our Zoom meetings are a disorganized mess

A reader writes:

This hilariously, painfully accurate TikTok dropped into my Twitter feed today.

This is very true at my organization, and seems like I’m not alone. We weren’t exactly famous for starting meetings in an on-time, organized manner in pre-pandemic times, and we struggled with Zoom before it was cool, but it’s definitely gotten worse. I’m getting tired of every meeting starting with five minutes of awkward digital thumb-twirling, especially since some employers, including mine, are recommending that everyone dial into meetings in perpetuity to level the playing field between remote and in-office workers.

I’m sympathetic to Zoom technical issues, spotty home internet, etc — I’ve had plenty of my own — but on some level, we’ve been doing this for 18 months, and it feels like if we establish an expectation that meetings start on time with A/V issues worked out (including calling in if your internet is spotty, etc), people should generally be able to do that by now.

I have one meeting — run by the big boss — who just says “okay, let’s get started” at one minute past the scheduled meeting time and we go, whether people are there or not. But that’s still very much the exception. Has any office fixed this on a larger scale, especially for small group meetings where you really need everyone present with tech working? Or are we stuck with “Let’s wait a few minutes — is Jim here yet? Let me ping him. Okay, let’s get started — okay, Jane, I can see you but I can’t hear you — no, I CAN’T HEAR YOU — I’ll Slack you, maybe you can’t hear me” being the norm for eternity?

It’s a people problem more than it is a tech problem. It only looks like a tech problem.

To fix it, you need the people who run your meetings to be committed to being assertive about running them well.

That means everyone who runs meetings should:

a. Let people know ahead of time that the meeting will start on time and then do what your boss is doing — just start at the scheduled time, whether everyone is there or not.

b. Let people know they’re expected to test their tech ahead of time and to call in instead of struggling with video if their internet is spotty.

c. Interrupt meetings to say things like, “Jane, you keep breaking up — can you disconnect and call in instead?” … and then keep going so the meeting isn’t sidetracked by a big discussion of what might be going on with Jane’s connection.

d. If there’s a chronic offender, reach out to that person privately and ask them to fix whatever’s going on (whether it’s asking them to be on time, or to be less disruptive when they join the call if they do need to be late, or to figure out their tech set-up or whatever it is).

e. Reflect on whether the meeting itself is structured in a way that’s causing some of this — for example, do all the attendees really need to be there (people may be straggling in because they have good reason not to prioritize their attendance), is it scheduled at a convenient time or is it right after a different meeting that always runs late, and so forth — and if so, change those things.

And then you need a culture that reinforces and supports those practices.

For some reason, a ton of people in charge of meetings don’t do half of what’s involved in running them well — whether it’s this stuff or not cutting off a monologuer or not being disciplined about using an agenda and ensuring there are clear takeaways — and the end result of all of it is that their meetings annoy their attendees and waste people’s time. Sometimes if one high-up person models good meeting practices, it’ll trickle down to everyone else … but sometimes it takes a commitment from managers to set clear expectations on this stuff and reinforce it. Unfortunately, managers can be just as bad at running meetings as anyone else, so that doesn’t happen nearly as much as it should.

{ 215 comments… read them below }

  1. Exhausted Trope*

    Meetings don’t run well in my company, Zoom or no. They never start on time. Never. We’re always waiting on someone and organizers end up emailing or calling missing people so meetings often start 10 – 15 minutes late. I’m always in early so it sucks to see time wasted like that. I wish management would take charge but no. We’re all working hybrid schedules, btw.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I’ve adjusted to show up just on time so I don’t waste time before the meeting start time making small talk.

    2. BRR*

      My last job was like this. Unfortunately the office culture was “what does a calendar do?” It was just something that wasn’t going to change. It was rally refreshing to start my current job where people showed up on time.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        LOL! I’m going to have to remember that. My boss is very much a “What does a calendar do?” sort of person. If we have a call scheduled at 11:00, he might message me on Slack at 10:47 and say he’s calling now. Or he might reschedule the call for 12:00–at 10:59 when I am already sitting there waiting for his call. And then reschedule it again. I mean, yeah, I work for him, so he can do whatever he wants, but it is super annoying. 1. I have calls scheduled with other people, so I can’t randomly just talk any time of the day that he feels like it. 2. I have to move from one room to another to get on camera, so if he calls early, I’m not there and have to scramble because I didn’t expect him to call at that time.

        1. Coffee Bean*

          Sorry, but the way your boss treats your time and others is unprofessional. Being nearly an hour late for a call, which then forces you to be late to other calls is unacceptable. It’s one thing to be running late by a few minutes and IM’ing someone to advise you are going to be late – but 47 minutes? That is not okay.

    3. Erin C.*

      I am literally typing this while being in a meeting that started with one coworker asking another to share a story about their precocious toddler. This is a regular occurance and for once, instead of sharing one, she said, “let’s get this done and if there’s time left at the end I’ll think of a funny thing she said to share.”

    4. Anonym*

      Oof. If someone hasn’t shown up by 5 mins after, I send an email or IM checking in and offering to reschedule. What a waste of time for all concerned! Being at the ready for a meeting to start is not the same as being able to focus on other work – it really is company time wasted.

      1. sofar*

        Yes, we had a meeting where a necessary party was a no-show. The meeting runner was like, “Well I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. So we’ll reschedule, bye.”

        1. Juniantara*

          I do this as needed. I conduct a ton of meetings and sometimes a super-senior person in on the invite as a courtesy, but when I need them in the meeting to make a final decision there is no reason to hold the meeting without them.

    5. Beth*

      Yes, agreed that this isn’t a zoom issue! This video reminds me very much of meetings at my first post-college job. I’d get to the scheduled room a minute or two ahead of the scheduled time; people would then spend the next 5-10 minutes slowly trickling in; there would be chitchat and thumb twiddling in the meantime; once the last person arrived, probably there’d still be some small talk before we actually got started. Unsurprisingly, almost every meeting ran over the allotted time!

  2. Green great dragon*

    Set meetings to start at 5 mins past the hour or half hour, so people have time to finish the previous meeting, grab a drink, and find the zoom link before the meeting starts.

    1. vainglorious*

      This. So many of us are stuck in virtual meetings for hours straight with no time to get a drink or go to the washroom.

      I often have 6-7 hours of meetings a day all usually scheduled in a block with a half hour lunch, and while I try my best to be on time for all of them, inevitably, each day, I am a couple of minutes late for a meeting due to another meeting running a couple of minutes late or due to my being a human with human biological needs.

      I am a stickler for being on time in my day to day life, but there’s only so much I can do.

      1. Coenobita*

        I prefer scheduling meetings to end at 5 or 10 till, rather than starting them at 5 or 10 after, but yes 100% this. It’s like a doctor’s office where one appointment running over can cascade over the whole rest of the day. I’ve literally logged into a meeting on Zoom while my previous meeting was wrapping up on Teams (or substitute for the platform of your choice, we use all of them!).

        For me the most liberating thing has been giving myself permission to leave meetings that are running over, even if that makes me that dreaded “gotta-jump-to-my-next-call-see-ya” person.

        1. nona*

          +1 – we have a dept meeting that is scheduled to start at 5 after the hour and everyone just logs in at the top of the hour anyway and then the leader is fighting to wait those 5 minute because technically noone is late yet.

        2. Anonym*

          I’m always grateful when others say “I have a hard stop, gotta go”. It sets a good precedent for others who might hesitate to do the same.

          1. A Feast of Fools*

            I have a manager who does this even when she doesn’t have anything scheduled afterward.

            1. Distracted Librarian*

              I’m a manager, and I do the same. It’s easier for those of us with authority to do these things, so we should. It helps normalize ending meetings on time.

        3. Good Vibes Steve*

          I’ve become very liberal with saying “I have a hard stop at 10” when the hard stop simply is “this meeting was scheduled to end at 10”. Walk out. Force people to follow-up by email and be super effective and to the point in the meeting time.

      2. sofar*

        I LOVE this. I remember in the physical office, having to run with my laptop to an elevator and go up a floor to make a meeting. Even on Zoom, things run over. I think having a “passing period” at the start of the meeting is genius.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        My meting pet peeve — people who persist in setting up meetings at lunchtime or exactly when I’m scheduled to get back from lunch. Even though I have asked them not to. I frequently don’t get to go to lunch on time, and I’m in one of those states where I am required to take athe least 30 minute lunch to be allowed to log back on! So, that means I miss a meeting relevant to my job.

        1. Distracted Librarian*

          Ugh, yes. Large campus committee meetings are often scheduled at noon, “because that’s the only time everyone is free.” Well, yeah, we’re free because, you know, it’s our lunch hour. I now have my lunch hour taken up with meetings 2 days a week and sometimes 3. Gah!

          1. Hazel*

            In the past when my schedule wasn’t very flexible, I blocked off lunchtime on my calendar so it would show as unavailable. I do the same if I know I’m going to have work to do after a meeting ends. I block the time so I don’t show as available for 30 minutes (or whatever working time I need) after.

    2. Zona the Great*

      It won’t work. IME, the only thing that might is telling the disorganized organizer that I’ll come back in 5 to see if things are ready yet. They hate that but I don’t care. It’s disrespectful to not be prepared when you’re the one who called and runs the meeting.

    3. Rectilinear Propagation*

      Apparently, this is actually a setting in Outlook now. You can have it automatically have meetings start 10 minutes late and/or end 5 minutes early.

    4. twocents*

      Agreed. I don’t love seeing late attendance as a matter of people not prioritizing correctly. In a lot of roles, your job IS attending back-to-back meetings. If your meetings can never start on time because people aren’t there on time, then anticipate that sometimes people need to pee and schedule your meetings for 5 or 10 minutes after the hour.

    5. Ace in the Hole*

      Alternatively, build a slow start into the meeting plans. Most meetings I attend have a 5-10 minute window (adjust length based on what’s reasonable for your situation) at the beginning for stragglers to show up, a bit of warm-up small talk, etc. before we start on the actual agenda. If everyone arrives on time ready to go, we can start right away and get done a bit quicker. If we get to the end of the warm-up time and someone’s still missing, we just start without them. The meeting organizer doesn’t have to formally announce the warm-up period when they schedule the meeting. In fact, that can backfire if you’re dealing with people who are chronically late.

