16 Tips to host mindful meetings.

Jun 18, 2021
Kemi Nekvapil holding a book

I have had a few conversations with clients this week about the number of online meetings they are being asked to attend or create.

The overall feeling was that these meetings distracted from core tasks, were a waste of time and mentally exhausting.

Last year I was commissioned to write a piece for Zoom on LinkedIn after attending Zoomtopia, Zoom’s annual conference. I wanted to share it here as it may be helpful to you if you are suffering from meeting fatigue.

I watched Eric Yuan, Zoom’s Founder and CEO, deliver the opening keynote during the conference. He shared that Zoom had totalled ten million meeting attendees before the pandemic hit, since its beginnings nine years ago. Between March and October 2020, it had clocked three hundred million meeting participants.

He has had days full of meetings, and his highest daily meeting count was nineteen meetings in one day — he is no stranger to Zoom fatigue!

One of my favourite sessions of the conference was a session called ‘Tips for Mindful Meetings’. Before I share some of the tips for mindful meetings with you, let me share some of the data.

Pre-Pandemic, the average manager spent roughly 75% of their time in meetings; now it’s 90%, with 50% of those meetings rated as poor and 92% of those meetings have no identifiable purpose, goal, or agenda.

As I watched the session, it became apparent to me that the skills leaders currently have from hosting face-to-face meetings do not necessarily translate to video meetings. A new skill set is required. Leaders need to confidently facilitate meetings, create new guidelines for engagement, and be responsible for the quantity and quality of the meetings they host.

Below are sixteen tips I have extracted from my four pages of notes from Zoomtopia, mixed with my own experience, to assist you and your organisation in holding better video meetings:

1.    Do you need a meeting? Can the information be delivered by email instead?

2.    Make sure you have set a clear agenda for the meeting —one of the panellists said she has a phrase for herself: “No agenda. I’m a no attender.”

3.    Insist that everyone needs to have their video on — 55% of communication is non-verbal; you are missing clues of engagement/disengagement if you can’t see people. If half the participants have their video on, and half have theirs off, trust and connection are eroded. Note: When meetings involve people in different countries with different languages, videos on is even more essential.

4.    Pre-meeting chats and checking-in boosts morale and connection but be mindful of this sucking time. Two-word check-in works well, as does asking a single question for all to answer.

5.    Limit the number of meeting attendees to one Zoom screen if possible. You can’t stay connected to the attendees if you have to keep jumping from screen to screen; it’s the equivalent of walking in and out of the room.

6.    Ensure the meeting stays on course, and don’t be afraid to pull it back to the agenda. Beware the ‘complaining cycle.’

7.    Set ‘code of conduct’ boundaries.

8.    Aim to create a predictable meeting format over time; this will take experimentation to understand what works and what doesn’t.

9.    Ask attendees to be prepared for the meeting by keeping their bodies and brains hydrated.

10.  Back-to-back meetings decrease productivity and are not suitable for anybody’s mental health; be mindful of this for your well-being and the well-being of others.

11.   Treat meetings like athletic endeavour – Prepare; Be Present; Recover.

12.   A 5 minute recovery can include standing up, drinking water, and breathing. Research has proven that it takes 5 minutes to recover from a good meeting and17 minutes to recover from a bad one.

13.   Facilitate inclusivity, especially for Black, Indigenous, and people of colour and women — data proves these groups are given less airtime.

14.   You have both introverts and extroverts in your meetings; attend to both.

15.   Call people out by their name; be a strong facilitator.

16.   Finish on time.

Ultimately, like any form of daring leadership, leaders need to model the behaviour and practices of mindful meetings and be consistent with their modelling of these practices.

We are moving into a new way of working, and this means learning new ways. We all want to produce meaningful work, and the meetings we facilitate are a catalyst for work that has meaning.

Wishing you a weekend of mindfulness and meaning.

Kemi xxx

Subscribe for 'Weekly Words' to your inbox