What’s the Ideal Meeting Size? It’s Stupidly Obvious

Researchers have figured out the ideal meeting size when working from home. It's so obvious that we feel dumb for not realizing it first.
Matthew Ritchie
March 30, 2022
4 minute read

(This post was originally published on nookcalendar.com. Want to try our new app? Download Bloks for free. )

Zoom fatigue. It’s a phrase many people hadn’t heard before the COVID-19 pandemic but would soon have first-hand experience with—along with cognitive overload—once they began working from home and attending virtual meetings.

A month and a half into the global pandemic, phrases like “zoom fatigue is real” and “how to combat zoom fatigue” exploded in popularity. Just look at Google Trends.

That peak is exactly six weeks into most of us working from home. Yikes.

Back then, “Zoom fatigue” was as novel as the video conferencing software that was unwittingly behind it. 

Now, it’s common in most companies and continues to plague teams, despite shifts to hybrid work, with employees citing increased tiredness and higher levels of burnout due to long hours in online meetings.

None of this is that surprising. Nor is it Zoom’s (or any other video teleconferencing software, for that matter) fault.

But what is surprising is that, while technology—such as the size of your computer screen and internet connection—and the length of time spent in online meetings increases the likelihood of developing Zoom fatigue, a big stressor may actually be the size of today’s meetings.

And according to research coming out of a study by Stanford economist Nick Bloom and researchers at the University of Nottingham, the solution for managers and dispersed teams seems to be simple: keep virtual meetings small.

What is the Best Size for an Online Meeting?

In a survey, 2,000 working adults in the UK were asked about meeting efficiency. 

The results showed that online meetings with two to nine participants had a net positive efficiency rating (i.e., were actually useful and not a total waste of time). But, the more people got added to a call, the more the overall quality of the meeting declined.

Further, the research suggests that, to maximize efficiency, the ideal online meeting size is between two to four people.

How Many People in a Zoom Meeting is Too Many?

According to survey respondents, any Zoom call with 10 or more attendees had a net negativity rating, with the rating going down the more people got added.

Why? Because Zoom meetings with 10+ people generally have more frequent interruptions, accidental unmutings, side conversations in the chat, and smaller speaker views, which makes it hard to see people’s facial expressions and nonverbal cues and can be distracting.

All of this can lead to increased Zoom fatigue.

Why Are Smaller Meetings Better?

People preferring smaller meeting sizes to larger ones isn’t exactly groundbreaking news. 

In 2018, Robert Sutton, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University, looked at research on the ideal group size and concluded that having five to eight meeting attendees was the most productive.

Why? According to Harvard Business Review:

“[Smaller meeting sizes] help build a sense of intimacy that opens the floor to a meaningful and candid discussion. Fewer people means more time to listen to and consider the perspective of each team member. Clarity and candor emerge. Alignment follows.”

But that was before the rise of remote work.

Now, people spend much of their day on video chat. And some of that time is wasted watching co-workers fumble to unmute themselves and listen to issues that may not directly concern their work.

And, while there are individual tactics that can reduce Zoom fatigue, like taking breaks between meetings and minimizing your webcam feed so you don’t mindlessly stare at yourself during Zoom calls (what a narcissist!), one of the simplest fixes organizations and managers can make is simply inviting the right people to online meetings.

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

According to HBR, many managers find it hard to decide who needs to be on each video meeting.

As a result, they invite more people for video calls than necessary, inadvertently decreasing the quality of the call and taking time out of co-workers’ busy schedules. (For gatherings of 10 or more, research says in-person meetings—i.e., ones face to face, with eye contact, in real life—are better.)

Meanwhile, another study reported in Psychology Today found that Zoom fatigue may be harder on people who “don't feel a sense of belonging” on group videoconference calls.

So, the more people on a call who don’t need to be there (or have little input on last night’s episode of The Bachelor), the worse they’ll probably feel.

“The future of work post-pandemic…for professionals and managers, is hybrid,” says Bloom. “What this research tells you is you should hold all your large meetings on your office days.”

