Image courtesy: OnManorama.com
Video conferencing has become an integral part of our work life with everything from sales calls to team meetings, work interviews and town halls being conducted online. The social distancing guidelines aren’t the only reason that services such as those offered by Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and our own Jio Meet will continue beyond the Covid-19 lockdowns.
As more and more enterprises have found the positive impact of these conferencing platforms and shifted on to them, it also makes sense to be aware of the challenges that these apps have brought along. However, we are not here to discuss them (maybe in another post). The purpose is to give you a quick rundown on how to set up your meetings and manage them easily. For this piece, we are sticking to Zoom, which is arguably the most used…
When to Zoom in?
Meetings are meant to create business value and not merely for catching up. Set up a meeting on Zoom only when there’s something that needs discussion amongst multiple stakeholders of your team or the business itself. It should be used to brainstorm ideas or arrive at some crucial decisions to manage targets, coordinate business processes or even as a virtual town hall that can be used to share information or get a buy-in from the team on a new strategy. The purpose should be clearly defined or else it would result in a meandering bore that could eventually end up becoming an exercise in narcissism.
When not to Zoom in?
Since Zoom is available on the mobile as well as via the laptop (or desktop), there is a tendency among people to use the app too frequently, even for checking up something with just one of their colleagues. This is where WhatsApp can come in handy as it offers both voice and video that is as clear as Zoom is. Or even a simple phone call would suffice. We suggest that you drop extra video time to the already crowded screen time you have these days. There are enough apps on Play Store and iOS that allow you to control the time you spend on screen and going beyond the threshold is obviously unhealthy.
The Importance of an Agenda
Well, this isn’t strictly related to Zoom or even video conferencing. Meetings tend to meander unless there is a strict agenda that’s followed. Sending out an agenda well in advance so that the participants have time to gather and present their thoughts is important. Else, it could end up becoming one-sided. Zoom allows you to create and manage the agenda well when you put on the moderator’s hat. Mind you, it’s always better to nominate a moderator, if you are the one seeking the meeting. This removes the additional stress of directing the conversation from you, leaving things open for a sharper sharing of ideas and thoughts. This definitely brings in more productivity to the meetings and makes them outcome based, not intent based.
Interactivity is Important
The level of participation in Zoom meetings can be controlled by the moderator who can also set up some ground rules such as starting the call by muting all participants and then setting up a signal when one seeks to speak. Having all mics on unmute could also mean profligacy of all sorts of background noises, from the vegetable seller to the doorbell or even the phone. In fact, the agenda of the meeting could be so designed that each participant takes turns to present, be open to question and eventually to summarise the conversation.
What Defines a Crowd?
The thing to remember is that the smaller the size, the better the quality of interactive. Also, in this case everyone could be on video mode which makes it a far more energetic session. If the agenda is set in greater detail, participants can control their mics, taking notes when they’re on mute and reverting when there’s clarification needed or sought. These types of meetings work well for planning and business strategy.
However, it is not to say that one cannot have larger groups. A meeting size of up to 20 people would work well during a town hall or even an online training session. In such cases, the role of the moderator becomes critical as participants need to start muted centrally. And if the agenda is clearly set, the moderator can even create an impromptu speaker list. One should also be aware of the time that is set for such meetings as they tend to overshoot deadlines. Since the paid version of Zoom does not fix any end-time for meetings, there is a real danger that the participants forget the outcome and focus on the intent.
This is an important bit as since Zoom doesn’t require an email ID to log in, there is every chance of intruders stepping in. Whether the meeting hosts 10 people or 30, it would be a good idea for the moderator to act as gatekeeper while allowing users to enter. And while setting the agenda, the organizer could insist that users sign up using their names and remain visible at least at the start of the meeting. Just so you can counter-check for intrusions.