      Usually we’ll say “meeting is at 9am.” When the first people show up at 9:00, the host might say something like: “We’re waiting on a few more people, I’ll give them till 9:05. Feel free to grab some coffee while we wait.” At 9:05 sharp, the host starts in on the meeting agenda.

      Obviously this only works with larger meetings. If there’s only 2-3 attendees you can’t exactly start without someone.

    6. shyster*

      We started doing this across my entire organization – 5 minutes for 25 minutes, 10 minutes for 50 minute meetings – and it makes a huge difference.

      1. Storm in a teacup*

        Yes we now have the same where if you schedule a 30 min meeting in outlook it defaults to 25mins and 50mins for a 60min meeting
        It’s been so much better since this came into play. People are late less and feel we have some comfort breaks built in

    7. Some Lady*

      Yes. People need transition time, for tech, for finishing up other meetings, for the realities of living in human bodies. The people who come before the 5 minutes can check their email, use the time for humanizing chit chat, or whatever. This is helpful for in-person meetings too!

    8. Windchime*

      My office has set a rule that meetings that used to be 30 minutes will now be 25 minutes, to give people a chance to take a quick break and make it to their next meeting. Likewise, meetings that used to be an hour are now supposed to end after 50 minutes. It doesn’t always work but most times people try to end the meetings on time so that people are running from back-to-back meetings.

      1. Serendipity*

        I came to say the same. Our meetings start on time and are expected to finish early to allow people to prepare for the next meeting.

        Also, I’ve no hesitation in typing my apology into the chat window and leaving the meeting once time is up unless it’s a one-on-one or a meeting I’m really interested in. No one has ever taken offence to be saying I need to prepare for my next meeting

      2. acrossthepond*

        Likewise for us. Makes such a huge difference knowing I’ve got time to get a drink, comfort break, find my notes etc. Plus there is a ‘no 12-1 meetings’ mandate

        Also, for dodgy internet, turning the camera off makes a huge difference 90% of the time. Even the best home wifi can be sketchy

    9. Mr. Shark*

      Yeah, I’m much more for the end 10 minutes early than start 5-10 minutes late. It just makes more sense to me. It’s just easier to plan to start meetings at the top or bottom of the hour, and then end early so you can take a minute to do whatever is necessary, and get ready for the next meeting.

  3. Person from the Resume*

    I feel like at my org we’ve just accepted that we don’t start on time so I’ve adjusted to not dialing in until the minute before so I don’t have to make awkward small talk.

    But also some other meetings go late and sometimes (not always) people stick around trying to wrap up making them late.

    I am definitely tempted to start on time but sometimes there are key decision makers not there yet so there’s no point in starting early.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Same. The worst offenders in my org are the highest up so it’s a matter of learning to work with it.

      1. Person from the Resume*


        I’d prefer the culture be that we end 5 minutes before the end of the hour and start all meetings on time, but that is not the organization culture.

    2. Lizard*

      Exactly! I’m often a meeting organizer, saying crap like “let’s give it another minute for folks to join”… but I’m not waiting for a quorum, I’m waiting for either the big boss or the client!

    3. A Feast of Fools*

      I press “Join” at the exact moment the computer clock rolls to the start time. If I see that the “important” people are missing, I fake having microphone issues [by typing in the chat that I can hear everyone but my mic doesn’t seem to be connecting] so I don’t have to make small talk. When the big wigs finally join, my technical difficulties have magically resolved themselves.

      What bites is when the big wigs show up late to a meeting that I’m running, so I’m forced to make that inane small talk that is basically the equivalent of “Please hold; your call is very important to us; someone will be with you shortly.”

  4. Rayray*

    I can’t super relate as I’ve mostly in person during this pandemic but I’ve done some zoom meetings and definitely know how it goes. I really like the boss that starts on time. Even for in person meetings I like that practice. I hate sitting around waiting for people and starting late only enables people to keep coming late. It was a thing at one work place, they always started late so people didn’t bother getting there on time so if you were actually on time you could easily have ten minutes of your time wasted sitting around waiting.

    I also feel like being on mute unless you’re talking just needs to be a universal rule.

    1. SomeoneWhoIsAlwaysWillingToPutOnASweaterAndSlippers*

      “I also feel like being on mute unless you’re talking just needs to be a universal rule.”

      I was in a training yesterday on Zoom (in my office) but the rest of my 20+ department was in a 200+ campus-wide (Zoom) meeting in their offices. Towards the end of my training, the campus-wide meeting finished. I knew because I heard doors opening all around me then uproarious laughter coming from every direction. Apparently towards the end of the meeting, when the floor was open for all to share, someone started sharing some info and the only other person who was unmuted (don’t know why they were unmuted) said “Will you shut the h–l up!” and everyone (except the person sharing info who seemed oblivious) heard/saw who was speaking, but didn’t respond or say anything.

      A half-hour later there was an all campus email from the person who interrupted stating that they were “checked out” and reading an article and responded to the article, not to the person speaking. (??)

      Just have to say, as much as I enjoyed and appreciated my training, I sure wish I had experienced the meeting in person instead of hearing about it after the fact.

  5. Guacamole Bob*

    Does the videoconferencing platform matter at all here? We use Microsoft Teams in my office, which is like Zoom and Slack mashed together. Most people are just logged in all the time, and joining a call is unlikely to involve tech issues once you’ve figured out your setup. You also get a box popping up in the corner of your screen to tell you the meeting is starting, and can easily type something in the meeting chat even if you haven’t joined the meeting yet – like if your prior meeting is running over.

    That TikTok was still painfully on point, but I feel like we often are able to use the “waiting for people to join” time for some idle chitchat, the same as if we were gathering in a conference room, and it’s not usually as painful as OP describes. But my office is also good about starting meetings on time.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      Also in my office it’s totally acceptable to stay off video and muted until the meeting starts in many cases (especially larger meetings), or to say hi but be visibly staring at your email on a different screen until things get going. The person leading the meeting needs to be engaged through all the “should we get started” bits, but I don’t feel like it’s a huge drain on my time as a participant for most meetings.

      1. Imprudence*

        Came to say the same thing. All logged in early and small talk) doing something else till the excellent chair if the meeting starts it. Usually when we hear the chiming bell on the building next his office

        But we had good meetings before the pandemic. StaRt on time, clear agenda, background information available.

      2. Anonymoose*

        I completely agree. Personally I’m a bit confused why everyone is complaining, as I always work on other things or wander to the kitchen to get a snack until the meeting gets started officially. I have my video off and am muted until then. I would be irritated if I was the host and having to troubleshoot the IT problems, but the big advantage to online meetings is my ability to multitask without anyone else knowing!

      3. Distracted Librarian*

        Same here. I stay muted with video off most of the time till the meeting actually starts.

    2. ThatGirl*

      We use both Teams and Zoom here, and they’re all like this, although you’re right about the chat feature. There can still be tech issues with Teams if people have bad connections etc/

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Here, too. But Teams has the lovely habit of somehow thinking you’re still on audio if you’ve had one Teams meeting that day. Then you have to dial in for your next one.

        And I hate having all that chat pop up after the meeting is over.

        1. sunglass*

          500 “thanks!” messages after a meeting is the worst thing about Teams. Shut up, everyone!

            1. I'm just here for the cats*

              You can also mute the chat by clicking the ellipses in the chat screen. a pop up menu should open and allow you to mute.

              1. Charlotte Lucas*

                Oh, you mean the controls that are hidden by all the popups…?

                But I didn’t know you could mute the chat. Thanks!

              2. Seeking Second Childhood*

                I’ve tried that and Teams assumed that I was done with the meeting for all times. I had to ask to be reinvited to see it again. Weird.

    3. Coenobita*

      Yeah, our tech is usually fine with internal meetings regardless of platform (unless someone’s internet just dies, which happens on a regular basis), but I have a LOT of meetings with external partners/stakeholders/collaborators/etc., including lots of government employees with very strict IT setups. It seems like there are new tech issues every time I have a call with someone from a new organization or someone I haven’t talked to for a while, and in my job that’s super frequent.

    4. Lynn*

      hahaha I use teams too but it’s almost like a different program from the one you are describing…

      I have to start getting ready to join my first meeting of the day ~10 minutes early just in case the program has just decided to not work for the day. It also regularly drops me out of meetings, almost exactly ten minutes after I join.

      Sometimes tech is weird and it’s a weird numbers game — if there are four people calling in, and you have tech issues 25% of the time, then on average you will have at least one person with an issue per meeting.

      1. Teams Master*

        This. Teams crashes all the time. I was running a meeting and sharing my screen and it kicked me out.

    5. Oxford Comma*

      I hate Teams with the white hot intensity of a thousand burning suns.

      But that said, I don’t think the problem is the platform. The problem is the people. The people who are bad at running Zoom meetings were bad at running in-person, pre-pandemic meetings. There are technical problems with Zoom, yes, but I’ve sat through in-person meetings where the equipment failed (projectors and phones and whatnot). We had people show up chronically late to in-person meetings. We had the people who were oblivious to the clock and wanted to chitchat and dither when really we were already 10 minutes in.

      A good meeting convener is a rare and a wonderful thing.

    6. I'm just here for the cats*

      We use teams, although we are in person we had someone join virtually once, and just put it on the big screen. For some reason the other person could not find the invite or get joined. Luckily the other person was in the same office as the 3rd person joining virtually so they just shared. The audio wouldn’t work with one computer but it worked with mine.

    7. Tom*

      We use teams and people are frequently not on time, because the stupid thing does not send calendar notifications – despite calendar being right there. So people are not present on meetings, because they are focused on something and work.

      And sometimes it is quite hard to find where the hell the meeting you are supposed to join is.

  6. RJ*

    At my old company, nearly every meeting we had started this way. The main problem wasn’t the tech – it was the fact the company culture just accepted it and did nothing to correct it. No matter how many reminders we sent out, times we sat and waiting for people to show up or had IT check computers/laptops/devices days ahead, it would always come to the awkward meeting intro time. Alison’s points are spot on.

  7. KHB*

    I have a deeply engrained habit of always showing up for a 2:00 meeting at 1:59 at the latest, so starting even one minute late feels like I’m still spending a lot of time twiddling my thumbs. My solution, in the Before Times, was to always bring along something to do (usually a paper to read) – I used to joke that those two minutes, from 1:59 to 2:01, were always my most productive two minutes of the week, because I could count on being in a quiet conference room by myself with no distractions.

