“Zoomout” is real. Office workers and students now spend their days on video calls. The novelty of chatting over Zoom is gone, and some cringe at joining yet another Zoom happy hour. But communities are unique because they have a purpose beyond just being social. The community purpose can lead to goals for the next online meeting and avoid Zoomout. With a goal and the Zoom tips below, the next online community event can come to life, explore new terrain, and connect people during these most important times.
Why have a meeting?
“Every group leader needs to start by asking: ‘Why have a meeting?’” says Cordell Wesselink, M.A., group meeting facilitator, mediator, and founder of Corelink Services. Cordell also leads The Intention Project, a community that gathers online to establish goals, create accountability and connect socially. He has been leading groups on Zoom before Zoom became a verb.
To answer the “Why” question, Cordell recommends setting a specific goal. Goals can be intangible, like “connecting people,” or simply catching up, but tangible goals can often feel more meaningful, and the concreteness draws better attendance. Consider something the group should take away, something “in-hand” as Cordell explains, and then set the goal around that. Try this framing: “If the meeting is successful, then everyone will walk away from it with X.”
If you want to give a lecture, that’s great for a TED talk or YouTube video, but if you want to have a meeting, even if by Zoom, then it has to incorporate interaction between the group members,” says Cordell Wesselink.
Cooking classes with Project 13 Gyms, for example, have a tangible goal consistent with their mission to “build better humans.” By collaborating with chef and Project 13 member Charlie Charmaigne, they have built a weekly Zoom cooking class for their members based on recipes, cooking tips, and social engagement. With laptops open and Zoom video on, participants have a clear goal -- make a delicious meal and improve their cooking. Social connection easily follows.
The goal unlocks the rest
Whether it’s cooking or otherwise, a clear goal makes it easy to finish planning your next Zoom: Share the goal in event invitations; use the goal to set expectations for participants; restate the goal at the beginning of the Zoom. The goal helps you decide your agenda from the introduction to the ending.
With a defined goal, Zoom meetings can proceed like an in-person gathering but must avoid participant distraction. With a computer in the face, it’s easy to browse email or surf the web. Combat these distractions with group participation. Cordell suggests planning an engaging activity every 10 to 15 minutes. This could take a variety of forms: confirm understanding with a reaction; ask for a visual thumbs up; propose a poll; or state a question that requires only a simple response in Zoom chat. If your group is small, try calling out a specific person; larger groups can use Zoom breakout rooms to the same effect. Either way, avoid the open-ended question that triggers everyone to simultaneously respond.
With your new goal set and meeting framework defined for your next Zoom, try a few of Cordell’s favorite Zoom tips:
Hide your own video from yourself. It’s much more natural to speak when you are not staring back at yourself.
Avoid member distraction by minimizing downtime on Zoom. Finish all preparations in advance of the call.
Skip sharing links through Zoom chat. It takes eyes off the meeting and into the internet. Try presenting your screen instead.
Breakout rooms are a great way to connect people in larger Zooms. Use the random feature and aim for a breakout size of 4 people.
Practice! Getting comfortable with Zoom, or whatever platform you’re using, takes time and often trial and error. Try it out in some low stakes scenarios, and don’t worry too much. We’re all just trying to figure it out.