effective virtual meeting agenda

With team members dispersed and routines upended by Covid-19, company meetings matter more than ever. Not only do they provide an essential touchpoint for upcoming projects and an opportunity to review recent successes (and failures), they also offer an important reminder that, despite appearances, your company is a team. Accordingly, it is vital that meetings be engaging, effective, and pleasant. Quite the ask when folks are connecting over Zoom, sure, but fully attainable with a bit of planning and a dash of tech wizardry.

Agenda, Agenda, Agenda

You can’t wing a Zoom meeting. I repeat: you can’t wing a Zoom meeting. With distraction just a click away, best believe that as soon as you go off the rails, folks are going to be off researching recipes or shopping or scrolling through social media until you get back on track. You know it’s true because you do the same. The solution: a killer agenda.

Killer doesn’t mean long (unless you’re using the term literally); it means clear. Adopt the following ten agenda commandments to ensure your team not only survives its next meeting, but comes away rejuvenated and driven.

1. Solicit team input. Want engagement? Design a meeting that your team cares about. Do this by soliciting input on agenda items. If you choose to skip a suggestion, ensure you explain your reasons.

2. Select team-relevant topics. Screen time is exhausting. Don’t waste precious energy with issues that don’t implicate those present. Stick to interdependent issues and reserve the rest for private communication.

3. Present agenda items as questions. No more of this “Item 3: Resource Reallocation” nonsense. Nobody knows what you mean and where that’s the case, it’s hard to care. Instead, frame agenda items as questions. “3. Under what circumstances should advertising resources be reallocated to existing account maintenance?” is clearer and presented in such a way that participants can prepare in advance.

4.  Categorize. Label agenda items according to their purpose be it to share info, seek input, or make a decision. When your team knows what is expected of them at each juncture, they’ll know where to direct their focus, thereby ensuring that they don’t lose it and turn to reading recipes. \

5. Assign each item a timeframe. Not only does this force you to think through each individual item and, perhaps, adjust to ensure efficiency, it also means your team will know to tailor their input in consideration of allotted time limits.

6. Propose a process. Split each item into steps and field input as to whether your proposed process covers all that needs covering. Maybe it’s 10 minutes to table info, 10 minutes to define the characteristics of a viable solution, and 20 minutes to arrive at consensus. Whatever it may be, commit your process to writing and stick to it.

7. Tell your team how to prepare. Unless you’re into rushed decisions and stock replies, don’t wait until the day-of to distribute your agenda. Get it out early such that team members can read up and prepare initial thoughts.

8. Assign roles. Unless you plan to lead on every topic (bad idea), let those who are responsible for specific items know in advance. Pencil in their names and ensure they have the time to prepare appropriately.

9. Item #1: Agenda Review. Wait, let me rephrase that. Item #1: Adjustments or modifications required of the agenda? When you begin by correcting any omissions or oversights, you ensure an effective meeting.

10. End with a check-in. Ask: What went well? What could be done differently in future meetings? Not only do these two questions ensure continued improvement, they also empower your team by making them collaborators in the meeting process. Naturally, this only works if you heed feedback and so be sure to take notes.

11. Bonus: Because it looks like meetings will be taking place over Zoom for the foreseeable future, ensure a presentable image by following these 25 tips. By placing your camera at eye-level and avoiding a backlit location (among other things) you save your colleagues the strain of squinting at your haloed image or looking up your nose. This may sound superficial but it’s not. Try working while staring straight at a lightbulb and you’ll quickly realize that Zoom presentation isn’t just looks, it’s the difference between maintaining a captive audience and losing your team’s attention every time you speak.

Are you already doing all the above and still find your meetings feel like the corporate equivalent of a Jackson Pollock painting? It might be that it isn’t agenda reform or Zoom wizardry that you need, but deeper restructuring. If this rings true, consider checking out our 66-Day Law Firm Turnaround, a targeted program designed to institute productive practices at all levels of your organization. Click the button below to schedule a free qualifier call with our founder, Molly McGrath.

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