    I haven’t tried to keep up this practice during the Zoom times. Maybe I should.

    1. RedinSC*

      Oh, I totally do this on Zoom meeting waiting times. I answer emails or read a paper, etc. Sometime I catch up on AAM, as well. Those 2 minutes are still productive, and it’s even easier if I have two screens.

      1. Coenobita*

        I am pretty sure that I get more done in the first five minutes of meetings that are starting late than I do when I technically have nothing scheduled. I’ve stopped fighting it, LOL.

      2. shyster*

        Me too. I work in a culture where meetings start 3-5 minutes late – it used to bother me but now I use that time to send emails or complete small tasks and it works out just fine.

    2. LurkNoMore*

      Weekly Monday morning meeting, the first five to ten minutes involves discussions about whatever game of sport was on the past weekend…yawn! I usually have some mindless paperwork in front of me that I can get thru during those discussions.

    3. A Frayed Knot*

      You definitely should do this! I join the meeting as soon as the meeting reminder pops up 10 minutes before the start because I am afraid I’ll get wrapped up in what I’m doing and forget. So I just keep working until the meeting starts. Mute and video off so no one bothers me, then when someone starts talking, I can join quickly.

  8. BlueBelle*

    I don’t start meetings at the top or the half hour. I start at :15 after. This allows people to have a break between meetings and if their previous meeting ran over, they can still make my meeting on time. This has really helped in getting people there on time.

    1. Laura*

      Yes! I came here to say the same thing. It’s really hard for everyone to be organized for every meeting if they’re scheduled back to back all day. Giving people a minute to get their acts together is super helpful.

    2. Gan Ainm*

      At my company people get very confused by meeting times that aren’t on the hour or half hour, so I haven’t had much success with this. Scheduling hour meetings for 45 mins seems to work though, with the same effect.

    3. Vanilla Bean*

      My company started scheduling meetings in 15 minute increments and all it did was destroy any time available I had to use the bathroom or get a drink. I loathe loathe loathe those people who are looking to meet with me and see one tiny 15 minute slot in my calendar and schedule it rather than show mercy and find another time. (I have handled this by scheduling 15 minute breaks into my morning and afternoon on my calendar, which my boss laughs at, but I am OVER spending my morning half distracted because I can’t find a time to pee.)

      1. Workerbee*

        I hate those people.

        If I desperately need to meet with someone (and I hate meetings, so often the reason is I can’t get them to work on Much Needed X any other way) and I see their day already looks horrendous, I fire off an email and ask first if I can squeeze in or if they have a better time in mind. Otherwise I would cringe at myself for taking a tiny free space. People gotta eat and pee at the very least!

  9. Language Lover*

    I have no advice for you, LW because my experience is a bit different from yours. I’ve found meetings have improved in the virtual environment. While that TikTok is hilarious, it only represents about the first minute of any Zoom meeting where I work. We have occasional technical issues but I’ve found that virtual meetings have less time wasted than in-person meetings.

    Here are some of the issues we used to have that going virtual has basically eliminated.

    Pre-pandemic, our meetings always started at least five minutes late because people had to do an inside-building commute. With people able to join a meeting from their office or from home, they can leave one meeting and almost immediately join the next. Bathrooms are also closer. Meetings can be easily recorded for others to consult if they miss a meeting or come in late.

    We used to have delays at the beginning of a meeting when the leader had to make sure everything was set up and plugged in. And if things were unplugged, it wasn’t always obvious how to connect the equipment.

    With a shared screen, the agenda is very prominent. People at my organization feel less comfortable on screen so there seems to be fewer rambles.

    There are mute options, hand raise options and other things that give a leader of a meeting more control if they want it.

    I know there are some coworkers who prefer the in-person meetings and they have their place but I have found virtual meetings easier to manage.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      This is a very good point – there were many, many technical struggles with conference room technology in our office before the pandemic. Enough that some executives required printed meeting handouts of PowerPoints rather than planning on the screen working.

      1. JustaTech*

        At my work, when we got WebEx (years ago), only the most senior people were given the ability to create a meeting (and thus were the only people who could *start* a meeting).
        Which was nuts, because these were the people who didn’t have the time (didn’t take the time) to learn to use WebEx, and were always running late from their previous meeting, so we’d all be sitting in the conference room waiting for them to show up, get hooked up to the screen and get logged in to the WebEx.

    2. Irish girl*

      I think certian parts have improved as you dont start late because someone else meeting is still in the conference room you booked as we use Team and anyone can start the meeting. Plus finding a room on your floor in your builidng that fit the number of people you had was trying. Now we dont have that issue but the issue of back to back meetings with no breaks in between

      1. Language Lover*

        Yes. Meeting spaces. Other meetings running over. Trying to find a meeting room, especially for a last minute meeting or for my organization—the dreaded double booking. Our room reservation system was kind of terrible.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Or getting booted out of a room that fit because someone higher up needed it. Used to drive me nuts because you’d get something like 15 min heads up which is not enough time to notify people, especially external folks

    3. turquoisecow*

      My company’s in person meetings never started on time. I’d get there two minutes late and be the first person there – and I was not the organizer. And that was at the 8:30 am meeting, so of course that went over which meant the 9:30 meeting started late and the 2:00 meeting was especially late because of the snowball effect.

      Virtual meetings (which we’re still doing even though most people are in the office because we don’t want large gatherings) seem to start exactly on time, maybe two minutes delayed. I figure it’s because people don’t have to walk across the (small) building, where they get stopped by other people or realize they need to use the bathroom or stop to refill their coffee or just mention this one thing to Frank because he’s sitting at his desk and I need to tell him before I forget and he’s hard to get ahold of.

    4. anonymous73*

      There are pros and cons to both. IME if people aren’t on camera for a virtual meeting they’re multi tasking and not paying attention, so you waste everyone’s time by asking a question multiple times. It’s more difficult to multi task in person, and much more obvious if you’re daydreaming.

      1. Language Lover*

        I think we had an equal number of multitaskers. Everyone had their computers and were taking “notes.”

        1. Oxford Comma*

          Yep. People who played with their planners or their phones. People making shopping lists. It happened before. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

      2. JustaTech*

        Oh, when I’m not on camera (and am muted) on a call it’s because someone in another time zone scheduled it for my lunch break and I’m not going to ask to re-schedule a 15 person meeting, but I’m also not going to skip my lunch or subject everyone to my chewing.

        But I have told the two people who schedule meetings at those times *why* I’m off camera/on mute, and I try to get back on camera before the meeting is over.

    5. Underrated Pear*

      Yes – I feel like we probably had an equal number of problems in Zoom meetings and in-person meetings, just *different* problems. But the Zoom ones are more noticeable because they’re still relatively newer/not as ingrained.

      As someone above mentioned, waiting to use a shared room can create cascading delays, and I’m grateful that in my last organization, everyone was super strict about ending exactly on time if there was another meeting after them. It still meant a ~1 minute delay while everyone shuffled out and in, but it’s nice when those sort of unspoken rules are strictly observed. Makes everyone’s lives easier. Granted, staking out a time slot in the meeting room was an entirely different story, a battle in itself!

    6. Prefer my pets*

      I agree. Meetings have gotten VASTLY more efficient in my office now that they are all on Teams or Zoom. The people who would usually ramble forever or go off-topic seem much less prone to it, there’s no side conversations making it hard to hear/focus (they still happen, but in private chats windows so they don’t affect the whole group), people who are only needed for small pieces of longer meetings can either have it going on another screen or just hop on when they get a chat saying they’re up rather than wasting an entire hour sitting in a room for the 10 minutes their expertise is really needed, etc

    7. mreasy*

      I have had the same experience, I actually find video meetings much more focused and productive. And people are WAY less late!

    8. NotAnotherManager!*

      Same. We are FAR more punctual on Zoom. and meetings run way more efficiently. Small talk is minimal, people’s technology works, and they can BRB in the chat if they need to deal with something urgent. And everyone has Zoom fatigue, so no one’s hanging out there any longer than necessary.

      There was a running joke in our office in the Before Times that we ran on [Company Name] Time, but meeting tardiness/missing meetings is almost entirely based on the fact that we run a high-availability client services business, so Bob RSVPed and totally intended to be on time but then got stuck on a call with the client or called into another meeting that took precedent. As long as Bob is less than 10 minutes late or lets the organizer know, we roll with it. I’ve been deputized by my boss to start meetings because she got stuck with the CEO or something, too, and have IMed my most responsible and fast-thinking team lead agenda points to get started with under similar circumstances.

      Plus, and I know this comes up every time we have a late/on time discussion here, we’re in DC where it’s just accepted you’re going to be late for many things because traffic/public transit is psychotic and unpredictable. No one is commuting now, so there is no more breathless, “Sorry, the metro was on fire and a mango truck overturned on the Beltway!”

    9. Anonymous, culprits read here*

      And I can finally hear what the speaker is saying, because now my colleagues can’t sit around yapping about whatever instead of paying attention. The background noise was really distracting.

      1. just a random teacher*

        With Google Meet, I can even turn on auto captions. They’re not perfect, but they are still much better than no captions for me. (Plus, that means I can have the volume lower. One of the other teachers seems to have only an outdoor voice, and being able to lower her volume has made meetings much more tolerable. I wish I could adjust each participant’s volume individually, but alas.)

  10. anone*

    I run meetings in other people’s organizations (as a facilitator) and I’ve found I need to give a few minutes grace at the start since so many organizations have people in back-to-back zooms. I used to ask people to arrive a few minutes ahead so we could start on the dot, but it just wasn’t possible because they were coming out of other meetings. In the sessions I do, relationship is a big part of it alongside the tasks we’re focused on, so having as many people there as possible when we begin is important. At the same time, I never start later than 5 minutes past the scheduled time (and now consider that initial five minutes as “buffer time” in my planning). That five minutes gives the folks who are already there an opportunity to settle themselves, grab water, close email clients, etc., and then we begin with whoever is there and as late arrivals come in get them up to speed as best as we can. I also make sure to end the meetings exactly as scheduled (if not earlier if we move faster than expected) so that we’re not messing up people’s ability to get to their next meeting. People also have to drop out sometimes – it’s an unfortunate inevitability – so I do good summary emails after the fact with the main discussion highlights and links to materials we were working on so that people who couldn’t make it or missed part of it can catch up.

    Meeting culture is a mess!

