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Experimenting With a Better Zoom Meeting Process

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This past week I made it to the end of the week before having a full-on mental WTF temper tantrum moment alone in my home office.

(Note: No humans or animals were harmed in the process.)

The Big Zoom Meeting Experiment:

I’m so done with wasting my life away on more useless and boring Zoom meetings.

Since the quarantine the number of Zoom meetings I’ve been attending has gotten out of hand. It varies from team meetings, client meetings, new business meetings, networking meetings, advisory meetings, coaching calls — just to name a few. Some of the frustration stems from the format, some of it stems from the ill-prepared nature that many people approach meetings from, but most of it I think is just the sheer volume of hours that I spend each week jumping from video call to video call.

Do you have any of these types of meetings? Are you tired of wasting your time in useless Zoom or video calls? Awesome…me too! Please read on and let’s experiment toward a better way together.

The Science of Why Zoom and Virtual Meetings are More Exhausting Than Face-to-Face Meetings

Studies show that Zoom and other remote video meetings cause fatigue significantly more than face-to-face meetings. If you’ve been working from home or remotely for the past 6+ months, you don’t have to read the stats from smart publications like National Geographic and the Wall Street Journal on how video meetings result in serious tune-out by the 30- to 45-minute time period. You’re already well aware. And you also don’t have to be a researcher or social scientist to comprehend that mirror neurons and brain chemicals work differently via an LCD screen than they do when you’re physically sitting in front of another human. You might not be familiar with the scientific lingo of it all, but I’m sure you’ve felt it.

How to Tame Your Inner Meeting Masochist

I’m a bit of a workhorse (or masochist) when it comes to powering through things I don’t want to do, which I think is one of the reasons that I can tap into my own grit to grow and learn fast. It is also one of the reasons why I will do things the wrong way for longer than I should because I can often get into bad habits quickly.

Maybe it’s the designer/engineer hybrid in me.

Maybe it’s the tug of war battle between my left and right brain.

Whatever it is, it’s not helpful when it comes to slowing down and approaching every meeting with the same verve.

So, between the universal inefficiencies of Zoom meetings and my own shortcomings, I’m deciding that it’s time to do something about it. It’s time to end the dread of Zoom meetings and reinvent the way we do them.

How Can We Have a Better and More Valuable Zoom Meeting Experience?

This is the question I keep asking myself. Maybe you’re asking yourself the same thing.

If yes, then chances are you probably share some of my Zoom-related sentiments: I want meetings to be a better use of everyone’s time. I want to feel more energized and focused when I connect with my teams. And most importantly I want to leave more time for solo thinking, which studies show is when the best thinking occurs.

But I, or we, can’t simply “will” better Zoom meetings into existence.

In true design thinking fashion, I’ve come to accept that the only way to get to a better Zoom meeting experience is through experimentation.

This is How the Zoom Meeting Experiment Works

Your phone, browser, or app notifies you that it is time for your Zoom meeting. Your muscle memory likely has you clicking or dialing into that meeting.

WAIT! This is different. Instead of joining the meeting…

You and all the meeting attendees open and review the resources and spend time thinking about them individually instead. Everyone doesn’t join the Zoom until 30 minutes into the meeting, leaving planned time for you and them to think about the challenge, the work, and the process on how to best spend the time together. Set a timer. You can do this on Google or by using your phone so you don’t get too deep in flow and forget to join the meeting (I did this the first few times without the cue!).

  • When the timer goes off at the 30-minute mark, join the zoom video call link. (I use my apple watch but you can also use a Time Timer if you fancy a physical one.)
  • First, before thrusting right into that meeting, welcome everyone in the meeting and connect with one another and see how your teammates or customers are doing. (I borrowed this from The Axelrod Group’s Meeting Canoe framework) that I learned from my friend and innovation consultant Cate Johnson.
  • Second, quickly sync on what you’re going to achieve.
  • Third: dive in and run your meeting.
  • At the end of each meeting before running into your next meeting take a moment and jot down how you feel.
  • At the end of each week take note of how this format has been different from your other ways to meet. Reflect on it. Write it down.

Run this experiment for your Zoom meetings for four weeks (or a minimum of 15 meetings).

Share your experience with me. Feel free to comment below if you can.

Some potential things to think about what to share (please comment on any of your thoughts on this).

  • How you felt about the first (solo) 30 minutes.
  • How you felt about the second (group) 30 minutes.
  • What did you like?
  • What did you wish for?
  • What did you wonder about?

Capture some observations on how this was similar or different from how you typically meet.

Collaboratively Testing This Meeting Method (Let’s Learn and Evolve Together!!!)

  • Book an hour meeting with me. You can do that here https://bit.ly/3hWVr5T (it’s totally cool if we don’t know one another — let’s help each other out).
  • Send over what materials you wish to go over (the deck, doc, the design prototype/mockups, the artifact, the problem, etc) along with why you’d like to meet. (Please attach that to the invite you get when you book the meeting)

Questions to answer before booking that meeting:

  • In your opinion, why will this meeting be helpful to you, the team, or the customer?
  • What do you want to discuss during this meeting?
  • What do we want to decide during this meeting?

Add the answers to the above to the calendar invite.

*Full disclosure: I might decline depending on the answers to these questions.

Okay…Let the first iteration of the #ZoomExperiment begin!

P.S. A few pro tips:

Use a scheduler to make booking the meetings faster. (I love tools like X.AI or Calendly.)

Record the meeting (with consent) using Otter.ai (cuts down on wasteful notetaking)

If you are a visual person use a tool like Miro (to replace a whiteboard if you are virtual).

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