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5 tips for keeping virtual meetings productive

5 tips for keeping virtual meetings productive
Zoom :-)

As an ex-BigCo employee, I understand the life-sapping importance of other people’s meetings.

When you are onto the second hour of Jim from HR’s meeting about the new staff handbook, having listened to ten inane questions from Dave and Sue, none of which fitted the subject and a ten minute ramble about their holidays, you lose the will to live. As a  result of these experiences, I’m not super keen on meetings.  

Here are my five tips on how not to waste your own and everyone else’s time, and to get your sh*t done in a succinct and timely fashion.

1 - Don’t have a f*cking meeting.

This might seem obvious, but do you really need this one?  I’m betting you don’t 90% of the time and are simply pushing off making a decision.

2 Have an agenda.

It’s not a tea-talk, you’re not meeting to chat sh*t about the football, The Apprentice or anything else.

Yes, if you are having a meeting in the UK, it’s mandatory to talk about the weather,  and we all know we have to go through the Zoom “can I hear you rituals”, but you need an agenda.

Everyone needs to know ahead of time what you are going to be speaking about. Itemised and shared in the meeting request when you call it. No agenda, no meeting.  

Plus, give participants the opportunity to add to the agenda ahead of the meeting, not during or hint: “any other business” will quickly turn the last ten minutes into the previous three hours. If it’s not on the agenda, then it’s not happening.

3 - Invite no-one

I’m being flippant, but the smaller the meeting, the better it goes and the more it stays on track. So, invite the smallest number of people possible, not the biggest. It’s not some sort of weird power trip, appropriating half of the IT team to talk about your new car parking system isn’t getting your meeting done and isn’t getting the system put in any quicker.

(Note to bosses: make sure your staff feel they can make decisions and if they mess up, you will use it as a learning opportunity and not one for punishment. Here’s a great book on having permission to screw up.)

4 Make them short

Most calendar apps default to 30 or 60 minutes for a meeting, but is this too long? The aim of a meeting is to get through the agenda correctly in the shortest time.  

I have regular meetings that are 5 minutes or less. I’m happy when my meeting finishes quickly. It’s not that we rushed, it’s just that as we put in a short time, we had to get to the point.

5  Be in charge

It’s your meeting, own that sh*t. The meeting needs to be kept to the agenda and work to the path you have set. Tell Bob from sales to wind his neck in if needed. You need to run a meeting to get it to achieve what you want. It’s not a passive endeavour.

Follow these steps and you will soon be having fewer and shorter meetings, with fewer attendees and that run on time.