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        I do the same thing as Anone with a 5-10 min buffer at the beginning of the meeting (length of time depends on meeting type/length). I do this for both in-person and online meetings. It seems to be the norm in my area.

        I don’t put it on the agenda… that tends to backfire since people who are chronically late will tend to arrive even later. I just announce it at the start. Something like “We’re still waiting on a few people, so we’ll get started at 9:05. Feel free to grab some coffee while we wait!” Key point is making sure people know they can step away from the computer so they don’t feel chained to their desk – that helps prevent people from getting frustrated over a waste of time. When the announced start time rolls around I start immediately even if some people are still missing.

        I do think part of this also depends on industry and environment. I’m in a rural area in a field that requires a lot of field work/on-site physical work. It’s very common for people to have delays because of connection issues (rural internet is terrible), transportation, or literally having their hands full with something they can’t put down. So my work culture is very tolerant of lateness, last-minute rescheduling, etc.

        1. shyster*

          I do the same thing. I conduct workshops and trainings across orgs, and I always build unannounced buffer time into my meetings. Humans are humans – sometimes the urge to pee comes around at 1:59 pm.

    1. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

      > as late arrivals come in get them up to speed as best as we can

      It sounds like your meetings run fine, and it also sounds like you’re a professional meeting-runner. For everyone else, though: please don’t do this! If you recap the meeting for people who come late, you’re rewarding them and punishing the folks who are on time. (And a good tool to avoid needing that recap is a written agenda.)

  11. Meep*

    I have noticed that my Abusive Coworker has used Zoom meetings as a form of control and harassment since she couldn’t do it in person. (She used to try and literally LOCK me in a conference room for hours while refusing to let me do work as she sat on her phone the entire time.)

    We have had some ridiculous daily Zoom meetings at 8:30 AM since the pandemic started. They typically last about 15 minutes on average (before I call it) and usually consist of the organizer repeatedly asking if the owner is there – despite being able to see he is not there – every 30 seconds because she has nothing to talk about (by choice – she doesn’t listen and doesn’t want to). She wastes those other 29 seconds complaining that she cannot hear me or taking digs at me – despite me repeatedly telling her that it is HER audio (she also likes to sit under the AC so there is a lot of background noise on her end). I used to show up 5 minutes early to a meeting, but then she would come on and ask me inappropriate personal questions so I started showing up 1 minute after and logging off and logging on until someone else showed up. But 80% of the meetings are just us with her berating me because she tells others that it is canceled.

    Once a week, we have a good productive meeting with everyone, though. But the rest of it is miserable.

      1. Colette*

        Or ask what she wants to talk about in advance.

        (Honestly, I probably wouldn’t go unless others were going to be there, but I can largely control my own schedule.)

    1. Anonymous Koala*

      Could you ask her if you can record your meetings, or get your manager to ask for the meetings to be recorded? If she knows there’s going to be a record of her behavior, I bet 90% of this will disappear pretty fast.

    2. NoviceManagerGuy*

      Uh, I’m not normally a “get a different job” guy but maybe you should get a different job.

    3. Cat Tree*

      What would happen if you just didn’t show up to these meetings? Would she tell your boss and would your boss care? If it wouldn’t matter to your boss, I’d be tempted to just stop going (make up some bland excuse if you want to). I assume she’ll be upset and will treat you badly. But, well, she’s already doing that. So the options are that she’s a jerk and you have these terrible meetings, or she’s a jerk and you don’t have these terrible meetings. Also, can you feel out the others in the group and see if some of them are also willing to stop calling in.

    4. AskJeeves*

      (She used to try and literally LOCK me in a conference room for hours while refusing to let me do work as she sat on her phone the entire time.)

      Excuse me, what?! That’s seriously abusive and unacceptable.

      Also, if this is your coworker and not your boss, why are you tolerating her crazy behavior? If the organizer is never there, skip the meeting. Or turn your video off, mute yourself, and mute your computer audio so you don’t have to her hear either, and send a chat that says, “I’m off audio for now. I’ll plan to join when Organizer is here, but I will need to log off and attend to other work if he hasn’t joined by 8:35.”

  12. Momma Bear*

    Agreed that it is not a tech issue.

    I used to have a job where if you were offsite you called in. One meeting was often with high level folks and you did NOT waste their time. You got started on time and you ended on time. I really appreciated it. Where I am now, the organizer gives it a minute or two, but at this point everyone should know how your platform works. See that there’s a majority and start the meeting.

    If key people are perpetually late, then maybe the meeting time doesn’t actually work for them. Talk to them or their EAs to find a better time, or hold discussions where you need their input to a later point in the meeting. Or maybe make sure everyone has an agenda so you have something to follow and/or they know what topics to address so when they arrive you can go right to that. We had a PM that was perpetually late with a client and ended up having to speak to his boss because if we started on time, we’d have to re-explain everything when he showed up and no amount of “hey, client is peeved” got him to be on time. He was FT remote so not sure what the issue was, either. But the issue was not tech at all, but the idea somehow that being remote = loose schedule.

    For a bit we got into the habit of showing up late and the CEO reminded everyone that he has a tight schedule and expected everyone to be timely….and he would make note of repeat stragglers. We absolutely showed up on time after that. I think it is often a top down issue, so if you have someone higher up set the expectation, then others will follow. If someone says, “Oh, we need to wait for Tim and Sally” point out that Bob starts his meetings at 1 minute after so why don’t you follow his lead/example?

  13. Cookie D'oh*

    I feel like I’m in the minority, but meetings are pretty well run at my company. I work in software development and people are scattered across the US and in India. Conference calls have been the norm for years so people seem to know how they work. It’s been years since I’ve had an in-person meeting because most of the people I talk to on a daily basis aren’t even in my state.

    I run a lot of meetings and I usually wait a couple of minutes for people to join and then get started. Sometimes I will need to IM a person who is critical to the discussion. We are a meeting heavy culture, so a lot of people have back-to-back meetings. I try to schedule meetings for 25 or 55 minutes to give people a buffer between calls.

    We use Teams, but don’t really use video. There is usually a lot of screen sharing so video doesn’t always make sense since we aren’t really looking at each other.

    1. Thursdaysgeek*

      Yeah, we’re in multiple locations too, so most meetings have always been on Teams. Our culture has meetings starting right on time, if not a minute or two early, but we also try to limit meetings, so people have time to get work done.

      The more I read AAM, the more I appreciate where I work.

    2. KateM*

      Yes, we have screen sharing plus the talker on video, everyone else off video and muted, possibly just commenting in chat (which the talker person checked afterwards and answered questions).

  14. The Rural Juror*

    One thing I think we did well was that the person leading the meetings was never the administrator of the meeting (we used Zoom). The person talking and doing the presentation usually cannot be attentive enough to other issues, such as an attendee forgetting to mute themselves. It’s disruptive for that person to have to stop and address the issue, so the administrator (in our case, usually me) was the one who had the power to mute someone who was causing audio disruption, or unmute them if they were trying to speak but couldn’t be heard. We had lots of people who would call in and listen to a meeting while they were driving between sites, so it wasn’t feasible (or safe) to ask them to mute themselves if they’d forgotten. Usually they weren’t the ones speaking, but if someone asked them a question specifically, I would unmute them and say, “So-and-So, I’ve unmuted you if you’re able to respond.” Every once in a while they would reply that they weren’t in a place to answer since they were driving, but would follow up with email. Then I’d mute them back and we’d keep going.

    I convinced my boss we should start doing things that way when we had a construction site manager call in to listen to a meeting while he was driving to a site. We could hear road noise the whole time and knew exactly when his blinker was on! Most of our meetings went pretty smoothly after the transition, but there were hiccups from time to time. Still, it went much better once I was given the power of the Almighty Mute Button!

    1. Em*

      I am the meeting runner for our project and it does help a lot, but it still requires people leading the meeting to stick to the schedule. Once again this week a higher up chose the last 30 seconds of an hour-plus session to ask the several dozen attendees to explain a key concept in their own words. If the schedule is treated as a suggestion and the meeting admin as annoying clock whose reminders you can “snooze” and blow right on past, the issues continue!

    2. JustaTech*

      Only once have I had someone call into a meeting on video when they were driving. But it was pretty obvious pretty quickly that they were driving and everyone on the call was horrified (mostly that they had the video on, but also that they were doing more than just listening).
      The meeting leader actually said “I’m going to mute you until you can get somewhere safe to park, and we’ll pick your piece back up then.”
      Since then no one’s called in from a moving car with video (though we did have a guy call in from an airplane, but he was no video, on mute, and said nothing, so I figured that’s OK).

  15. Archaeopteryx*

    Our company does this surprisingly well, with a few rare exceptions of not muting other people when there’s background noise. Overall our meetings start on time and webex is the best for having no tech issues (luckily our norm is cameras off as well).

    I’m on one committee with a partner company (one whose outside image is more polished than ours) though and OOF! 20-25 minutes every time of tech problems and recapping the last meeting… yikes.

  16. Above My Paygrade*

    Honestly, that video is just … what in-person meetings were always like in the Before Times! (Minus the tech issues). In person: Everyone straggles in from their offices or from their previous meetings. Someone puts down their folders and says “I need to run to the restroom,” because they’re sraight out of the previous meeting. Someone else is asking a colleague how their planned launch on another project went, and two people are talking about the latest email from the school district about early release day plans. One person who’s scheduled to present isn’t there and the organizer taps on their door to see if they’re coming — and they’re stuck on the phone from a previous meeting running over.

    In the Before Times, did you all just walk silently into conference rooms at one minute before the hour, sit down, open notebooks and laptops, and immediately begin reviewing your agendas?

    1. Valancy Snaith*

      I can’t speak for everyone, but in my office, everyone was in the office about five minutes before we begin, ready to go, and the boss (or whoever’s organizing the whole shindig) comes in at the top of the hour and we begin.

    2. turquoisecow*

      I used to have a weekly in person meeting about Project X, but a lot of the attendees were in the same department so they’d end up spending the beginning or end of the meeting talking about some other issue that had nothing to do with Project X. If it was a couple minutes, no big deal, but sometimes it was a lot and of course then we’d go over and it would make the next meeting run later.

    3. quill*

      I mean, sometimes? but this could be a function of having spent most of my working life in the lab. Either we were all on time, or none of us were, because of the nature of what experiments we worked on.

