For many companies, Zoom was a lifesaver during the initial unplanned shutdowns and remote work of the COVID-19 pandemic. In mid-March through April, business professionals turned to their webcams for internal communication and camaraderie amongst teams. However, as the pandemic drags on, Zoom fatigue is starting to set in. Slow lag times, redundant meetings, and general boredom make it harder for attendees to stay focused on conference calls. You have the power to break the mold and create an engaging experience for your future Zoom attendees. Follow these tips to lead more effective Zoom meetings. Mute Distractions to Keep the Focus Distractions are the biggest hurdles to effective Zoom calls. Someone’s child starts crying, a cat walks across the keyboard, or a sidebar discussion derails your agenda. If you “lose the room” during these distractions, it can take several minutes to regain the attendees’ attention, and you could end up repeating yourself several times before your point is understood. At the start of the meeting, take control as the presenter. Ask people to mute themselves when they’re not talking. Attendees can unmute themselves if they have questions and then re-mute after. This simple action can reduce distractions and keep the focus on your agenda. Your attendees might also appreciate being muted, knowing that their every sneeze or chair creak won’t distract from the meeting. Set a Clear Agenda With Time Limits One of the most important aspects of your Zoom meeting isn’t your lighting or microphone but your agenda. The agenda will give people an idea for what will be covered—and more importantly, when, and for how long. Most managers who’ve led a meeting before have experienced their presentation being hijacked by a single topic. They probably had a list of items to cover and spent 50 minutes talking just about the first topic—or even a tangent unrelated to the initial meeting. The longer this goes on, the harder it is to keep everyone’s focus. This ultimately leads to more follow-up meetings—and more inefficiencies. When you send out a meeting notice, include an agenda. Establish a formula for reviewing certain items to make sure you stay on topic. For example: \tAgenda item: Review the marketing budget for Black Friday (10 minutes) \tMinute 1: Discuss what will be covered with this item and the necessary call to action needed by the team \tMinute 9: Stop the discussion and bring the group back to the necessary call to action If you can’t resolve the issue within the set time, create a process to address the problem. This could mean building a few extra minutes into the meeting (i.e., creating a 45-minute agenda for a 60-minute meeting) or assigning 2 or 3 people to address the issue outside of the Zoom space. Create Engaging Visuals One of the hardest things about Zoom: watching people through the camera. Attendees are very aware that they’re being watched and feel the need to make eye contact with their peers. You can create an “out” for them that will also make your presentation more engaging and relaxing. Develop a PowerPoint deck for your presentation or a few key visuals for your team to see—then share your screen so it’s the dominant view. You can also simply share the agenda to give your attendees something to follow along with throughout the call. Not only can a creative deck keep people engaged—it can also reduce levels of discomfort with being on-camera. Schedule Your Meeting Strategically There’s a science to scheduling meetings. A study conducted by YouCanBookMe of 2 million responses to 530,000 meeting invitations found that Tuesday at 2:30pm is the best time to schedule meetings. Attendees are most likely to RSVP yes—and most likely to pay attention. If possible, avoid Monday meetings—your employees are catching up after the weekend and planning the week. Friday afternoon meetings are also frowned upon: you might not get the number of attendees you want, and your team will likely be checked out mentally as they prepare for the weekend. If you want engaged and excited attendees, focusing your meeting times from Tuesday through Thursday. Bonus Tip: Respect Others’ Time Another thing to keep in mind when hosting a Zoom meeting: do your best to end on-time or even a few minutes early. Keeping this commitment to ending in a timely manner shows that you respect your employees. It also leaves the meeting on a positive note, which will make your team more likely to attend the next call. While you may not be able to end every meeting early, if you go over the expected meeting window, you should respect the fact that other members may need to leave for other priorities. You can create engaging Zoom meetings by focusing on the needs of your attendees. What distracts them? What engages them? If you can prioritize these questions and some of the other points addressed above, you’re more likely to hold your attendees’ attention—and improve the response from your Zoom calls.