A chance to do meetings right

There is much said about meetings. How to run one, how to facilitate everyone speaking, how long one should be, how to make them productive, the list goes on. Most people will complain about most meetings.

After 22 years spent in meetings, 121s, big groups, clients and internal meetings, the rulebook I know has been thrown out of the window. It is extremely likely that we will continue using Zoom, Google Hangouts, or other for the foreseeable future. Meetings like these will continue to be a big part of how we work.

If you learned ‘how to do meetings’, the traditional way, with minute taking and a chairperson in charge, this shift is enormous. Reading people is extraordinarily difficult. You can’t get everyone on the grid in large meeting groups. If you are also presenting, you can’t see anyone at all. So, we must now learn a new rulebook.

Here are 6 tips for how to adjust

  • When you book the meeting send details of how to join the meeting – Then send a separate note to check that they know the meeting details are in the invitation and if they need to download anything. Make sure everyone knows that it will be audio-only or video. Check if they might dial in instead. Just before the meeting, use whatever form of instant text will work for them – slack, whats app, text to remind them the meeting will be in 15 minutes and to remind them how to join. No one wants to be awkwardly waiting.
  • We get tired on video calls – I had no idea how tired. I had read about it and dismissed it and now I feel it and feel silly for dismissing it. Long meetings in person can have some small intermissions and tea breaks, with some light-hearted conversation. But on video calls, there is no escape. You have to be ‘on’ at all times. Most of the time you are talking to people on mute, and/or with no video. It feels like you are talking to thin air. Meetings need to be shorter (more below) and you need breaks.
  • Meetings need to be shorter and we need to do some prep beforehand – Circulating whatever it is you are talking about beforehand is a great way to reduce meeting time. You will need to think about this – how can you get your point across in writing beforehand. How can you ensure that those invited to the meeting know what they need to consider, prepare and ask when they join. This means that everyone comes to the meeting with their own opinion. They won’t be drawn to the opinion of the first person who speaks. Meetings might be productive!
  • Don’t book back to back meetings – You might think this is efficient because you can get all the Zooms done and then get on with work. This Does Not Work. Your first meeting will overrun and you will be on catch up all day. This will annoy everyone you meet with because you are late, or having to drop off to join the next one. In the office it is not quite as bad to be late – the next person can come in, or they can go and get a cup of tea. Waiting on a video call is awkward and painful.
  • Consider core working hours and/or Zoom days and no video days – I don’t know about you but I am actually dreaming in Zoom now. It feels as if any virtual person may pop up at any time in my house (which used to be peaceful). My friends want to Zoom in the evening when I am knackered. Being on at any time is exhausting. Not as easy as it sounds and I haven’t cracked it but I want to. Core working hours and Zoom available hours would help. As would having some days which I turn off my video and just do audio.
  • What is your online video presence? – This is an interesting one. You probably have an idea of how you ‘show up’ to a meeting. You might have had feedback on it, you might dress a certain way or make people feel comfortable coming into the room. Everyone will have their own way of doing it. All of that is out of the window for video calls. You will have to invent a new presence. What will it be? I would love to hear, I don’t know what mine is yet but I know it is not the same. I actually find video calls much more nerve-wracking. I’m out of my comfort zone… because I have spent 22 years doing meetings another way.

Written by Laura Hothersall

Agency Director

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