Control What You Can: Zooming In On Your Next Zoom

With the world feeling oh-so-slightly out of control, I thought I would offer a few ways to help you zoom in and control what you can—namely your next Zoom meeting.

Why does this feel important?

Well, I don’t know about you but I was thrown into Zoom last March and have been tap dancing on a shag rug (one of my father’s favorite sayings…) with the etiquette of Zoom ever since.

Since then, like many of you, I have sat through countless Zoom meetings and have been keeping a running list of those protocols I find super useful as well as those I find… less so.

What kinds of things am I talking about?

Well, perhaps it’s the fear of seeming schoolteacher-y that keeps people from establishing their authority at the outset of the meeting and yet, I have found that many—if not most—attendees actually find it relaxing.

Given that, here are the guidelines I offer at the outset of each of my meetings:

First, say out loud, “I am the host/moderator.” I recognize this might sound ridiculous yet I have found it puts people at ease.

Second, establish your question policy: Do you want to take questions throughout the session or do you want people to keep their questions until the end?

If you don’t mind questions throughout, walk participants through how you want questions asked. Do you want them to unmute? Use the “raise hand” icon? Type them in the chat? I usually offer people two ways of asking questions as I find they enjoy that illusion of control.

If I want people to hold their questions until the end, I say something along the lines of, “Please be sure to make a note of any questions you might have as I don’t want you to forget them. If I do, in fact, answer your question at some point during my presentation, take your pen and put a line through it—it’s always satisfying to cross things out.

When I am dealing with topics that are touchy, I also offer the following “Brave Space Guidelines”

First, I state, “There are no observers, only participants.”

To make this easier on people who enjoy “hiding” I often begin by going around the group and asking for a quick “weather report” of how each person is feeling: Overcast? 70 degrees and sunny? Facing an incoming storm front? This is an easy way to get the quiet types to speak up and keeps the more longwinded in check. It also gives you an idea of where you need to focus first.

Second, I say out loud, “Recognize things might get messy.”

I find that stating this at the outset goes a long way toward keeping everybody more comfortable if/when things do start to devolve.

Speaking of things being messy… I hope the above helps you feel slightly more in control as we face the mess of the weeks and months to come.


For more on the many ways you can make the best use of Zoom, take a look at “Pitch (Zoom) Perfect” and “Distance Selling? Zoom in and Close the Deal”