Seth Godin’s Zoom Agreement: Everyone, Make it a Good Experience

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There are things about using Zoom I enjoy.

Other things I hate.

Some I tolerate.

A few I accept. A few I resist.

The Breakdown

What do I enjoy? The connections. I like seeing other’s faces, I like that the technology makes a conversation (or at least an exchange of ideas) possible. I like the reactions feature because I like visuals when words aren’t necessary. The “thumbs up” is my favorite hand signal, as anyone who has ever hung around with me or sent me a text message has discovered. I like the chat feature and I often use the group chat.

I hate that there is a global pandemic going on right now that necessitates the use of Zoom or another video conferencing tool. Meeting in person is better. Mediation is not the same. The pandemic is not Zoom’s fault, unless you believe this. Maybe I do believe that, maybe I don’t, but people are telling me this, this is something I’m hearing, and I understand that people are looking into it, and I think they should look into it.

I tolerate the ways side conversations are limited, moments when it is evident a person on mute is distracted or steps out of the frame to handle a matter, or the fact that some people log on from bed.

I accept that people don’t always keep their video on and that some people are logged in but not really engaged. Some will make that choice.

What I resist is temptation. To check my email, to visit other websites, to do other stuff. I feel it. I admit that sometimes I give in. But I know that detracts from the experience for everyone.

The Godin Agreement

Seth Godin wrote a post, “Toward a Zoom Agreement.” Here’s what he said:

If you promise not to check your email while we’re talking, we promise to not waste your time.

If you agree to look me in the eye and try to absorb the gist of what I’m saying, I agree to be crisp, cogent and on point.

If you are clear about which meetings are a waste of time for you to attend, we can be sure to have them without you.

If you can egg me on and bring enthusiasm to the interaction, I can lean into the work and reflect back even more energy than you’re contributing.

The purpose of a meeting is not to fill the allocated slot on the Google calendar invite. The purpose is to communicate an idea and the emotions that go with it, and to find out what’s missing via engaged conversation.

If we can’t do that, let’s not meet.

Multi-tasking isn’t productive, respectful or healthy.

When my classes move online, we don’t have the option to “not meet.” But we can have an exchange before or after Zoom meetings that will help me improve, to use the time more effectively, to communicate more clearly.

My Commitment

One of my greatest struggles as a teacher is sticking to the time allotment. I let others talk, and I talk, and I make the mistake of trying to cover too much ground. I’m still learning how to be a good steward of time, and Zoom has made that even more challenging. The chit chat is where we connect. The side conversations are where we get the chance to goof around and listen and learn about one another. Zoom isn’t conducive to that.

I have to accept the limitations of the medium. I also have to stay disciplined in covering the ground we’ve agreed to traverse that day.

And if there are still ways to make it better, I want to learn how.

But as Godin writes, one way to make online meetings more enjoyable for everyone is to bring your energy to the meeting, to come ready to engage. Don’t put everything on the leader. Show up and do your part. And I’ll promise you I’ll give my best on this end.