    4. sofar*

      The one thing I liked about meetings in the Before Times is that the pre-meeting small talk didn’t drag as much. The person leading could stand up, clear their throat, put the deck on the screen to signal things were Starting Now. I had a boss who literally had a little gong that he’d hit.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        The best run meeting series I’m in has a visual equivalent — when the leader starts sharing the screen, we’re off & running.

    5. Momma Bear*

      Most of the time, yes. You were expected to be ready for the meeting at the meeting start time, no dashing off for a coffee, etc. Chit chat ended promptly when the organizer entered the room. Now, if it’s a less formal meeting, we might give each other a minute, but that’s between peers.

  17. Serin*

    At my company, online meetings generally start pretty promptly. But if there’s one person without whom the meeting can’t go anywhere, that person is always (1) 5-15 minutes late and (2) so far above me in the hierarchy that it would be tone-deaf at best for me to send out messages saying anything about anybody’s expectations.

    It’s sometimes helpful to instant-message the offenders 5 minutes beforehand with a direct link and an agenda.

    1. Juniantara*

      I’ve been known to cancel the meeting and reschedule until I can get my required attendees in the meeting.

  18. gmg22*

    This is challenging enough with internal meetings, but extrapolate to public events and whoa. There is an ongoing battle royale on Twitter between people who do public speaking and the people who run the virtual events the first group are speaking at. The former HATE tech rehearsals, think they are a waste of time and are issuing increasingly strident declarations that they simply will not participate in them. The latter, well, we’re just out here trying to point out that the Dunning-Kruger effect exists! And that we can’t know before the event comes off whether someone “is all set with the tech because they do this all the time” or are just saying that.

    1. sofar*

      As the person who usually does the public speaking, I’m a FAN of the tech rehearsals and run-throughs. I have so much anxiety if we don’t have them. For our big events, we even have to do a dress rehearsal where we do our entire presentation in real time. Everyone hates it. But it’s how we once caught onto the fact that one of the presenters who was allotted 10 minutes and 5 slides was only on slide 2 at 12 minutes into his rehearsal and was shocked (shocked!) at how long he’d been speaking. Apparently not everyone rehearses their presentation alone with a stopwatch.

  19. Jessica Fletcher*

    If someone chronically has issues, but their team members don’t, see if one of the team members (peers) can do a brief test meeting with them. I did this with a peer and screenshared to show her where to click, and we could both try it out. It seemed to really help her, especially with figuring out how to share just a window instead of her entire screen. I think there was less pressure with a peer instead of a manager.

  20. introverted af*

    I agree that it’s not a tech issue, but one thing that I have found helps is to check the option on the Zoom call to let attendees join whenever. This allows people to get there early and be fully set up and ready to go. I know what I need to do (pull up the call on my PC, and dial in on my phone so I can both see the screen and have a microphone) but if I have to wait to get in, I can’t finish setting up my audio and that is still gonna take a minute, no matter what.

    Of course that would also be solved by my workplace providing a mic setup, but we don’t spend money on tech here. We’re a people business. *cue eyes rolling out of their sockets at this*

    1. The Rural Juror*

      It drove me CRAZY that one person who insisted on being the one to send out Zoom invites always forgot to do the option where people could join whenever and somehow always clicked the option for the waiting room. Then she would spend the first 5 minutes of the meeting having to individually let attendees into the meeting! Every time!

    2. SC in NC*

      Same thing with Teams. As long as you allow people to join without having to be accepted into the room, they can join any time they want. It makes a big difference. Our team is spread across the US with a couple of people in Europe so face to face was rare although we had all worked together for years. Most of the time, 2-3 of us will log on a few minutes early just to catch-up or chit-chat a bit before the meeting starts.

  21. Some dude*

    My new Zoom pet peeve are meetings that have a “wellness” component where the first five minutes is a mindfulness exercise where we take deep breaths and just really get centered and present. It is very boundary crossing to me. Like, we are meeting about how to be better teapot volunteer coordinators (this is in nonprofit land). i don’t need you all up in my mental health.

    1. Betty*

      I had an old boss who was very into taking a minute for people to sit in silence and become fully present before our all-hands department meeting– and it was actually really great at getting people to start the meeting focused and not dealing with whatever had just landed in their inbox or trying to get something finished in a document or whatever. But the creep into personal wellness seems a bridge too far.

    2. Claire*

      Not sure that being present is a mental health thing… it’s about having a productive meeting where people aren’t distracted.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this. At the same time, we’re all adults, and if you force me to attend another useless meeting, it’s my responsibility to determine if I’m present only virtually/physically, or mentally as well. Nobody can stop you from doing whatever centering exercises you prefer before the meeting starts, if you have a minute or two. I usually take a couple of deep breaths to focus.

  22. CBB*

    People seem to be oddly resistant to joining Zoom meeting by phone, despite that being the easy solution to 90% of technical issues.

    (Also a convenient excuse not to have to worry about what you look like and/or what’s behind you.)

    1. Rectilinear Propagation*

      This makes sense if it’s a long meeting and you think you might get an important phone call (school, doctor, etc.). It’s a lot easier to mute the computer and answer the phone than it is to make sure the Zoom (or whatever) app is muted so you can answer in time.

      It’s also a lot harder to see anything on a smaller screen. If someone is screen sharing some text you can forget it.

      And people generally don’t like running their phone battery down if they aren’t where they can charge it.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      I’ve done a lot of Zoom by phone. It was fine when at my house, but in the office, I’m now having problems where I can hear people but they can’t hear me, so I have to call in on the phone and then there’s an echo, so I can’t even talk during a meeting now. Pretty pointless. The office camera is janky.

    3. allathian*

      My organization doesn’t use Zoom for internal meetings, although I’ve attended webinars run by external organizers on Zoom using the web client. I’m not in the US, but all the dial-in numbers have a US country code, and because I have no work-related reasons to call anyone in the US, I can’t call those numbers. I have Zoom on my personal phone as well, and I use that for attending PTA meetings at my son’s school. There’s no way I’d call a US number with that, either.

  23. anonymous73*

    +1 to it being a people problem, and for me this has been an issue way before remote work was the norm. I have encountered many people who have no business setting up meetings, or leading meetings, because they have no clue how it all works. If you have a meeting that involves a lot of people that are critical to said meeting, and these people have back to back to back to back….meetings, set the start time to a few minutes after the hour/half hour. This will give them time to run to the restroom, grab some water, or ensure they can connect without issue. Of course this will also allow them to stay late in a prior meeting and completely eliminate the point of starting late. But yes to everything Alison said. If you have people who won’t enforce proper meeting etiquette, or they try but don’t get the support they need when attempting to enforce proper meeting etiquette, it’s an uphill battle.

    1. SweetestCin*

      It hasn’t been lost on me that the people who were problems in the before times (and I’m not talking about biological needs, grabbing a water, what not; I mean the ones who would saunter into a meeting 20 minutes late, not be prepared, taking a phone call (!!!!) in the middle of a meeting on speaker that had nothing to do with the meeting) are still the issue, its just now they can blame it on technology.

  24. Olive*

    Currently going through a 6wk training all on zoom…and let’s just say I’m super proud of remembering to mute myself and/or not injured myself banging my head on my desk.
    Some very lovely people, just can’t figure out their tech.
    Every. Day.

  25. I'm just here for the cats!*

    One thing I would add is that if you could build in a buffer time to allow people to sort out their tech issues. So have the meeting start time is 9:00 but the meeting doesn’t actually start until 9:10. That way if someone is coming from another meeting they can make sure everything still works (especially if the other meeting was a different platform).
    I don’t know if this is a thing or not but making sure people are aware that they can have time before the meeting.

    For example, if some of your team are customer service make sure they are aware that although the meeting starts at 10 they can log off the phone at 9:50. Before the pandemic I worked for a company as over the phone client support, prior to that I worked as tech support at a different company. tech support company did not allow you off until the exact minute, so there would always be people interrupting the (in person) meeting because they had a call to wrap up and walk across the call center to get to the conference room. At job 2 we were allowed to log off the phones up to 5 minutes early to go to the conference room.

    1. LizM*

      For bigger meetings, especially those that include people outside of our organization who may be used to different platforms, I’ve seen that as part of the agenda. If the meeting is scheduled to start at 9:00, the agenda includes an item from 8:45-9:00 for “Zoom Orientation and Troubleshooting.” People who are comfortable with the platform usually log in around 8:55, and there is still time for a quick sound check, but if you have people who still aren’t comfortable with the platform, it gives them a chance to log in early and work through this.

      1. LizM*

        Forgot to add, it also gives folks like your customer service team a chance to log off of what they were doing at 8:45, since that’s the time listed on the invite.

  26. Lucious*

    First- does the meeting make sense? If there’s no value to attending, people will log in late or otherwise not care about disrupting the event. If a meeting has no purpose, cancel it.

    Second- your corporate culture is going to count more here. If there’s a strong tradition of being on time, tack to that. If however being “on time” is dependent on where one sits in the hierarchy, you’ll be the best judge on whether it’s a political hill to die on. If the lower level people are expected to attend on time but the Directors and above can be as late as they want to, it’s not a problem that can be solved by software.

    1. SweetestCin*

      This is something that did improve, both during the direct work from home orders as well as post-return to the office. We’re better, at least in my department, about “does this actually need to be a meeting? Does it have value?” than we were prior to 2020.

      I’m also quite a bit better myself about it. I’m currently starting to become wholly annoyed at a particular vendor who is trying his darndest to set up an in person meeting. There is NO value to this meeting. NONE. N-O-N-E. He would have ZERO questions if he would read his email. I have ANSWERED the questions that he insists on repeating because he’s ignoring the emails stating the answers. My engineer has informed him that the answers are in the email. And so goes my morning.

  27. Rick Tq*

    My biggest pet peeve is poor audio/feedback because people still use their laptop mic and speakers instead of investing in a headset. We mostly use Teams and are not shy about muting someone when their mic is active due to background noise but they aren’t speaking. Even so we have a few constant offenders who just can’t manage their video or audio properly.

    I went with a USB cabled unit from Jabra to avoid all the interference and battery issues of a wireless unit. I went with a full binaural unit to help block out office noise and to make fainter speakers more understandable. The boom mic is almost too sensitive, I have to keep it up at eye-level and ride my mute button to keep from being Darth Vader in the background.

