This article was written by a Rotarian for a Rotary Club context, but it can also be applied to all non-profit organizations.

In a 24 hour day, most people spend one-third of it sleeping, one-third of it working, and one-third of it fitting everything else in life from family to friends to interests. Bringing committee meetings online can be a great way to have efficient meetings that allow your members to maximize their limited free time. While there are many platforms you can consider for hosting an online meeting, the platform I recommend is Zoom.

Zoom is a video conferencing platform founded in 2011 in the Silicon Valley. A major competitor to LogMeIn, which owns GoToMeeting, Zoom’s popularity has grown over the past few years due to its superior user experience and capabilities versus GoToMeeting. In addition to being fairly easy to adopt, you can create a free Zoom account to have unlimited 1 on 1 video meetings, and video meetings with a time limit of 40 minutes. That time limit is removed for paid accounts, which also enables a wealth of advanced features including online breakout rooms, online polls during meetings, and much more.

Starting at $14.99/month, Zoom is also very affordable to use and can help improve productivity while maximizing time efficiency.

Zoom Video Conferencing, Split Screen

Key Features

  • Free to use for 1 on 1 meetings.
  • Paid accounts have no time limits. Discount for Rotarians.
  • Desktop app, tablet app, and mobile app available.
  • Dial-in phone conference line for those who do not have a microphone.
  • Can support up to 50 webcams simultaneously.
  • Built-in recording feature in case someone can’t make the meeting.
  • Advanced tools available such as Online Breakout Rooms, Online Polling, and much more.
  • Great for hosting committee meetings online
Zoom Video Conferencing, Split Screen

Best Practices for Hosting Zoom Meetings

Once you decide to shift your committee meetings to Zoom video conferencing, it is time to also adapt your style for a video conference meeting. Here are some best practices.

Send out a calendar invitation at least 7 days in advance

Running on the assumption that not everyone lives and breathes Rotary all-day and all-night, the more advanced notice you can give meeting attendees and stakeholders of when your meeting will be, the better. If possible, be sure to send them a calendar invitation as well so that the event automatically imports into their calendar. If this isn’t possible, then send out at least an email notice with the date, the time, and the Zoom connection information. (See how to schedule a Zoom meeting.)

Connect in advance with anyone who may have onboarding issues

Technology adoption varies depending on the participant. Be sure to identify any meeting participants who may not have experience using Zoom video conferencing, and may appreciate a brief practice meeting in advance on Zoom to make sure they know how to connect and use Zoom. There’s nothing that stops meeting productivity in its tracks like a participant or two who you need to spend 10 to 15 minutes with at the beginning of a committee meeting telling them how to connect to Zoom, how to share their screen, or how to mute themselves.

Send out an agenda at least 3 days in advance

An agenda allows everyone to prepare for the contents of the meeting, and also helps keep you accountable. All of the meeting participants and stakeholders will be able to see what topics are covered, and remind you if anything important was left off the agenda. If you need anyone to present any deliverables, let them know as far in advance as possible. Your agenda will serve as your guide for your meeting.

“Hey ____, we can’t see you. Do you have a webcam?”

About 67% of human communication is non-verbal. That means having effective meetings requires you to be able to see each other’s faces in order to receive more of their message. A gentle ask at the beginning of the meeting to prompt people that you can’t see them, and to see if they have a webcam, is a great way to encourage your participants to turn on their webcams. Once your committee meetings regularly have participants using video, your meeting participants will begin to expect it and will turn it on for future meetings.

Speedy meetings + Start on time, end on time

Some tech companies encourages their employees to have speedy meetings that are a few minutes short of what a normal meeting is. For traditional 1-hour meetings, they encourage 50-minute meetings. For 30-minute meetings, they encourage 20-minute meetings. Remember that moving meetings to Zoom is to help save time; that doesn’t mean you should extend the length of your meetings. Best practice shows that meeting hosts start losing the focus of attendees for meetings that are longer than 1 hour. The ideal length of a Zoom meeting is no more than 1 hour, with shorter speedy meetings being preferred.

Assign a Time Keeper and Assistant Co-Host

If your meeting has more than 4 people, it makes sense to make sure to have another person assigned as time keeper and your assistant co-host in Zoom. By clicking on their participant name and giving them co-host privileges, that participant will be able to mute and unmute other participants. This is particualrly helpful for helping manage any participants who forget (or simply don’t understand how to) mute their devices. Having someone else keep track of time can also help you stay on track, and decide when you need to move a lengthy topic to the parking lot to revisit later. It is ideal to make sure your time keeper is assigned prior to your meeting start, so that they can have sufficient time to review the meeting agenda and ask about how much time you expect to spend on each agenda topic.

Zoom Meetings do not replace fellowship and friendship

While it is possible to have friendly dialogue and to catch up with friends and members over Zoom video conferencing, this article is in no way suggesting that Zoom replaces fellowship and in-person friendship socials. Zoom is a great way to take care of normal club business in an efficient and productive manner, but there is still something unique and powerful about being able to break bread with people in-person and to share a drink. Zoom should help augment and improve productivity in your club, but should not replace the in-person connections. It should also be noted that not every topic is best handled over Zoom. For example, conflict resolution is still best done in-person. Additionally, sometimes you want to have lengthier brainstorming sessions or workshops that can find added benefits from happening in-person as well. Technology like Zoom is a great way to add benefit to our clubs and our lives, but is not meant to replace all in-person meetings and events.