And when you’re working remotely, keep them small.

Whether you’re a sales superstar, in-demand consultant, busy recruiter, or someone who simply needs to schedule a lot of meetings, one thing’s for sure—you’ve probably booked a lot of them over the past two years.

Hybrid work has forced the majority of our meetings online, and while we appreciate being able to wear sweatpants during normal work hours, the time-consuming ballet that is sharing your availability, finding a time to meet, and adding it to your calendar isn’t quite as enjoyable. 

Speaking with everyone from solopreneurs to seasoned professionals, it seems like a lot of people find meeting scheduling software either costly, impersonal, or just plain boring. And Calendly and other alternatives don’t always cut it.

We hear you. 

Everyone is different, and so is how they work. Making good first impressions is important, and you shouldn’t have to pay a premium for them or basic customizations and integrations with your meeting booking system.

Nook Calendar’s meeting proposal feature is already used by tons of high-performing teams for selecting and proposing meeting times outside of their organization. 

Now, we’re making things even easier by letting you build personal pages with shareable calendar-booking links, right in Nook Calendar. Add them to your LinkedIn profile, email signature, website, or messages when finding a time to meet.

We think it’s the best meeting scheduling software out there, and we’re excited for you to give it a try, so let’s get started.

Here’s How to Set Up a Personal Booking Page in Nook Calendar

First off, if you’re new to Nook Calendar—hello! (If you’re already a Nook user, you can skip ahead.)

You’re going to start by syncing your calendar—either from Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook—and entering your work email address.

Once you approve any necessary permissions, you’ll set up your People Bar. Search for any connections and add the people you interact with the most when scheduling meetings.

From there, you can add any additional calendars you want to see (add your personal one, if you like, to further prevent any overlaps when scheduling meetings), integrate with Zoom (so you can launch calls straight from your calendar), and choose your preferred display setting—select Match OS, Light Mode, or Dark Mode.

Launch Nook Calendar, and you’re ready to set up your online meeting scheduler.

Now, the fun begins

You’re going to start by claiming your unique URL for sharing your meeting availability page. 

Your first name appears by default, but really, it can be anything. We recommend using your full name (e.g., /john-smith).

(You can always change your URL in the future, as long as it’s still available.)

From there, you want to complete your profile. 

Your profile pic is automatically pulled in from your Microsoft or GCal account.

But you can add your name, job title, welcome message, and links to social media profiles or professional website, so guests know a bit more about you when booking a meeting. 

Then, you can start setting your weekly availability.

Nook Calendar defaults to traditional time blocks—9–12 a.m. and 1–5 p.m. These are the hours someone can book a meeting from your personal page. Adjust them based on your availability. 

Your timezone is automatically set to your local time, but you can change it if you primarily work with people in a different timezone and it’s better to visualize that when setting your availability.

Choose which calendar you want to accept meetings in—it can only be booked in one, but Nook Calendar will automatically reference your availability in other calendars you’ve synced to prevent double-bookings when someone schedules a meeting.

Now, it’s time to set up some paramaters. 

You can set up your preferred meeting duration in either 15, 30, 45-minute or one-hour increments (or a custom time).

You can also add buffer time to give yourself a break between meetings, or set a lead time of up to 24 hours, so no one can book any last-minute meetings.

And you’re all set! You can preview what the page will look like, then share it with contacts or add it to your LinkedIn profile (we suggest adding it as a secondary URL), email signature, and anywhere else you do business.

Once someone books time in your calendar, you’ll receive an email and get a notification in the Pulse.

If you ever need to make any changes, you can access your personal meeting page in the bottom of the Magic Panel and make any adjustments—either to your weekly availability or personal information.

You can also remove your availability by simply creating events in Nook Calendar and marking them as Busy to block off time and prevent any bookings.

Nook Calendar’s new personal pages for sharing meeting availability are available on Web, iOS, and Android. 
If you have any questions or thoughts, we’d love to hear them. Hit us up in our Slack Community or contact us through Support.