Jun 24 2020

Functional Versus Strategic Meetings on Zoom

Like a lot of people, I’m stuck on Zoom for most of the day, although I’ve tried to mix in some regular phone call meetings – even when Zoom would be available – just to give me a break from time to time. I’ve found that Zoom works reasonably well for functional meetings and for information sharing / webinar-style meetings. When I say “functional meetings”, I mean executive team meetings, check-ins, and board meetings – ones that are fairly informational and have a relatively set agenda, but likely the kind of meetings that you have on a regular basis (weekly or monthly).

However, when I’ve held meetings that were more strategic in nature – such as open-ended planning meetings and those to talk about general strategy – they haven’t translated to Zoom very well. These meetings tend to run longer and I’ve struggled with video conferencing as the medium because it feels like there’s something missing – the body language in the room is hard to read and it seems easy to lose people’s attention, even from the very start. I find it’s even easy for me to lose attention in this setting and stay fully engaged. It’s harder to follow the more open ended conversations that “strategy” meetings lend themselves to and it’s just harder to stay engaged. This isn’t “Zoom fatigue” – that’s real and I definitely feel it many days – but something else.

I’m wondering if other people have noticed this and if anyone has any ideas for ways to improve that dynamic. We’re all stuck on Zoom for the foreseeable future, which had been working great for more functional meetings. But as we at Foundry have moved from tactical meetings related to Covid/PPP/our weekly Monday meetings to planning meetings (portfolio reviews and in particular our quarterly off-sites that we’ve been doing since the start of Foundry), they’re just not translating as well to Zoom. Bring remote has had many advantages in terms of productivity (no travel, no driving to/from work, lots of focused time) but there are plenty of draw-backs and this is a big one in my world.

If you have ideas and suggestions for ways to counter these issues, please weigh in – I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Also published on Medium.