    1. cubone*

      I’m sympathetic to headphone fatigue and also that you shouldn’t be expected to use tech that hasn’t been provided/paid for by your workplace.

      …but I will also never forget the absolute GASP of horror from my partner when I said I was the only person at my new job using a proper headset. His “they’re just using their LAPTOP mics?!” was so full of terror it was amazing. Apparently his team (in a tech industry) is all headsets, to the point that one person apologized via Slack before a meeting that they would be on mute the whole time because their headset had broken (literally, it was preferable to not participate vs use the built in mic) and the team lead offered to have a headset couriered over same day.

      1. HelloHello*

        I just… don’t understand the horror here? Sure, some laptops have bad microphones, but my team and I are all on relatively new macs and the built in mics work just fine as long as you don’t have a lot of background noise where you’re working. I don’t think anyone on my team consistently uses a headseat for calls and they’ve never sounded bad to me. Not super high quality sound, like if we did video or sound editing for a living, but perfectly fine for meetings.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        My company sent out headsets a few months ago but I never set it up. During that time there was a lot of discussion on sound quality and I had multiple people tell me unprompted that I sounded good and clear and I am just using my laptop mic (or occasionally my cell phone on speaker when someone sets the meeting up through WebEx instead of Teams).

        I would make an effort to figure something out if I was told my setup wasn’t working, but it hasn’t caused any problems yet!

    2. Nanani*

      The office should provide decent quality headsets then.
      Some people don’t need it because they have a quiet, private workspace, but others really do and it’s likely the latter who are least able to afford to just grab new tech.

      1. James*

        Exactly. If the company wants me to use something, the company needs to pay for it. If they refuse, I assume that it’s not really that important and go without. I’m not a tech guy, I’m a “rock and bones” guy; I’m willing to shell out $300 for a reference book out of my own pocket if it’s useful for a jobsite (it’s an excuse I can sell to my wife), but I’m not going to shell out $50 for some electronic gizmo just because the company’s too cheap to provide one. I’m certainly not paying hundreds for the latest version of whatever smartphone folks demand I get, only to turn around and do it again in a year.

        There’s this perception in our society that OF COURSE everyone has the latest and greatest tech. But that’s just not the case. Allowances must be made for those of us who choose to spend our money on other things.

        1. Rick Tq*

          I didn’t spend hundreds of dollars to get Bose noise-cancelling headphones.

          These work quite well: Jabra Evolve 30 UC Stereo USB Headset 5399-829-209 for PC, Music, Softphones NEW at $70. I respect that can be a lot of money out of pocket but not an unclimbable mountain for a company to provide.

      2. PT*

        I have a pair of earbuds with an in-line mike (I use them for social Discord, not work) that work perfectly fine and they were $9 at Target. You don’t need anything fancy to get the job done.

        1. Rick Tq*

          Exactly. The big point is not having a marginal microphone at arms length trying to capture your voice and including the cat, the neighbors, and the trash man on pickup day…

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I must have met that I have become termed by hearing the soundscapes in the background of some calls. I work with people in India, and street sounds coming through their open windows is the closest I’ve gotten to travel in two years.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Speech to text strikes again … “I must admit that I have been charmed…”

    3. Thursdaysgeek*

      My company bought me a headset, but initially, I hadn’t taken it home because I did have a quiet place to work. I also have a laptop where the microphone is right next to the fan. After complaints from my co-workers about the Harley I had in my office, I went and got the headset for when I worked from home.

    4. itsame*

      I use my laptop speakers + mic all the time and I’ve never had an issue with it? I’m alone in my home office with no background noise and I don’t exactly need high quality sound mixing for a zoom call. I’m talking about spreadsheets, not recording an album here.

      1. londonedit*

        Same here – it’s normally quiet in my flat and I don’t have pets or children or anyone else here to make noise. I also don’t have many meetings, and for most of the ones I do have I’m primarily listening and only pop up to make a short comment now and then. I don’t really see the need for a headset and microphone and all of that.

  28. pancakes*

    Why not talk to HR about the harassment first? It feels like a lot of people here think they won’t be believed about something unless they set up DIY sting operation first. It’s quite an escalation to surreptitiously record someone, and it’s not legal everywhere, either. Maybe it’s a good last resort in a place where consent to record isn’t required, but why start with it?

  29. BatManDan*

    There are methodologies for running excellent online events (and those methodologies are about people, not about tech), but most people don’t know they exist. And, I’ve found, most people that I’ve spoken to and pointed out that the resources are available, aren’t interested in learning how to convene people well. Which is sad, at one level, but it means those that choose to be experts will be high demand.

  30. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

    At one of my old jobs pre-pandemic we would start late because people would show up early, see no one was there, drop their stuff, and then run off to do “one quick thing” before the meeting. It would have been hilarious if we didn’t always end up starting 15 minutes late by the time everyone finished their “one quick thing”

  31. No Dumb Blonde*

    Our office uses Microsoft Teams, and for whatever reason I have been utterly unable to get through to some people if they would JUST WEAR EARBUDS they wouldn’t have to quickly mute after speaking so that everyone else isn’t bombarded by their laptop speakers feeding into their laptop microphone. And those people invariably forget to mute, so the rest of us commence the other fun game we all love so much: “Fred, could you please mute? We can’t hear over the feedback.” WEAR EARBUDS. They’re not expensive, and this isn’t hard.

  32. Eleanor*

    At my org, we have a 5 minute grace period, where we basically assume that meetings don’t actually start until after 5 minutes. This gives folks a chance to go to the washroom, grab a snack, or just take a breather between meetings. And then we start right at the 5 minutes, and if you’re late, you’re late. It works really well and makes everyone feel less guilty about needing to take a couple minutes when they have back-to-back calls.

  33. LizM*

    Something that has helped our meetings is to have a person in charge of helping with technical issues that is not also facilitating the meeting. So if Jane is having issues with her microphone, that person will troubleshoot with her in a private chat vs. having everyone sit there while the manager explains (again) that if you have a wired headset, you have to unmute that in addition to unmuting yourself on zoom.

  34. Claire*

    I’m a professional facilitator and it never ceases to amaze me how few organizations actually have meeting design skills. I’ve actually started offering trainings to my clients in how to do this. It seems like an investment in building this skill would have such positive ripple effects, I’m not sure why more companies don’t invest in it!

  35. Dr. Rebecca*

    For everyone suggesting meeting at off-the-hour/half hour times, I guarantee you that people are capable of being late to those times as well.

  36. DarthVelma*

    I can only speak for my agency, but I think the one thing that would really help our meetings start and end on time would be for people to actually schedule enough time for the meetings in the first place. Every meeting I attend that is scheduled for 30 minutes runs over. Our weekly 90 minute management meeting always runs over. My 60 minute team meeting always runs over. And still the people scheduling these meetings DO NOT increase the time allotted when they schedule the next one. It’s surreal.

  37. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I feel like this is an e^n problem. A meeting with 8 people has orders of magnitude more delays and issues than a meeting with 4 people. Even though you’d think it should be linear at worst.

    I wish people would think hard about whether they really need 17 attendees for a meeting.

  38. cubone*

    I used to be complimented on my organized, efficient meetings but after 2 dysfunctional nonprofit jobs with HORRID meeting practices, I’m terrified I’ve become one of those people with chaos meetings. It’s so hard to care and put energy in when literally no one else does.

  39. stephistication*

    I am known as one of the best meeting hosts in my 200k company…from presenting, meeting materials, managing meetings, engagement etc.

    One thing I’d add (if it hasn’t been mentioned) are these items:
    – the host should know the meeting platform well. That means how to use it and how to help with tech items if they arise. I’m not referring to IT level troubleshooting but a host should be able to tell folks how to do the basics. The less people you have chiming in with tips, the better. Or, if it’s a large meeting, have a tech SME present that folks can IM for help.
    – Assign a cohost ahead of time. This person should have a link to your materials and be able to pick up if your having tech issues.
    – Share the agenda/content ahead of time if possible and even create time slots for topics if it’s a larger meeting. Saying “we’ll allot 10 min to teapot updates” helps to set expectations.
    – record the meetings if possible. Folks who couldn’t attend can listen later.

  40. ArtK*

    I had to ask one of my colleagues “please don’t type so violently” today. I have had a problem with doing that myself, but finally trained myself to go on mute unless speaking.

    1. Caboose*

      I have a mechanical keyboard at home, and definitely have forgotten to re-mute myself after speaking a handful of times… In my defense, most of my calls are over Discord, which is quite aggressive about cancelling background noise. (I had a fire alarm go off once, and nobody on the call heard it. All they could hear was me freaking out!)

  41. VagueMagician*

    Honestly, this issue was worse for me pre-pandemic. Meetings were all across campus, back to back to back with no time to walk between buildings.

  42. Free Meerkats*

    Let me add b.(1) to your shoulds: video is only required if people actually NEED to see you. Otherwise, it’s just a waste of bandwidth and if you have two people WFH and a number of others on school or watching tik tok, even good home internet gets overwhelmed.

  43. Kit*

    We’ve always started meetings three-five minutes late at my office. In person, digital, heck even hallway chats are frequently randomized by “Oh! Let’s go see if Jane is in!” We have a meeting heavy culture and sometimes you just need to wait for the guy who had to use the restroom but didn’t have a break.

    Digitally, I’ve dealt with it by creating a PowerPoint slide which I display at the start with the meeting name, the start time (e.x. “Meeting will begin at 2:03” in bright red letters) and limited additional details if needed (e.x. This will be a large meeting, please respect the hand raise feature. Or ‘goal is , reoccurring attendees please feel free to opt out if not relevant).

  44. Kelly*

    Ooh yeah this is familiar. But we’ve actually gotten better! Things that helped: we’re a small (about a dozen people) autonomous team within a larger research institute so it’s easier to make changes. My boss was open to trying to improve. And we’re a software team and (roughly) follow the Agile methodology, which encourages a lot of thinking about processes – after enough complaining about our terrible meetings, we made some changes: shorter meetings start promptly at 1 minute past the given start time, longer meetings at 3 minutes past. All meetings have a given end time, which we try really hard not to exceed. Someone is in charge of running the meeting – they create the agenda doc and keep things on track and on time. They also update the agenda with what’s been decided on and any follow up items. Our meetings are much better now! Though they’re still a work in progress: a new-ish guy is suuuuch a monologuer and all of us are so non-confrontational that we haven’t adequately fixed that yet. Some brainstorm-y type meetings are still too open-ended. Etc. But overall we’re in a much better place than we were a year or two ago.

