3 Ways to Make Virtual Meetings Less Awful

Nick Morgan
5 min readOct 30, 2020
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

I’m seeing a lot of stress in the faces of executives and knowledge workers I talk to on video conferences these days. So here are some ways to think about virtual meetings to make them more bearable. I call them “the Rules of Zoom.” I’ll state the rules simply first, then provide some explanation.

The First Rule of Zoom Is the Rule of Visibility. Create some formal, but simple, mechanism for handing off the conversation to the next participant — such as a hand raise. The discipline required takes some people a little time to learn, but the results in terms of increased clarity are worth it. Think fewer interruptions and talking over each other.

The Second Rule of Zoom Is the Rule of Predictability. You absolutely must provide an agenda for a Zoom call that’s going to last more than 30 minutes. And adhere to it by instituting the role of MC.

The Third Rule of Zoom Is the Rule of Transparency. You always should begin with a quick check-in around the Zoom circle to establish local issues that might affect the call, questions of timing, and so on. That’s because people are often too polite to want to express problems of communication on their end. Then, in the middle of the meeting, take a break for some casual chat to keep the relationships strong.

One company I’ve worked with, that has three offices in different cities, relies on a mix of conference calls, videoconferencing, face-to-face meetings, instant messaging, and emails to conduct daily business. The company reports difficulty with a number of these channels, but videoconferencing may be the most difficult — simply because it is the newest communication channel in the business world and employees have less experience with it. Thanks to the pandemic, we’re gaining experience fast, but these things take time.

As this organization finds, it’s hard for participants to know when to speak. It can feel quite rude to interrupt, and yet if you don’t, you may in essence disappear because a two-dimensional picture is not the same to our brains as a real person. The other participants may forget that you’re there unless you assert yourself from time to time. And yet doing so can feel arbitrary, clumsy, or overly aggressive.

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Nick Morgan

communications coach, author and speaker; fascinated by all things creative