CTL Blog

Inclusive Zoom Meetings, Part 2 - Meeting Preparation Beyond the Tech

June 23, 2021 | 3 Minute Read

This guest post is by Celine Greene, Senior Instructional Technologist in the Center for Teaching and Learning.

In an inclusive meeting, participants feel welcome and invited. When meeting hosts take small, positive steps and turn them into norms, they can set the climate and environment for this to happen. In an online meeting, the hosts need to consider both the technology (the Zoom platform, in this blog series) and the facilitation (the actions of the meeting hosts and presenters). Additionally, attention must be paid to both the meeting preparation and its execution.

This post picks up on the meeting preparation from Part 1: The Tech Before the Meeting to discuss what else should be considered prior to the scheduled meeting.

The Facilitation: In Advance of the Meeting

Distribute an Accessible Agenda and Supporting Resources

Communicate an agenda with the meeting's planned topics, roles (if applicable), and even potential goals. Optionally include the allotted time for different topics. Make certain to include scheduled breaks if the meeting is long, which may be important to participants' physical and mental well-being.

Distribute any supporting files or other relevant resources in advance both so the participants can prepare and make certain they have access. Access may be unintentionally restricted by everything from a bad URL or incorrect file privileges, to finding appropriate technologies to open or translate a document, to having the necessary bandwidth to download a file.

The agenda and any other resources must be digitally accessible. This allows all users the opportunity to accurately and equally perceive the communications.

Having the accessible agenda and resources in advance of the meeting lets participants familiarize themselves with the topics and gives them an opportunity to ask any clarifying questions. It also reduces the likelihood for potential barriers and technical glitches. Providing individuals options to support their comprehension, including clarifying or activating their background knowledge, coupled with prioritizing universal access empowers individuals to participate fully when the synchronous meeting occurs.

Communicate Expectations

In your meeting invitation, be clear if there will be active participation, if a quiet space or access to external resources (e.g., pen and paper) is needed, if webcam video will be encouraged or required (which should only happen in very specific cases), and if there are any ground rules such as raising a virtual hand to be called upon before talking. Consider including a link to Zoom's support site, suggesting participants update to the latest Zoom client, learn to rename themselves, use meeting reactions, etc. If the meeting will be recorded, make sure this is understood. Additionally, ask participants if they have any special requests or suggestions to make the meeting more inclusive or a better experience. When expectations are set, everyone is aware of their rights and responsibilities and participants are more likely to speak up if they perceive any violation. And by inviting participants to voice individual requests or recommendations, you are showing respect and an openness to others' perspectives.

Remove or Reduce Environmental Distractions

If sharing your screen, close all non-relevant programs, tabs, and notifications (such as Microsoft Teams or Outlook banner notifications) to reduce distractions. Also minimize the visual distractions that may be displayed when you are using your webcam, perhaps by enabling Zoom's virtual blur background. In addition, try to have good bandwidth and audio quality (both output and input, including facilitating from a space free from interruptions). A "smooth" meeting, conducted with few distractions, reduces potential extraneous cognitive load and allows participants to focus on the communication and not the platform.

To Be Continued

We've discussed the recommended guidelines for setting up an inclusive meeting, both the technology and the communications, but there's still more to be done. Up next in this series on Inclusive Zoom Meetings, considerations for the hosts and presenters during the online meetings.