  45. The Starsong Princess*

    That tiktok was painfully accurate. Recently, I was the one with zoom problems. I could dial in to get audio but the meeting would show me as joined but no video. It would resolve itself in five to 45 minutes. Sometimes restarting would help, sometimes not. It wouldn’t always happen but it always happened if it was an important meeting. It was like I was being tortured. I got escalated three levels by our help desk but nada. Then after about three weeks, it stopped. I don’t know what caused it or why it stopped. My guess is there was something wrong with my profile that got damaged then fixed by a software push for something else. Anyway some of these zoom issues are out of our control.

    As for meetings, we always have the first five minutes on the agenda dedicated to pleasantries and technical difficulties. After that, things move along.

  46. Nanani*

    Could this meeting be an email?
    Let the meeting be an email.

    Could this meeting be between fewer people?
    Let it be between fewer people.

    Does it REALLY need video?
    Save everyone’s bandwidth and just do a call.

  47. LadyHouseOfLove*

    This takes me back to being an officer in a student org during grad school. We were in an online program, so most of us were in different parts of the state. We had to contact one another through video calls and that was also how one of our meetings ran. One of the officers was great but she never used a mic or headphones or even just earbuds. She was always raising her voice to be heard on the computer. It was a headache.

    1. cubone*

      I had a former colleague who had a beautiful home office but it terrible acoustics and it was more or less impossible to hear a word she was saying because of the echoes. People would try to say “sorry, you’re a bit hard to hear…” or “there’s an echo making it difficult to hear”, but she similarly just moved closer to the mic or spoke louder, which barely helped. It was so clear that no one was willing to say “no, it’s actually the room you’re in”. I thought about saying it 1:1 but we were on different teams and barely knew each other, but god I wish that person’s boss had sent them a headset.

  48. shyster*

    I get the frustration – really, I do, as someone who typically likes meetings to begin and end and on time – but I found that I became a lot happier when I adjusted my expectations and found ways to channel my energy other than being upset.

    Of course punctuality at meetings has gotten worse; many people are still dealing with their kids running around in the background or helping with Zoom school, many of the tech tools simply don’t work consistently, and this is a learning experience for everyone. A lot of people simply don’t do very well with online meetings, and I’ve noticed a lot of folks get very anxious and worried when their tech doesn’t work.

    We may have been doing this for 18 months but we’re still in a stressful, anxious, ridiculous time in human history; I feel like I can cut my coworkers 5 minutes of slack when they are dealing with tech issues. It’s not THEIR fault that their internet is spotty or that the bandwidth on their home network that was never designed for 8 hours of video calls a day is struggling. Not all of these problems can be anticipated, either – sometimes your platform could seem to be working fine all day and then all of a sudden throw errors at you. Typically, they are way more upset about it than I am.

    I’ve found that waiting for 3-5 minutes for everyone to get there, get the tech working, etc. is not really that big of a ding to productivity but does go a long way towards making sure people feel included and settled in my meetings. So I have a different set of recommendations:

    a. Consider whether it is really that big of a deal if your meeting starts exactly on time at 1:00 or whether it kind of doesn’t matter if you lose 2-5 minutes of setup. Obviously if you have a short time period and you need to make a decision, get started right on time, but I’ve found that 3 minutes really doesn’t make that big of a difference.

    b. Testing tech ahead of time is meaningless. I’ve had so many times when Teams works perfectly for my 2 pm call and throws a fit for my 2:30 pm call. Accept that technical issues is just part of the world we live in now, but do offer proactive solutions and move on just like C says – “try turning off your video”, “try disconnecting and calling in,” and then move on with the meeting (unless you need them to be there, then…again, is waiting the 30 seconds it’ll take for them to disconnect and call back in really that big of a deal?)

    d. If there’s a chronic offender, reach out to them privately, but do so with a mindset to understand what is happening and how you can help them rather than demanding that they fix it. I can’t fix Xfinity’s Internet and my company isn’t throwing me any additional coins to get higher speeds, so you’re going to have to deal with my shitty internet days. Other people may be struggling financially, or may have 3 kids at home all studying Zoom school at the same time, or whatever else is going on. I have one person who is chronically a few minutes late because they have an ill person at home they need to care for and two small children; I’m not about to ask her to be on time more often. She literally can’t. We just deal with it as we go, because that’s how we care for each other.

    e. Remember that we’ve been in a stressful global crisis for a year and a half with no end in sight, and that does mean people have a variety of different home circumstances and thus are going to be struggling a little bit. I’ve been 3 minutes late to a meeting because I was so gripped with anxiety (I have an anxiety disorder) that I just needed to take a moment to BREATHE. There’s nothing I work on that’s more important than my mental health.

    1. Caboose*

      I was almost late to a job interview because Teams wouldn’t set me to the right account– I had been laid off, and it kept trying to use the account from the job I had just lost! I had even planned to (virtually) show up 10 minutes beforehand to give myself space for tech problems, and used almost all of that time fighting Microsoft.

      And I’m a Gen Z/Millennial cusp software developer. I’m pretty good with tech, but sometimes there’s only so much you can do.

    2. Gawaine*

      Everything you just said. I was going to start my own post, but you said 80% of what I was going to say, 150% better than I would have said it.

      The other 20%: I have online meetings in Skype for Business, Zoom, ZoomGov, Teams run by my company, and Teams run by a different company, along with old school phone calls. When a meeting ends exactly on the hour, there’s zero time for me to open another meeting. Also, I sometimes have in-person meetings now – though rarely – but then need to run back to my desk, reauthenticate into the network, and join. I don’t see understanding that you can’t schedule meetings back to back and also assume promptness. That used to be at least somewhat understood when everything was in person; bio-breaks and refreshing coffee, at least, needed to happen between meetings, and people got that. You could see that people were moving and engaged, and maybe that’s why it was easier to understand.

  49. HereKittyKitty*

    My newer workplace has this issue sometimes and part of the reason is that nobody sets expectations, agendas or goals for meetings. Just a general “let’s discuss” and that’s it.

    When I run a meeting I set the agenda AT LEAST the day before, but preferably a week before the meeting. I reach out to individuals in the meeting letting them know if I’m interested in hearing specifically about x, y, and z during the meeting. I also make sure I have a specific goal for the meeting and state that in the meeting notes and when the meeting starts. Having a firm hand keeps everyone on track and everyone clearly knows what they need to be doing once the meeting ends. I get a lot of praise after the meetings I run and people appreciate the clarity. Unfortunately, my methods seem to not have rubbed off much on anybody else lol!

  50. Nethwen*

    I was thinking about meeting facilitation this weekend! It seems like to effectively run meetings, one can’t be afraid to cause another embarrassment.

    “Actually, John, everyone else was here on time so we aren’t going to go back and recap. Do what you can and we can talk after if you still have questions.”

    “Mary, how does [random factoid Mary is rambling on about] help us decide what conclusion to draw from the evidence?”

    Since many people are trained that it’s rude to interrupt and to cause another to feel uncomfortable, it’s no wonder that people are bad at managing meetings. Meetings are one of the few times where the most polite thing to do is interrupt and ask someone to change their behavior.

  51. sofar*

    Also: If you join a meeting late (for whatever reason, even if you were in back-to-back meetings), you do not get to “Ask a question real quick, sorry if this was already covered.” It WAS already covered. We don’t want to cover it again.

  52. Ahdez*

    A few thoughts:
    (1) I would love if there were a greater recognition that there is no reason for all meetings to be video calls. I embrace the audio only call. Solves many technical issues and also, we really don’t need to be looking at each other a lot of the time.
    (2) It drives me crazy when people leave themselves on mute and this follows: “….silence…” “Hey coworker, I think you’re on mute.” “Oh my gosh! I guess I was on mute? Sorry, I just totally forgot to unmute myself, or maybe I bumped the button by accident. So can you guys hear me now?” At this point, I would love to say to everyone, just unmute and start talking again! No excuses or explanations needed.
    (3) We have one person on my team who just has chronic issues – never can work her audio, has internet issues, connects, late her devices are constantly broken or not working, etc. I have no solution there… she’s a great person and works wonderfully in-person, but I think some people just can’t do the virtual work situation. She’s been one of the first to start rotating back to the office.

    1. James*

      Regarding your (1): YES!!! I have never once been in a call where seeing the other person’s face was useful. Even a blank screen is better (less bandwidth). If you have to have an image the meeting agenda is a better one. I always have the agenda be the meeting minutes, and fill out the minutes as I go.

  53. James*

    There’s two things I’ve found help.

    First, agendas and meeting minutes. Providing agendas means that if someone jumps on 15 minutes late they know what they missed. Knowing that you’ll send the minutes out later means that they can catch up on what they missed. That prevents the whole “I’m late, please recap everything for my benefit” thing.

    Second, have a safety topic at the start of the meeting. First, it’s good for safety culture to keep that in the front of the meetings–it’s provided some interesting (if somewhat horrifying) information to me this week, as we learn more about certain tick-born illnesses. But for the purposes of this discussion, what it does is create a natural 5-minute buffer. If you’re 3 minutes late the meeting is still in “safety moment” mode, and it’s not disruptive.

    1. Metadata minion*

      Are these just general life safety tips, or are you in an outdoors profession? As someone in an office-y job that doesn’t have a lot of specific safety requirements, I would find tick safety awareness lessons at the beginning of meetings incredibly weird.

      1. James*

        I’m a field geologist, and the company does a lot of environmental remediation, large-scale construction, compliance oversight of other companies construction, and the like. It’s pretty typical for even office workers to have 40-hour training; they become office workers by moving up the ranks. That said, these topics range from site-specific stuff (“Remember the 4′ rule for excavations!”) to general tips (in the spring lawn care comes up a lot). Usually someone has an amusing story about nearly being dismembered or otherwise injured that they can share. Two days ago I used a phishing attempt that my wife caught as our safety moment, to give an example. Honestly no one cares too much which way you go; it’s just a company requirement to have a safety moment at the start of each meeting, and it provides some benefits for the current situation.

