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  • Writer's picturePeter Yawitz

The New Normal Meeting Guidelines

Dear Someone Else’s Dad,

I have Articles About Zoom Fatigue Fatigue. I understand that Zoom meetings are a new way of life, and our energies are tapped from trying to look our best (articles on lighting and positioning), trying to remain focused (articles on looking into the camera and nodding appropriately), and trying to be a team player (articles on how often to speak up). How about some advice about running better Zoom meetings so we don’t burn out!


Zoom Pooped

Dear Zoom Pooped,

I hear you. And I’m glad I don’t have to look at you and you don’t have to look at me. Before the pandemic business consultants and corporate hacks published a bunch of books with titles like No More Meetings!, Meetings Stink!, Death to Meetings!, Time Suck!, Meetings Suck!, No More Death!, etc.

The moral of this story is that rarely do people see a meeting invite in their inbox and shout, “I, for one, cannot wait to attend!” I swear new books are going to have the same titles but will add the word “Zoom” before the word “Meetings." I am beating everyone to it.

So here are two pieces of advice on changing how we can all run more effective meetings to minimize the time we have to stay on Zoom.

1. Do a lot of pre-work because no one wants a Zoom meeting longer than 40 minutes.

THE CURRENT WAY: Many meeting agendas will say things like “Update on Skoodge project—Lee” and “CFO update—Al.” During the meeting, participants have to look their best on Zoom, smile patiently, and nod to show they’re listening as Lee and Al present information that they could have sent in an email beforehand. Discussions and questions ensue, and those two topics might have taken up 20 minutes or more, and we still have to get to Hari’s customer survey results, including a discussion of potential next steps and Tami’s list of paint colors the entry renovation committee is considering when we reopen for business.

THE NEW WAY: Lee, Al, Hari, and Tami have to present all information in an email to team members a day before the meeting with the understanding that 1) they will not read the email aloud during the meeting, 2) all participants will have read the emails before the meeting, and 3) participants have to the end of the previous day to email the presenters follow-up questions, which the presenters can, if possible, answer before the meeting.

2. Run the meeting with the shared goal of getting through everything and defining next steps in 40 minutes.

THE CURRENT WAY: Moderators may control the proceedings, encourage participation from all, summarize action steps, finish on time. Participants may then leave thinking, “Man that was a productive meeting!” Then again, they may not do any of this.

THE NEW WAY: Moderators ensure that 1) all presenters have replied to all questioners before the meeting so that the purpose of each agenda item will be more focused on approving items or discussing how to proceed 2) participants’ microphones are unmuted when they are presenting or when they signal that they want to ask a question, 3) everyone knows next steps, deadlines and appropriate point-people, and 4) the proceedings remain on target to finish in 40 minutes.

3. Allow at least some schmooze time at the start since it can set a more relaxed tone. Everyone likes at least some water-cooler talk. Let’s not forget we’re human.

Hello, book agents, that was a proposal for my new book. In the meantime, buy the current one since I cover a lot of the same ground.

Best, SED

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