new way to connect.