Virtual Meetings

At this point during the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual meetings via Zoom or other platforms have become the new normal. We have already talked about how leaders can improve their Zoom meetings in “3 Tips for More Successful Virtual Meetings,” but we haven’t explained the important role that the listeners play. If you are not the one holding the virtual meeting, you most likely start to feel the “Ringelmann effect” soon after logging on.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, the “Ringlemann Effect” is explained to be the effect that happens when you are a part of a large group but do not feel that you play a critical role in the group’s success. Essentially, the bigger the group, the less responsibility each individual feels to participate. This often leads listeners to zone out and put in less effort because they feel their absence won’t have much of an impact. However, this is far from the case. The less motivated you feel to participate, the more you contribute to not only an unsuccessful meeting for the group, but also a less fulfilling experience for yourself.

Tips for Getting More Out of Your Zoom Meetings

You may think the answer to a more successful Zoom meeting is to participate and voice your opinion more often. However, an overall meaningful experience actually requires preparation and “thoughtful and targeting listening.”  Follow these tips from Harvard Business Review to help you achieve this!

  • Define the Value and Purpose: Take 5-10 minutes before every Zoom meeting and write down the overall purpose of the meeting and what you want to get out of it. If you have a specific role in the meeting, what do you want to accomplish and what are the most important points you need to communicate? You can also write down the questions you want to get the answers to. This sets your mind up for active listening and gives you a mental agenda that will help keep you engaged.
  • Acknowledge Others: All too often individuals rush to make their own point or change the topic without acknowledging what other team members have said. This cuts out time for those who may have questions and can leave team members feeling that they haven’t been heard or understood, which ultimately leads to repetition or confusion down the line. Try acknowledging what others have said by either agreeing or telling them it was a good point, taking a pause to make a note of what they said, or clarifying what they said.
  • Connect the Dots: Through active listening and note taking you can help leaders keep the conversation running smoothly. If you notice several similar comments or topics arising amongst team members, you can direct the conversation in that direction and even solve an underlying question.
  • Ask Questions: If the meeting is wrapping up or wandering off topic, do not be afraid to ask any questions you might have. Many individuals feel that asking a question will draw out the meeting longer or put too much of the spotlight on them, opting instead to email out the question later. However, asking questions not only keeps you engaged, but it keeps the meeting on track, sparks creative conversations, and can even help others who may have had the same question.
  • Pay Attention to Your Thoughts: In a meeting or not, it is natural for our minds to wander. The key is to notice when your mind is wandering and actively bring it back to the present. If it helps, keep a separate area on your notepad for wandering thoughts when you have them. Write them down so you can come back to them after the meeting, and then refocus your attention. To reiterate the previous bullet, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on the current topic of the meeting if you’re mind has wandered. Chances are other team members have also gotten confused or lost in the conversation and it can help everyone refocus.

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