Things have changed with meetings. The formal boardroom has learned to adapt or gone into retirement. Casual group meetings are now a more structured activity. A visit to the grandparents means wiping fingerprints off the screens. People are sharing a cup of tea or glass of wine and a chat with friends via their laptops. Meeting software is now being used for business, leisure and pleasure. People who just about knew how to charge their mobile phones are now speaking to groups of people they would never have thought possible.
I have been to so many Zoom meetings in the past 3 weeks I can’t count them. Each time I learned something new about the software. Here are some of my recent learnings. There’s an icon to show you put your hand up to speak. People can divide into groups for breakout conversations and then come back into the main area. The screen can be used for presentations during the meeting. There’s a tiled view option where you can see everyone, not just the person speaking. There’s a chat box and it’s very useful for notes because it can be saved. There are all sorts of online meeting etiquette that keeps coming up so I learn more each time.
I’ve attended an international workshop, poetry reading, regular meetings, family conference and a webinar in the past few days. What’s new for me in all of this is the regular group meetings. I’m used to zooming into meetings nationally but to be able to attend ones closer to home is brilliant. Group meetings I rarely attended because they’re a 40 minute drive away are now accessible. It had never occurred to me to suggest we use zoom before now. I had been excluding myself instead of suggesting this one change. I’m no longer one of only a couple of online participants because now everyone at the meeting is a head on a screen.
This type of meeting is brilliant for participation. People who struggle to participate can join in from home. It costs nothing extra, you don’t need childcare and the building is always accessible. With some imagination there’s no reason we couldn’t design more democratic processes around it.
Now that we have seen how meetings can be more inclusive can we adopt those changes forever? I hear lots of talk that we must not return to business as usual. Imagine meetings that are accessible remotely and that’s acceptable!
31 March 2020