        That said, OSHA is looking into office environments more and more. Our company had as many recordables from office workers as from field staff the past few years, and that’s not that unusual. As you say, office workers tend to find safety moments incredibly weird, so they don’t discuss it. Then they trip over wires, or fall down the stairs, or accidently light the building on fire by leaving the coffee pot on all weekend. Ergonomics are also a concern–carpel tunnel, repetitive motion injuries, and the like. And OSHA is becoming more and more aware of these sorts of things. I wouldn’t be surprised if they increase enforcement of office-related safety concerns.

  54. Boof*

    I think our institutional culture IS to start 5 minutes after the dot. I’m Ok with this as long as that’s actually what happens.
    I run a few meetings. One is my own team and we start on the dot because 1) my team my rules and 2) we meet weekly and don’t got time to mess around. But when it’s a bigger group meeting with other people who are crucial and in many ways I am junior to then it is what it is, though I make a point of starting at the usual 5 after barring extremis.

  55. Caboose*

    Has the company provided equipment, or are people just cobbling together what they have on hand? I’m in software, so I’ll be the first to admit that my norms for technology and IT management are wildly out of touch with most places, but if people don’t have good setups for calling into meetings (webcam, earbuds at a minimum, ideally a headset with a directional mic), that can be a problem. And getting various programs to use the right input/output devices is a whole nother headache, so maybe it’d be worth taking some time outside of a meeting to help everyone test their devices and get set up?

  56. Bookworm*

    Agree: have people test out the technical stuff, which is something I used to do when a former job needed Skype (I used it so little that I often needed to update the software and I tried to make sure to do so before the meeting time).

    Also consider, as part of the structure to these meetings: why are they being held? Is this attitude a reflection of how “unimportant” these meetings are? If they’re every day, maybe they’re not seen as seriously they perhaps should be. I know when I had a job that went from weekly/bi-weekly meetings to virtual meetings every day, I found the more frequent meetings far less useful.

  57. Liz*

    Our meetings are probably a bit like this, our main issues being:

    • when people are absent, we’re not always immediately sure if they’re running late, on leave, or what.

    • we are notoriously terrible at IT training, and so although a lot of people have roughly got the hang of zoom, they don’t usually retain what they have to do in order to troubleshoot, so when things DO go wrong, they can’t fix it or figure out why it’s not working.

    • the bigger the meeting, the more likelihood of someone having a technical problem. I was on a training course last week with 12 people so that was 10 minutes of troubleshooting because one person had no sound and someone else couldn’t see.

    Like one of the commenters above though, our in person meeting were pretty similar because somebody wants the loo and somebody else wants tea/toast, and oh we have more people than chairs, somebody grab one, and oh there’s the doorbell/phone, somebody go get that….

  58. MissDisplaced*

    Yes to all of this! And yes it’s mostly a people issue.
    I run a pretty tight meeting, mainly because I don’t run them often! Here are some of my tips.

    > Have a schedule or agenda
    > I allow a 5 minute buffer, then start
    > Ask to hold questions and comments until the end or until a designated slide.
    This has helped me from getting derailed tremendously.
    > Aim to wrap 5 minutes early to allow for follow up points or action assignments.
    > Send meeting notes promptly if you’re using them

    With meetings I always try to keep in mind this: What do I want to accomplish?

  59. Still trying to adult*

    Good meetings are a rarity; they require proper planning and good execution. Very few people really run them well, but most people think they do a good job (Dunning-Krueger effect?)

    Zoom meetings are at least an order of magnitude harder to do well.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I have to deal with a lot of interrupters, preemptors, and derailers, all of whom are executive level while I am not. It really throws me when they do this, because they jump ahead with questions on things that will be covered in the very next slide had they just been more patient. I find it very rude to the presenters. And of course they tend to do it to people they deem beneath them.

      So. In my last big meeting presentation I began by stating that everyone please hold their questions and comments until “slide 6” in order to get through the background information quickly. It worked! They managed to shut up until that slide. I’ll employ this technique more often now every few slides if I really want to get through things.

  60. Amethystmoon*

    As someone who does Toastmasters regularly, I agree that agendas help. If you know who the presenters are ahead of time and can carve out a few minutes for each of them, that also is great. I wonder if having someone be an unofficial timer might help — I don’t mean literally hold up green, yellow, and red cards like we do for speeches, but just keep an eye on the clock and use the Zoom chat feature to privately message whoever is in charge of running the meeting when the speakers are near the end of their time limit.

    Some people are bad at technology legitimately and might not get better before the company’s meetings start being in person again. This is a thing that happens sometimes depending on the group. Maybe they can’t honestly pay for a faster Xfinity connection, or whatever service they’re using, or they just have too many people in the household using the Internet at once for work, school, etc. that it bogs everything down. If they have a significant other WFH and a child or multiple children also using the Internet for school at the same time and can’t change their schedules, things are going to be slow.

    What would be fabulous is if companies would help reimburse for faster internet connections and better equipment in general, but that probably isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

  61. A Wall*

    I think item C is the really important one. I’ve worked on remote teams since long before the pandemic, and the thing I’ve noticed now is that people who think of remote meetings as a pandemic-specific workaround that’s susceptible to tech issues are more likely to derail meetings by trying to hand hold every individual person into the virtual meeting space. It’s sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy: folks who think of this as a new technology challenge are more likely to hold things up trying to fix every technical detail, and as a result their meetings are indeed often derailed by tech challenges.

    But I think there’s another piece to that, which is that teams & companies that aren’t as comfortable with remote work are having disorganized meetings because they’re scheduling a lot of unnecessary meetings to make up for the lack of butts in seats. It’s hard to have a well-run meeting that sticks to a schedule and stays on-task when the task is having a vague conversation.

  62. CatPerson*

    Even when meetings were in person, there are just some people who think that their time is more important than others’. I am in a meeting in which the decision maker’s presence is critical, but he’s sitting at his desk tapping on his computer. I walk over to my boss’s office. “Are you coming or should we cancel?” So disrespectful. People sitting, waiting for a crucial participant, it’s just horrible.

    1. Juniantara*

      I just cancel meetings. “Oh, it looks like Bob is tied up and we really need his opinion on the teapot colors, I’ll reschedule this meeting for later this week”

  63. ENFP in Texas*

    I run a large “town hall” type meeting once a month, and I set my agenda so the first presenter starts at 3-5 minutes after. That gives me time to do my generic housekeeping notes (everyone is on mute, we’ll have Q&A after each presenter, etc) while everyone dials in, since they’re generally coming right off of other meetings.

    For our smaller department meetings, it helps to have Entry Tone beeps turned on (we’re in Webex) – it’s like having a squeaky conference room door, and people get embarrassed/self-conscious about disturbing the call.

  64. Nina Bee*

    One tip for spotty internet people is to not move around too much.. videos have to send all the pixel data in every frame but when they don’t change (eg backgrounds) there are less to send.. so moving around suddenly will cause many new pixels to need sending and clog up the bandwidth with the new data.

  65. Technical trouble*

    I don’t agree that it is necessarily a people problem. Our organisation simply has not added enough back end juice to effectively allow our online meetings to always be smooth. I am constantly not able to log into meetings, things break up or screen share isn’t working because there is too much traffic on the system. That said almost always we will just start even if people are having issues. It’s on them to catch up.

  66. Roscoe da Cat*

    I have meetings all week and it always goes the same – we start 5 minutes after the start with the substance of the meeting. This is pretty much the same as in-person since mostly people are running from meeting to meeting.

    AGENDAS people! They are the best thing ever

  67. Juniantara*

    I work with different divisions/offices of my company and I’ve found each site has their own norms around this. At some places, everyone shows up 5 minutes early and you get side-eye if you show up at 12:58 for a meeting that starts at 1, and in other places everyone wandered in/logged in between 12:02 and 12:08. Both are annoying, but the second is definitely more so.

    My only/best advice is to incorporate this into your plan for the meeting. Plan a hard start at 3-5 minutes after the meeting start and allow for 5 minutes of wrap-up/action time review at the end of a 30 minute meeting and 10 minutes for an hour or longer. If you have 25 minutes of content to cover, book 45 minutes at least. Be the meeting hygiene you want to see in the world!

  68. La Triviata*

    In the Before Times, at a previous job, we’d have regular all-staff meetings. I always got there a little early (to get a “good” seat), but others would kind of trickle in for the first five to ten minutes after the set start time. And, since they usually included a Powerpoint and there were ALWAYS technical issues, we’d all sit there, with people laughing and chatting. Until one day, the Executive Director blew up – he said that from that day forward, everyone would be in the conference room, in a seat, and the responsible person would have the presentation up and ready to go at the stated start time. It helped, but we’d still have some people who’d sit through the entire meeting locked on their phones, tablets, etc. One meeting at the current job, the woman next to me had her tablet out and was setting up her and her son’s medical appointments, parent-teacher meetings, etc. … with sound effects.

  69. Rectilinear Propagation*

    If the company is still requiring remote work and connection speeds are an issue, maybe the company should help pay for folks’ Internet so they can get faster speeds.

    I agree that this is a people problem and not a tech problem but, it would be nice if they made some of this easier from a software perspective. For example, Microsoft Teams meetings give zero indication that you can be heard while talking. GoToMeeting will actually tell you that you’re muted if you’re loud enough for it to think you’re trying to be heard. Other apps will do something like light up your icon if you can be heard. It’s possible for meeting apps to warn you about a poor connection but not all of them do it.

  70. GT*

    In our org, we are well organized with meetings. The expectations are very clear that you need to be on time. If you are going to be late, it’s expected that we will wait for a couple of minutes max and then it’s on you to catch up. Prior to the call, VPs also specify if we need to wait for them, like if they’re a decision maker, or if we can proceed without them and they’ll just listen in.
    Also, our meetings are set at 25 minutes and 55 minutes or something in between. This provides 5 minute breaks (mental, bio, water, etc) for people who have to be on calls most of the day.

  71. Stina*

    The one benefit of zoom meetings is I can usually keep working on my tasks while waiting on someone to join or while small talk is happening vs Real World meetings where I need to sit in the conference room while others trickle in, chit-chatting.

  72. Miguel Valdespino*

    Many of my meetings are ones where I am only actively involved with part of the meeting. The rest is merely informative. Going remote has been amazing. When I’m in the office, I don’t have a camera, and at home, I have a spare monitor. This way, I can mute myself during the parts that aren’t relevant to me and actually get things done. I just need to pay enough attention to be ready when the important parts come in.

Comments are closed.