Why Zoom meetings are broken, and how to fix them

Two happy colleagues meeting on zoom with the F4S integrations to improve communication

Zoom plays a vital role in the post-pandemic business landscape. But, for many, the words 'team Zoom meeting' don’t spark joy.

A recent survey1 found that 45% of employees were overwhelmed by the number of Zoom sessions on their calendar. 91% of respondents admitted to daydreaming during meetings, and 67% said that too many meetings hinder productivity.

On top of the sheer volume of meetings, there is the issue of miscommunication. Video meetings can be rife with muddled messaging. This is the result of limited nonverbal signals and technical glitches.

The good news is, better meetings with Zoom are possible. With a grounding in meeting design best practice and some helpful software integrations, including F4S for Zoom, you’ll be able to have more productive and collaborative meetings.

Table of contents
The cost of ineffective Zoom meetings
So you want to organize a Zoom meeting? First, decide on your format
Set a clear meeting agenda
Incorporate the principles of meeting design
How to schedule a Zoom meeting
Top integrations to level up your Zoom meeting

The cost of ineffective Zoom meetings

Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic, Zoom has become a staple for business meetings. Though Zoom, and similar platforms have been indispensable, they’ve come at a cost.

'Zoom Fatigue' quickly became a term used to describe the exhaustion remote workers felt after spending long meetings using the video-conferencing platform. According to Jeremy Bailenson of Stanford University, this phenomenon can be explained, in part, by distortions in how we send and receive non-verbal messages.2

“In a face-to face meeting, a quick, sidelong glance where one person darts their eyes to another has a social meaning, and a third person watching this exchange likely encodes this meaning. In Zoom, a user might see a pattern in which on their grid it seems like one person glanced at another. However, that is not what actually happened, since people often don’t have the same grids.”

Within a call or a team, this can create a sense of uncertainty about how to read people, and requires more energy to both send and receive non-verbal cues. These ambiguous messages not only lead to fatigue, but misinterpretations. Interpreting these mixed messages is even harder without an understanding of the attendees’ communication styles.


In short, video chat has been a terrific substitute for face-to-face meetings, but we need to make some changes in how we use it to get the most out of these platforms.

So you want to organize a Zoom meeting? First, decide on your format

The first step towards having better Zoom video meetings is to recognise that what 'better' means often depends on your format.

Here are some tips for how to conduct the following types of meetings:

One-on-one meetings

Person-to-person meetings are often the easiest type of Zoom meeting to manage. That said, there are still some things you can do to make them more engaging and meaningful.

  • Practice active listening - we all know that awkward pause when there’s been a lag in the connection. Or that moment where you accidentally talk over the top of somebody after a minor delay. Take it as a great opportunity to practice your active listening skills. Give your undivided attention, ask relevant questions, and provide thoughtful responses.
  • Tune in to nonverbal cues - pay attention to non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and body language. But, also note that, as per the research above, your senses may deceive you. Given there is less going on in a one-on-one meeting, it is often easier to send and receive non-verbal cues as they’re intended. To make it easier for the person you’re speaking to, it might also pay to smile more and be expressive to make it easier to connect.

Virtual team meeting

As the number of people in a Zoom meeting grows, this is where the meeting can get more complicated. Use these tips to ensure your meetings are productive and collaborative.

  • Use the 'raise hand' feature: remember the conch in the Lord of the Flies? 'Raise hand' is just like that. Participants use this feature when they have something to contribute. If you’re the meeting host, monitor raised hands and give each person an opportunity to speak in an orderly manner. The more participants, the lower the chance that everyone gets to speak, leaving valuable contributions untapped.
  • Breakout rooms for smaller private meetings: if the meeting involves smaller group discussions, consider using breakout sessions. This allows team members to have focused conversations in smaller settings to make the meeting more manageable.
  • Encourage the use of chat for quick contributions: encourage participants to use the chat functionality to make quick contributions or ask questions during the meeting. This can help reduce interruptions and provide an alternative channel for communication.

Webinars

If you’re conducting a webinar over Zoom there are a number of features that you can leverage to keep your attendees engaged.

  • Engage with chat and answer questions: monitor the chat feature during the webinar to address participant questions or comments. This will encourage attendees to engage and foster a sense of community. Also, be sure to mute participants until question time.
  • Engage the audience: interact with your audience by incorporating polls, quizzes, or Q&A sessions throughout the webinar. This encourages active participation and provides opportunities for attendees to ask questions or share their thoughts.
  • Record and share the webinar: record the webinar and make it available for participants who couldn't attend. Sharing the recording allows others to benefit from the content and extends the reach of your webinar beyond the live session

Set a clear meeting agenda

If it feels like you’re having meetings to plan future meetings to discuss best practices for meeting scheduling, you’re not alone. The Future of Meetings Report 20213 found that:

  • Executives attend 6-15 meetings per week
  • Managers attend 16+ meeting per week
  • Employees attend 11-15 meetings per week

The average time spent in meetings per week was between 16 and 21 hours.

