5 Tips for Effective Zoom Meetings

We at JMA love Zoom! We use Zoom for Process Improvement projects, meeting with Sponsors, collecting information from staff, delivering initial training, and conducting Q&A sessions. When a larger group is involved, some or all can participate from their desks to save travel time and minimize or eliminate the need for a meeting room.

While Zoom meetings can’t replace in-person ones, they can be more engaging and effective than phone calls and add a personal dimension. Video lets participants make eye contact and see non-verbal reactions and feedback. And being on video may also make participants think twice before multitasking if others are watching!

And screen sharing is a game changer…

  • Participants can share presentations, documents, websites, and tools in real time so others can engage visually.
  • A meeting notetaker can share the screen so all participants see their input recorded. This enables immediate error correction but also lets participants see their contributions documented, reducing the need to repeat the same points.
  • Another great use is collaboration. At JMA, Process Streamlining projects start with process mapping. We remotely facilitate discussions with clients and create maps live. Clients see a real-time visualization of their words – and make corrections on the fly, eliminating the need for them to review and correct after the meeting.

But to be effective, Zoom meetings need to be well planned and facilitated – and participants need to understand the tool, have technology configured, and make the most of the features. Here are 5 Tips for Effective Zoom Meetings from our team to help new users ramp up quickly – and more seasoned users to get the most out of video meetings and screen sharing.

1 – Create and Share a Realistic Agenda

2 – Actively Facilitate the Zoom Meeting

3 – Load and Test Zoom Before the Meeting

4 – Learn the Basic Features

5 – Really Leverage Zoom’s Advanced Capabilities


5 Tips for Effective Zoom Meetings

1 – Create and Share a Realistic Agenda

Email participants an agenda before the meeting – Include the meeting’s purpose and decisions to be made as well specific agenda topics, timing, and people responsible.

Allocate time realistically – It can be tempting to squeeze every topic into a meeting but 5 minutes is rarely enough to start a conversation, never mind finish it.

Include “start up time” – Include time for pleasantries and introductions – and a few minutes to accommodate late  joiners

Include breaks for lengthy meetings – Participants are tethered to their computers and need time to stretch, grab water, and use the facilities.

Include “summary and next steps time” – Spend time at the end summarizing the discussion and reviewing next steps, including agreed-upon tasks, responsible parties, and deadlines.

2 – Actively Facilitate the Meeting

Assign one person to facilitate the meeting – This person should start and end the meeting and keep it on track and on time.

Assign a second person to take and share notes live – Take notes in the agenda document. Share the screen so participants can review the notes as long as screen sharing isn’t being used for another purpose.

Review the agenda at the start – Present the meeting’s purpose, decisions to be made, topics, and timing.

Review the rules of engagement – Should questions be held until the end? Should comments be made via chat?

Test anticipated speakers’ audio – Don’t wait until you’re in the middle of a hot topic to learn someone’s mic isn’t working. Ask participants to say hello so they can fix a problem immediately.

Facilitate to agenda timing – Start and end the meeting, topic discussions, and breaks on time.

Give time cues – Remind participants of time left during each topic.

Announce if you are adding more time for a topic on the fly – Communicate how time will be reduced elsewhere to accommodate the change.

Stop out-of-scope discussions – Quickly but politely stop the discussion – and ask others speak up if they think a topic is out-of-scope. Add the topic to a “parking lot” for future discussion.

3 – Load and Test Zoom Before the Meeting

Sign up for Zoom (or use your Google or Facebook login) – Click Sign Up, It’s Free or use your existing Google or Facebook login.

Download and install the app – Native apps are often more evolved and stable than browser-based versions and allow for preconfigured settings. Download and install the app and sign in.

Check the audio and video before every meeting – Zoom has great features for testing your microphone and camera. Test before every meeting as other apps used previously may interfere.

Use the best headset, speaker, microphone, camera, and monitor – Many computers and some monitors have built-in microphones and cameras. They may or may not provide the best quality. If you have options, test various external headsets, USB speakerphones, cameras, and monitors. Zoom let’s you mix and match devices so you can use a speakerphone’s mic and a TV’s video and speaker if both are connected to your computer.

Use the phone if necessary – If you are not near a computer, you can use the Zoom app on your mobile phone for audio and video or dial in to a phone number. Or, if you can’t get audio working on your computer, connect via computer to see other participants and share screens – and call in by phone for audio.

Light yourself well – Remember that a bright light behind you may throw a camera off and leave you in silhouette. Find a good place to sit – and remember that light differs by time of day. Use a $10 USB selfie ring light if your space is dark or shadowy.

Arrange space and equipment for multiple participants – Position the furniture, computer, camera, microphone, and monitor so everyone can see and hear and can be close to the microphone when speaking.

Learn about unfamiliar space and equipment – If you’re in a conference room or using someone else’s equipment, get passwords, required cables, and written instructions – and know how to request immediate support.

4 – Learn the Basic Features

Mute/unmute the microphone – You may want to mute your mic quickly to speak to someone locally or clear your throat. Also, mute your mic if you’re in a noisy location or not an active participant. Eating, typing, heavy breathing, and barking dogs can create unwanted noise that may muffle another speaker.

Start/stop the video – You may want to stop the video to step away or chat with someone off camera during the meeting. Also, if your connection is slow, turning the video off may improve spotty audio.

Choose the best video layout – Zoom offers options for displaying participant video, including combinations of Full Screen, Active Speaker, and Gallery (showing all participants) – and another set of options when someone is screen sharing.

Keep the Mini Zoom window on top all the time  – You can minimize Zoom to a Mini window so it floats on top of other apps. You can now check your email but continue to see the meeting.

Share the screen – Participants can share screens and computer audio – including the entire screen or a specific application. This is great to live share notes or a chart being created – or to display a presentation or website.

Public and Private Chat – You can send chat messages to an entire room or private messages to other users. Double check you have selected the correct recipient before sending!

5 – Really Leverage Zoom’s Advanced Capabilities

Make use of video – Video is the next best thing to being there. Turn on your camera and encourage others to do the same. It makes a difference. Engage your participants. Make eye contact by looking at your camera instead of the screen.

Use remote control – One participant can take over another participant’s screen to run a presentation, type data into a spreadsheet, or demo an application. Remember, the participant will have access to the remote machine so don’t use this feature if there are security or privacy concerns.

Share an iPhone or iPad screen – A participant can demo an app, show photos, or run a presentation on an iPhone. This can be done by a participant using the Zoom app on the iPhone or via an iPhone connected by wire to a computer during a Zoom meeting.

Use a virtual background – Working from home and don’t want to show your refrigerator art?! Superimpose a Zoom background or personal photo or video behind you. It works best with a solid color wall but sometimes works without one. This is more of a fun feature but might be a good conversation starter or way to keep participants engaged.

Chat – If you have a lot of participants, chat can allow them to type questions without interrupting the flow of the conversation. Chat can be disabled, limited to host or public only, or public/private.

Learn more about JMA and our process improvement and strategic planning services or contact us.

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