With all the technological advances, it is very easy to call a meeting. On top of that and to be on the safe side, we prefer to invite more people than less, in a misguided intention to create transparency. If you would rather avoid fruitless meetings, please pay special attention to the following two points.
Write informative invitations
Preparation begins with the invitation to your meeting. Be sure to use a clear title and indicate the reason for the meeting. Don’t assume that people will know why you want to meet. Write an agenda and attach the necessary documents. If you expect people to prepare something in advance, mention that in the invitation.
Imagine you are invited to a BBQ and no one tells you to bring along the meat. You show up with a salad and the garden party goes to hell. Also take into account that there are different types of people. Some, like myself, prefer to prepare for meetings. Adding all the information will ensure that you have met everyone’s needs and that the invitees can put their best foot forward at the meeting. At a minimum, your invitation should include the following items:
- Purpose: What is the purpose? Clearly state the purpose of the meeting. Subjects like “Catch up” or “Alignment Call” are not self-explanatory!
- Goal: How will you know the meeting was a success?
- Agenda: What needs to happen during the meeting to achieve the stated goal?
- Participants: Who needs to be there to make it a success?
- Preparation: What can the invitees prepare to make the meeting productive?
At the beginning of the meeting, I usually explain the rules of the game. For this purpose we at borisgloger consulting use the factors of success.
One option I choose for vivid conversations or discussions is to ask participants to use the “raise hand” feature, or to ask all non-speakers to mute themselves. This way you avoid people interrupting each other – an occurrence which we all know to well from online meetings.
As a second point, at the beginning I highlight the goal and purpose of the meeting again and at the end I use survey tools such as Mentimeter to find out whether the participants are satisfied with the meeting, whether the goal was achieved in their eyes and I give them the opportunity to leave further feedback. This way I can adapt and optimize my meetings to the needs of the participants.
Invite the right people
You can’t fly with eagles if you’re working with pigeons. No online meeting will ever be more than mediocre if you invite the wrong people. And if you invite too many, even less so. This is true for any meeting, but especially for remote meetings. Since you’re sitting in the front row thanks to the camera, it’s clear who’s contributing and who’s not. Some people don’t have the seniority or self-awareness to leave or decline unnecessary meetings on their own because they might miss something or make a bad impression. If you’re not sure if someone is involved in a project, ask them.
If you need someone to be invited to speak only on a specific topic, invite him or her to only part of the meeting. Make it clear that the person is free to leave the meeting after answering all questions on that topic. You will gain from their knowledge without wasting anyone’s time.
Ask yourself before you send the invitation to the meeting: Why am I inviting this person? Do we need a meeting or do I just want to share information? Do I need information from this person? Wanting to inform everyone or getting status information is not a good enough reason to have a meeting. If you want everyone to be informed on the results, write minutes or record the meeting (get consent from participants at the very beginning) and make them available to those present and absent. Make it clear that everyone will be held accountable for the knowledge that comes out of the meeting. If you hold people accountable and don’t just let them “sit out” meetings, attendance will almost naturally be limited to the right people.
Less is more
Hosting great online meetings can seem like an impossible task – but it doesn’t have to be. The good news is that there are steps you can follow to make sure the right people get into the right meeting the right way. Prepare for your online meeting and educate your colleagues who will be working with you. This will reduce the number of online meetings and the stress. You’ll soon find that you get more done with participants who are fully focused on the task at hand, and the rest of your colleagues will enjoy a leaner meeting culture.
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In my previous posts, I discussed the effects of Zoom on our well-being, how to reduce the psychological stress of online meetings, and how to host online meetings that are a win-win for all participants.