If the time alone doesn’t sound bad enough, consider the mental toll. Know the feeling of being completely spent after an hour-long meeting that could have been a few quick emails? Psychologists are calling this feeling 'Meeting Recovery Syndrome4.

“When an employee sits through an ineffective meeting their brain power is essentially being drained away,” says Professor Joseph Allen.

According to Allen, the lag time for employees to switch between an ineffectual meeting and productive work can take up to 45 minutes.

That means that if an employee is spending 18 hours per week in 14 weekly meetings, half of which didn’t need to happen, you can add an additional 5.25 hours per week of lost productivity onto the tab. The solution?

Leverage the power of structured meeting agendas.

Structured Zoom agendas make your meetings more efficient. They ensure that everything that needs to be discussed is covered. Instead of beginning with a vague idea of the outcome you want, you have a set list of topics to discuss with time allocated for each agenda item.

Download our list of structured meeting agenda templates.

As part of your agenda, you might also want to consider a virtual meeting icebreaker. This is a great way to involve all your attendees, increase engagement and get everybody feeling comfortable.

Incorporate the principles of meeting design

While the issue of meeting overload is a recent phenomenon, research into the best way to run meetings has been conducted for decades. Meeting design is a field that’s focussed on the design principles of (you guessed it) meetings. And like any good design, a well-designed meeting requires prior planning and forethought.

A review of the meeting design literature5 identified five key aspects of meeting preparation that lead to more successful and productive meetings:

1. Does the meeting have a clear purpose?

Before calling a meeting, always be sure that a meeting is necessary. If it is, all attendees need to know what the purpose is. To illustrate why, consider the following example:

Let’s say you’ve been invited to a meeting to discuss your new company website design proposal. On the invite, you receive one of the following descriptions:

Meeting 1:

Meeting title: Review and provide feedback on the new website

Description: Evaluate the new website before launch. Gather input, address any concerns or suggestions, and ensure that the final design aligns with our brand guidelines.

We will be assessing:

  • Layout
  • Color scheme
  • Imagery
  • Accessibility
  • Responsiveness

We are aiming to launch the website by the end of the week at the latest, so any amendments identified will be requested immediately after the meeting.

Clear, straight to the point and direct. Participants know exactly what to expect, and can prepare accordingly. Now consider this meeting description.

Meeting 2:

Meeting title: Website discussion

Description: Discuss the new website design proposal before launch. Look over each web page and identify room for improvement and flag errors.

Contrasting it with the first description, which meeting do you think is more likely to be a success?

2. How many people are attending the meeting (and does everybody need to be there)?

Researchers almost unanimously agree that the best meeting design practice is to only invite those who need to be there. As a matter of common courtesy, always assume that your colleagues have important things they need to do. Meeting attendees will feel frustrated that they’ve been invited to yet another meeting they didn’t need to be at. For this reason, you should always closely consider who needs to be at a meeting, and invite only those people.

3. Does your meeting have a written agenda?

A written agenda can include meeting topics to be discussed and times allocated for each topic. Just in case you missed it, we linked F4S’s templates for meeting agendas again.

4. Does it have a strict start and finish time?

Scheduled start and finish times lead to better meeting results. Clear meeting time slots make meetings more focused and productive. This may be a result of Parkinson’s Law6, which states that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. In other words, if a meeting is scheduled for 30 minutes to 1 hour, it will most likely run for closer to 1 hour. The same agenda could be covered in 30 minutes if only 30 minutes are allotted. With extra time, more time is likely to be given to things that aren’t important. With a strict deadline, teams are more likely to be economical and focus on what matters.

How to schedule a Zoom meeting

Now that we’ve outlined how to run meetings effectively, it’s time to get down to the nuts and bolts of scheduling meetings with Zoom.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to do it on the web app:

  1. Sign in to your Zoom account:
    Go to the Zoom website (zoom.us) and sign in using your credentials.
  1. Schedule a new meeting:
    Once you're logged in, click on 'Schedule' in the navigation menu.

  2. Fill in meeting details:
    Enter the topic, date, time, and duration of the meeting. There is an optional description, but as per the research mentioned above, we recommend that you fill out a detailed description of the purpose of the meeting.

    You can also choose other Zoom settings like meeting password, video/audio options and other host controls. Under attendees, enter the attendee email addresses of everybody who needs to attend the meeting.
how to schedule a zoom meeting

Source: Zoom1

  1. Options:
    If you need more specific settings, you can expand the 'Options' section. Here, you can configure meeting options like enabling join before host, enabling a waiting room, and allowing participants to join via phone.

  2. Schedule the meeting:
    Once you have filled in all the required details, click on the ‘Save’ button to schedule the meeting.
  1. Get the meeting details:
    After scheduling the meeting, you will be redirected to a confirmation page where you can find the meeting details on the previous page. Check over the guidelines above to ensure your meeting ticks every box.
getting the zoom meeting details


Source: Zoom2

  1. Share the invite link:
    Share the meeting details with your participants via email or any other communication channel. You can copy the invitation text provided on the confirmation page or click on the 'Copy Invitation' button to copy the meeting details and share the invitation link with participants.

