How to stop your zoom call becoming a zzzzzzzzzzz call

Cold coffee, stifled yawns – nothing can suck our energy like a long meeting. But in the days before social distancing, we could at least engage face-to-face; buzz off a bit of banter, and gesture furiously when Rita threatened to nod off. Now every meeting is virtual, we’re stuck squinting at people the size of postage stamps; praying the sound doesn’t cut out (or perhaps wishing it would?!)

Tasked with running a video call, who could blame you for breaking out into a sweat? How do you maintain energy among massed ranks on a marathon call? How do you rev up even a regular-size’ meeting when everyone’s coming to it from their 100th call of the day?

Try our 5 experiments below – and see how a bit of fun can restore focus to a meeting!


Energy Check

Our hunch: You can manage people’s energy better if you know their context at the start of the meeting. Tune up to yourself in turn, and you’ll be more mindful of how you ‘show up’. 

The Experiment: At the start of the meeting, ask everyone to describe how they’re feeling and why – playing along with a metaphor provided by you.

  • What’s your score out of 10? 
  • Which [vegetable, animal, building] would best represent how you’re feeling right now…and why?!  

Call Agreements 

Our hunch: Be explicit about how you’d like people to behave and interact during a call, and they’ll be more mindful of their behaviour and attention during it. 

The Experiment:  Kick off the meeting by proposing some ‘call agreements’ to keep everyone focused and engaged.  Pick agreements that will help this group specifically and the content you need to cover.

  • Everyone fully present (no solitaire/any other windows open on your desktop)  
  • Video on/off – everyone is either in or out  
  • Share the air – nobody talks for longer than 3 minutes  

Visual Sign-up 

Our hunch: More than 3 people on a call, and it’s difficult to get swift feedback on whether anyone likes an idea or disagrees with a proposal. Introduce a simple, fun visual way for people to indicate whether they’re ‘in or out’, and you’ll keep them actively engaged (beats clicking on a ‘thumbs-up’ icon). 

The Experiment: Ask everyone to create their own happy face/sad face/neutral face icons (drawing each on a separate piece of paper -artistic flourishes encouraged!)

When asking questions or seeking feedback, ask everyone to ‘flash the face’ that sums up their reaction. Upside-down smiles all round? Move swiftly on!

Pictures of Success

Our hunch: If people share what they want to get from a call, they instantly become more active participants. Getting everyone to interact and contribute in an unusual way will ‘up’ their energy engagement. 

The Experiment: Ask everyone to draw a picture of how they want to feel at the end of the call. Do they draw themselves tugging at the end of a tangle of wool? (‘Problem’s a tricky one, but I want to feel we’ve made a start’). Or is there a lightbulb going off above their head (‘solution found!’)

Energy Games

Our hunch:  If the call looks to be a long one, create ‘welcome breaks’ along the route: Get everyone to play a fun, interactive game, and you’ll re-start the meeting energized and re-focused. 

The Experiment: Pick a game everyone can play – the more silly the ‘show’ the better.

  • Ask everyone to snap/ send in a pic of the shoes they’re wearing. Share with the group – can they match the shoes to the right owner?
  • Ask everyone to hold a piece of paper behind their back, then tell them to tear at their paper to create an animal (‘giraffe’ always goes down well!) Take turns to hold up your animal to camera, then hold a jokey vote – whose giraffe is most kick-ass?

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