Those of you of a certain age may remember ‘Fat Larry’.

If you don’t, you may be thinking we are in danger of being politically incorrect, but the truth is, Fat Larry James was the founder of an American R&B and Funk band from Philadelphia who had a number two hit in the UK singles chart with a song in 1982 that is highly apt today.

The song is called Zoom and the opening lyric as I recall went: ‘Zoom, just one look and then my heart went boom’. In the situation we are in today, weight conscious Larry would appropriately change this to:

‘Yet another Zoom, just one look and then my heart just sank!!’

We have become by necessity, dwellers on the good ship online and its sister vessel HMS work from home. I’m not sure about you, but I think the novelty of being able to sit in front of your screen, wearing your best Winnie the Pooh joggers, with your ‘best mum in the world’ mug nearby is starting to wear off for many people.

We are in danger of getting ‘Zoomitis’ (other platforms are available) – a dread of virtual back to back meetings filling the diary every day. But you probably recognise that this isn’t new. The corporate world has been filling diaries with ‘back to back’ meetings for years. Not because it’s an effective approach – but because it’s just what we have always done!

Leaders around the world I work with are used to my cajoling and encouraging them to change to a more effective system and cut out the waste of ‘meetings for meeting sake’. One quick win is suggesting meetings start with the question ‘what would be the best outcome from this meeting and how can we achieve it in the most effective and time efficient way’ It is a question that can cut waste and cost in one fell swoop – Imagine that outcome for every meeting in your organisation.

Doesn’t it make sense that if people are the costliest part of your organisation, you should use them more effectively? This has become highly topical when for many companies, unfortunately, the difficult business climate means hard decisions about headcount having to be taken. I know this is where the Briars Group have proved invaluable and I’m sure many people reading this are grateful to have had their team behind you.

But if you find yourself with less people trying to do more, the answer has to be: better communication, the ability to react and perhaps pivot faster and to lose the bad habits that cost us money. And a clue to how we can be more effective brings me back to ‘larger than life’ Larry and his almost a hit ‘Zoom’. If our hearts sink when we are invited to yet another Zoom call, something is undoubtedly wrong.

If (and in some cases when) as a business, we get to the stage of apathy and disinterest in taking part in Zoom, Teams, Skype, or whatever meeting, we are in danger of a communication breakdown. When the mute button becomes the favourite control – Houston we have a problem!

Over the last few months I have seen many leaders approaching online in the same way as traditional meetings and ‘boring the pants’ (I wanted to use a stronger phrase but Kate wouldn’t let me) off their audience.  To update a very old quote:

‘A leader without followers is just watching the screen and playing with his mouse’

Multiple Powerpoint slides packed with tons of information just do not work in this new world online (just as they didn’t work in the old traditional world). Our brains are unable to take that level of information in without variation, engagement, and differing style.

So perhaps it’s time for you to take this opportunity to embrace change and make a difference in your organisation.

Here are five tips to consider to as we virtually move on together:

  1. Is the meeting necessary and are we clear on the ideal outcome?
  2. Are the attendees invited really needing to be there, and are they in a position to make a real contribution?
  3. Plan the meeting to keep your audience’s attention throughout
  4. Make it interactive – there are lots of ways to do this from poll’s to word clouds
  5. Engage with the camera not the screen (like everything, this is a learned skill and so a little advice and guidance on technique will certainly pay off)

Jon Hammond DL is an executive leadership coach with an impressive track record as a reputation saver and reputation builder. He has spent many years in TV and Radio relating to people through a lens and engaging with unseen audiences, and now shares many tips tricks and techniques to use in the virtual and real world to re-enforce leadership reputation

He helps businesses around the world with communication strategies, effective message delivery and teaching leaders to have presence and to reach their full potential.

Contact him at or find Jon on LinkedIn.

Kate co-founded Briars in 1991 with Andrew Brierley. She specialised in tax law and today continues to advise clients on international operations, particularly land, expand and exit! In her spare time Kate is a Past Master of the City of London Guild of Entrepreneurs and a Director of CCARHT (Cambridge Centre for Applied Research into Human Trafficking).