    Zoom comes with a built-in integration with Outlook, Google Calendar and Yahoo Calendar options so that you can automatically schedule the meeting in your preferred calendar.

Zoom meeting options

Here are some other options you may wish to explore.

Recording your session

For those who missed the meeting, or if important details need to be revisited, it might be handy to record the meeting. Select the ‘Record’ button at the bottom of your chat window to record your session.

Zoom icons: record, reactions, apps, whiteboards

Source: Zoom3

You can also elect to record your meeting by ticking 'Automatically record meeting on the local computer' under 'Options' when scheduling your meeting.

Use breakout rooms

To activate the breakout room feature, follow these steps:

  1. Access the Zoom web portal and sign in as an administrator.
  2. Click on 'Settings' on the dashboard to your left.
  3. Scroll down to the toggle switch labeled 'Breakout room' and click on it to enable the feature.
  4. If a verification dialog box appears, click ‘Enable’ to confirm and implement the change.5.

After selecting the desired options, click ‘Save’.

Now, you can create and manage breakouts during your meetings by clicking on the 'Breakout rooms' icon in your Zoom control bar. If you've enabled other advanced features, it may be inside the ‘More’ tab.

Zoom icons: record, breakout rooms, reactions, apps, whiteboards

Source: Zoom4

Top integrations to level up your Zoom meeting

Looking for integrations to really take your Zoom meetings to a new level? The Zoom app also integrates with a host of other innovative platforms.

F4S for Zoom

If you’ve been looking for a way to make Zoom meetings more engaging and effective, F4S can help. We’re a performance and collaboration platform designed to help teams understand, and collaborate with one another better.

We now integrate with Zoom to help teams communicate with colleagues more effectively. Based on rigorous research into how different people communicate, F4S presents attendees' communication styles in Zoom and provides helpful tips on how best to communicate with them. To get started, all you need to do is download the F4S for Zoom app from Zoom Marketplace, or receive an invite from another user to download the app.After that, sign up to F4S for free and answer four simple questions. During meetings with other F4S users, Emojis will be added to your Zoom background to remind your colleagues how best to collaborate with you!

Discover the communication style of your meeting attendees
Get F4S for Zoom

Slack

Most people know Slack as an instant messaging/ chat program. But did you know that it can do more? Slack has its own native video conferencing function, but it also integrates with Zoom to make it easy to switch from instant messaging to a video meeting in a flash.

Asana

Asana is a project management platform that allows teams to track collaborative projects. Instead of going back and forth between Zoom and Asana to update projects as decisions are made, you can complete control to do it in Zoom in real-time.

Miro

Miro is a collaborative whiteboard platform that allows teams to collaborate and share ideas visually. From mind maps to diagrams, flow charts, and more. When integrated into Zoom, teams launch and interact with Miro canvases for a more immersive and engaging Zoom meeting experience.

Google Calendar

Creating shared calendars teams can access is essential in the modern workplace. Knowing your team’s schedules and their availability makes setting up Zoom events easy, especially when you can do it from the Google Calendar application. It’s also great for sending calendar reminders when meetings before meetings commence.

Trello

Similar to Asana, Trello is an all-encompassing tool for project management and collaboration. Using Trello with Zoom allows teams to access tasks (known as cards) directly from Zoom for ease of us.

Enhance collaborative experiences with Zoom integrations

Power up your collaboration potential! Take our free assessment to learn about your preferred communication style. Invite your colleagues to do the same to gain accurate insights about theirs. Then use the Fingerprint for Success Zoom integration to drive your collaborative projects further.

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  1. Atlassian, You Waste a Lot of Time at Work! Available at: https://www.atlassian.com/time-wasting-at-work-infographic

  2. Bailenson, J, (2021), Nonverbal Overload: A Theoretical Argument for the Causes of Zoom Fatigue. Available at: https://www.stanfordvr.com/mm/2021/02/bailenson-apa-nonverbal-overload.pdf

  3. Nizio, K, (2021), Remote Meeting Statistics: The Future of Meetings Report. Available at: https://fellow.app/blog/meetings/meeting-statistics-the-future-of-meetings-report/

  4. 4. P Rubenstein, (2019), Blame Your Worthless Work days on ‘Meeting Recovery Syndrome. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20191111-blame-your-worthless-workdays-on-meeting-recovery-syndrome

  5. Odermatt, I, (2015), Meeting Preparation and Design Characteristics. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/298654133_Meeting_Preparation_and_Design_Characteristics

  6. Boogard, K, (2022), What is Parkinson’s Law and why is it sabotaging your productivity? Available at: https://www.atlassian.com/blog/productivity/what-is-parkinsons-law

Image sources:

  1. Screenshot from: https://us05web.zoom.us/meeting/schedule
  2. Screenshot from: https://us05web.zoom.us/meeting/schedule
  3. Screenshot from Zoom Desktop app pop-up window
  4. Screenshot from Zoom Desktop app pop-up window

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