Hosting a Great Zoom Meeting

Video conferencing seems here to stay and it’s a great tool for cohousing communities, especially for forming communities that do not yet live together.  Even established communities are finding they can get increased participation when attending from home is an option. This is particularly true for parents of young children and adults with physical conditions that make it hard to leave home.  

I refer to Zoom because it’s a tool I know.  Much of what I say here will apply to other platforms as well.  

Tips for a great Zoom Meeting:

  1. Check your agenda. Topics that are mostly cognitive and not contentious work really well on Zoom. These are things like reports on committee work, a decision to move ahead with the plans recommended by a contractor, or logistics of planning your next marketing event. Zoom is much more challenging for highly charged topics, especially as your group is learning to use it.  For these it is best to schedule in person meetings when possible.
  2. Do a participant training before your official meeting.  Be sure all members of your group know how to get into a zoom meeting, use mute, and participate in chat.  Anyone presenting will need to know how to share their screen if they have documents or images to share. Make sure new members who haven’t used zoom before get oriented as well.
  3. Select a facilitator, even for small committee meetings. We humans use a lot of cues to navigate turn-taking in conversations. Most of them do not translate well on Zoom.  If you have more than two people in a meeting, assign someone to direct traffic (along with all the other tasks a good facilitator manages in any kind of meeting).  
  4. Use a google doc agenda and minutes document that all can see. When possible have the agenda and the zoom rom in windows next to each other on your screen. Take notes directly into the document so all can reference it as needed throughout the meeting. 
  5. Use chat for questions, side conversations and logistics.  
  6. Take breaks and encourage people to stand up. We often neglect this in Zoom meetings, though we may need it even more when we are staring at a screen.  

Special tips for Zoom/in person hybrid meetings. 

  1. Invest in good equipment. A laptop per person or couple works great if everyone is on zoom. If most are together and some are remote, you will need special microphone and speakers in the large room so that all can hear. A large screen or projector helps too.  
  2. Assign a Zoom liaison. This person should be in the large room. It is their job to pay attention to the Zoomers and make sure they aren’t forgotten, notice if their hands are raised and manage any tech problems.  
  3. If you break into small groups, have the zoomers be their own group, perhaps with one or two others if the numbers work out that way.  Caveat – if you do this a lot with the same people on zoom, you may need to mix it up so they get to know everyone. Use Zoom breakout rooms and a couple of laptops to create two groups and have a few in person folks join each.  

Facilitator Tips and Tricks

  1. Use rounds where you call on each person in turn. It’s even less likely for quiet members to chime in on Zoom than in person, so it’s important to call on them.  
  2. Make an ordered list on paper to call from. Do not rely on the zoom windows for your order, they tend to move around. If you are doing several rounds in the same meeting, keep the same order, but start in a different place to change up who gets to go first and last.  
  3. Call on one person and name the next each time so that the next person can be unmuted and ready.  “Sally, and then Joe.” for example. 
  4. If possible, use a large screen so you can see everyone, monitor chat, and have the agenda open in another window next to it.  If this is not possible (because you are working on a laptop, for example), print the agenda in advance so you can see it at the same time as the zoom meeting. 

Tips for working emotionally charged topics in a Zoom call. (As mentioned above, avoid this if possible.  If you must, here are some strategies to help.) 

  1. Zoom limits the options you have for facilitation methods, but sometimes not as much as we think.  Consider the strategies you might use in person and whether they can be implemented even on zoom in some way. 
  2. Start the meeting with a centering or meditation. Invite folks to quiet, breathe, close their eyes. Read a poem or meditation script or invite them to consider their intention for the meeting. Offer a moment of silence.  Helping people get grounded works well over Zoom just as it does in person.
  3. Utilize pairs or small groups. Be sure to set up your zoom account for breakout rooms and then use them.  (There is no extra charge for this. You just have to configure your zoom account.) Give people a chance to do some processing on the topic in small groups where everyone can have a chance to be heard before attempting decisions in the large group. 
  4. Be especially diligent in your planning and consider getting input from others skilled in facilitation.  Use a lot of structure (rounds, speaking prompts and the like). Be prepared for a particularly challenging meeting knowing that doing it on zoom will add to the difficulty.  
  5. Consider doing an emotion or energy check if needed to track the emotion in the room.  This can be done on chat. 
  6. If input is needed from a lot of people, or you might otherwise consider a “dotmocracy” or other visual method, consider whether a google doc can be used in place of chart paper.  
  7. Be sure to do a closing round where everyone can check in about how they are feeling as the meeting ends. 

Category: Meetings

Tags: Facilitation, meetings, online, zoom

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