Making Your Digital Meetings as Effective as Physical Meetings

These last two months or so have been harsh. And eye-opening.

And, the stage is set for a significant economic shift in America. One part of that shift is the maturing of the “work from home” subset of employment.

The days of building large buildings for offices are numbered. Why have offices, when your employees can work from home? Why have large (or small) staff meetings in that large office building, when you can meet from home?

The age of digital meetings has arisen. And I think it’s a good thing — if we focus on the meeting’s purpose.

As you are doing everything you can to get used to the process of Zoom meetings, let me recommend these three things to make your digital meeting as effective as, or even more effective than your previous physical conferences.

PLAN YOUR ZOOM MEETINGS AHEAD OF TIME

Zoom is a powerful tool — or a great time waster. To keep the meeting from wasting time, you need to set your plan in advance. I like to set two agendas for the meetings

  • Set an Overalll Zoom Meeting Agenda
  • Set a Specific Zoom Meeting Agenda

You’ll want to set these two agendas for each meeting to help you “police” the direction of the sessions. The overall Zoom meeting agenda sets the tone for all of your meetings while the specific Zoom meeting agenda drives each meeting toward the goal.

If you’re the meeting leader, consider your Zoom meetings as a college football game, and you as the Head Football Coach.

Nick Saban has an overarching plan — a national championship — each year he coaches the University of Alabama football team. He’s evaluated his players, met with his mid-level managers (coaches), studied his competition’s SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) to know how to get from recruiting day to the national championship game.

Also, he repeats the same process — game by game — to develop a plan for each of the seventeen games (15 regular season and conference championship plus playoff and championship game).

When you’re planning and preparing for your business’ Zoom meetings, you must adopt the same process to have productive digital meetings.

SET AN OVERALL ZOOM MEETING AGENDA

The process of setting an overall plan isn’t anything new. Every manager and executive must do this annually, quarterly, and (most likely) weekly.

Evaluate your team’s SWOTs — strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Using that evaluation, what will be your overall goals for the next quarter and year? These two answers will inform all of your decisions for the entirety of your staff meetings (in person or online) for the following year.

Last week, I was helping a CEO of a local business think through his plans for 2020 and how to apply them to his planned weekly staff meetings. One of the things I noticed was that he had not thought about how his team’s SWOTs should direct everything about his meetings, including the structure of those meetings.

As we studied his SWOTs and his previous meetings, he recognized that his sessions were not addressing his strengths and threats at all. 

Every week, he’d give a few attaboys for some strengths he noticed, and then, he’d talk about upcoming opportunities for his business and how the team needed to “pull it all together” to accomplish those avenues for growth (of the bottom line, mostly).

When you’re planning the overall agenda of each meeting, you need to include space for each area of evaluation. If you’re planning an hour-long meeting, here’s my recommendation.

SET YOUR STRENGTHS AGENDA FOR YOUR ZOOM MEETING

Spend the first ten minutes, recognizing every part of your team’s strength. If it’s your first-ever meeting, I’d even dedicate the entire session to this part of your plan. But, explain this to your team before you start.

An hour of positive, uplifting recognition from the boss will never hurt your business, I promise you. But, if you give them an hour of positive, tell them that you’ve found some weaknesses and threats, too, and you’ll send them those evaluations to their email inbox. (And do it)

But, usually, start your meetings with at least ten minutes of positive recognition for last week’s strengths, and development of weaknesses into strengths. 

You’re modeling this to your management team. Give them time after your evaluation to present a “win” from each manager’s team.

Inform your team leaders they have time for just a sentence or two, but, to go in-depth with their team members in their next meeting. This way, you’re modeling their behavior, and involving them in the process.

SET YOUR WEAKNESSES AGENDA FOR YOUR ZOOM MEETING

The next twenty minutes of your plan should is focused on your evaluation of your team’s weaknesses. 

Point out that the latest customer service snafu you heard about last week. Or, that disaster of a quarter you just completed. Or, the problems you’ve noticed with the phone system. These are just examples of the types of weaknesses you’ll want to talk about with your team.

But, don’t just talk about the problems — suggest ideas and ask for ideas for solutions. 

The weakness evaluation will naturally lead you into the next portion of your meetings — OPPORTUNITIES

SET YOUR OPPORTUNITIES AGENDA FOR YOUR ZOOM MEETING

Your opportunities assessment will be the most extended portion of your meeting. When you’ve evaluated your upcoming Opportunities, you’ll want to take the time to show them to your team. Discuss why you classify them as opportunities, how you’d like to see your team address each occasion and when you’d like to meet to discuss each of the new opportunities in the future to know each opportunity turn into a “win.”

As you develop team assignments, make sure you do two things in your weekly meeting with the entire team, and then with your meetings with each team member.

Also, make sure you make assignments of specific tasks and deadlines in the overall team meeting. Now you have a process set up for accountability and measurements of effectiveness in your management team and your meetings. Finally, you need to spend about 5 to 10 minutes in the last part of your session.

SET YOUR THREATS AGENDA FOR YOUR ZOOM MEETING

The final minutes on the clock should cover evaluating your business’ threats.

What threats are created by your weaknesses? What risks are created by your complacencies surrounding your strengths? What dangers do you see on the horizon coming from your competition?

Whatever threats you see looming in the future, make sure you address them during your weekly meetings. Ask your team leaders for their evaluations during your one on one sessions later in the week. 

You need to ask them for two different evaluations of threats:

  1. Their evaluation of your list of threats
  2. Their evaluation of threats to the success fo your business in their department (or other departments)

When you set up this overall plan, you begin to have a sense of direction about your meetings, and you’re able to communicate that preparation and purpose to your team members. Your plan sets the stage for more effective Zoom meetings.

And, it sets the stage for a more effective organization. 

Show your team leaders how you expect meetings to operate within your organization. Tell them how you expect meetings to work within your organization. Then, have them evaluate your leadership, while you “drop-in” on their meetings from time to time and do the same for them.

I want to offer one more tool to assist in increasing the value and effectiveness of all of your Zoom meetings.

CREATE AN EVALUATION TOOL FOR ALL OF YOUR ORGANIZATION’S MEETINGS

Even if it’s a simple Google Form meeting, create a tool that assists the evaluation of your sessions.

  • Include in the form a way to identify each meeting.
  • Scoring for each of the four sections fo your meetings.
  • Give them space to respond in their evaluation.
  • Ask them what the most powerful thing about the meeting for them was.
  • Ask them what we the worst thing about the meeting for them.
  • Ask them to write a two to three sentence evaluation of each of your organization’s SWOTS.
  • Ask them to write a two to three sentence evaluation of the meeting’s SWOTS.
  • Ask them to write a two to three sentence explanation of their plans to improve a weakness in their division. 
  • Ask them to write a two to three sentence explanation of their plans to address an opportunity for growth and improvement in the organization (and personally).
  • Ask them to write a two-paragraph evaluation of their personal and division’s threats, including recommendations for improvement.
  • Finally, ask them to grade the meeting (A – F) on its effectiveness, with a recommendation for improvement to the next grade level.

Good luck comes to those prepared to succeed with the circumstances surrounding them. Get prepared, model that preparation for your team. Evaluate and expect those same things for your team members and yourself.

When you do this, the effectiveness of your meetings will increase, and your organization’s business will improve as well.

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