If you’ve been following along with our introduction of the Worst Online Meetings Hall of Fame, you’ll know right away why we love Surviving the Horror of Online Meetings (affiliate link) written by Brian Tarallo and illustrated by Mark Monlux. Witness the cover of this exemplary how-to book:

Cover of Surviving the Horror of Online Meetings

Brian is the managing director of Lizard Brain, and he defines a Meeting Monster as “anything that makes online meetings terrible.” These can range from the awkward silences that sometimes occur after someone asks a question, to that moment when everyone starts talking at once, to distracting tech failures. 

A certified meeting facilitator and online instructor, Brian has asked hundreds of people over the years what it is they don’t like about online meetings. The responses are all about what you’d expect; chances are they’re all the same things that you and I don’t like about online meetings. And each one of those things, the book posits, ties back to the same issue: human behavior.

Surviving the Horror of Online Meetings is a slim yet thorough guide (with delightful illustrations!) to making online meetings efficient and effective, rather than simply taking the worst parts of in-person meetings and moving them online. The book takes readers through the planning process and beyond the execution of an online meeting, beginning with a concept that’s all too often overlooked: basic meeting etiquette. Next comes the design process, the human and tech factors, the steps required for successful collaboration, how to keep the engagement and energy levels high, how to keep cool when tech goes wrong, and how to be your best self online (which should be required reading for anyone using the internet at any point, as far as I’m concerned). Finally, Brian provides a sample agenda and an outline of how to thrive in a world of online meetings. 

In a conversation (okay, a Zoom call) last week, Brian showed Mike and me one his favorite props for online meetings: a coffee cup. 

“There’s nothing in this cup,” he said. “But I can ask a question—” And here he appeared to take a leisurely sip, then swallow it, before continuing: “Take a sip, and give people a moment to unmute themselves, or to catch up if the video’s lagging.” As explained on page 15 of the book, “Taking a sip on camera clearly signals that you’re done speaking and that you’re waiting for a response.” So simple, so effective.

Densely packed with strategic information and concepts that, frankly, most of us haven’t had the time to consider, Surviving the Horror of Online Meetings is written in a friendly, intelligent voice, rife with humor and humanity. We recommend it wholeheartedly for everyone, and particularly for those who have found the jump to online meetings a bit harrowing. You don’t have to be afraid anymore! - Emma Alvarez Gibson

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