October 2021: To Zoom or not to Zoom

By 22/10/2021Strategy

To Zoom or not to Zoom- Balancing relationships vs. efficiencies in post-covid meetings

By: Katherine Whitney

Eventually, we will work our way through Covid and Delta, and they will be in our past – but Zoom and other video conferencing options are here to stay.  So “to Zoom or not to Zoom; that is the question.”  No doubt, we’ll spend years trying to figure that out.  Video conferencing is certainly the time-efficient approach to almost every meeting, but it’s not always the best approach.  Here are some considerations:

The meeting’s purpose.   The more complex or sensitive the topic, the more likely an in-person meeting is better.  Do you need to observe body language or facial expressions? These are very important and harder to see on screen.  Is relationship-building important?  Again, in-person meetings are more effective.  On the other hand, if this is a check-in or update meeting, reporting out online can save valuable time.

The number of participants.  The increase in the number of participants is adversely correlated to the size of the box each is given.  This could be more important to a conference presenter than to the audience.  Giving an online talk requires a very different skillset from one where you can feel the vibe in the room.  It’s much harder to read the crowd or play off of the audience.

The location of participants.  Online meetings can save time and money if people don’t have to travel.  For example, Board meetings for regional or national boards make sense virtually as long as there are still a few in-person meetings each year.  Another time meeting virtually works is for the first round of interviews for a national executive search. This saves time for both the search committee and candidates and money for the organization.

The personality of participants.  Extroverts are eager to get back to in-person meetings; introverts are happier to hide online. An online meeting full of introverts can be very quiet; conversely, a screen full of extroverts trying to jump out of their boxes can reduce effectiveness.  Do you have a mix that works? Aim for balance, if possible.

The budget.  It’s hard to beat the cost of online meetings, and it is possible to build some level of relationships, but savings need to be balanced by nurturing culture.  A great culture is priceless.

Technology.  Not everyone has access to great technology or has learned how to use it. Nothing puts a damper on a meeting like a frozen screen, audio that doesn’t work or a power loss for the host.  Can the meeting risk those interruptions?

Hybrid Meetings.  The number of hybrid meetings seems to be increasing.  Some people are in person, some online.  My experience has been that one way or the other works better for participants.  If the hybrid approach is necessary, manage the conversation so that those online can hear and participate. Consider investing in something like Owl video conferencing technology to improve the experience.

Each organization will find its “to Zoom or not to Zoom” answer over time.  In general, if relationships and complex decisions outweigh efficiency and budget, try to hold in-person meetings.  Otherwise, save time and money, get comfortable with online meetings and continue to cajole participants into turning their videos on and refraining from multitasking.



Katherine Whitney, Warren Whitney’s cofounder and partner, works closely with nonprofit organizations in Board governance, strategic planning, organizational development, and Executive Director/CEO searches. Warren Whitney is grateful for the opportunity to support you and your organization. If you would like to connect with Katherine to learn more about her practice, please call her at 804.977.6688 or email Katherine Whitney at kwhitney@warrenwhitney.com