How do you feel, when you get a notification about the next online meeting starting in 15 minutes?
Is it: “Yeyy, finally our weekly update call!”
or: “Oh my, let’s waste another hour talking about the same things…”?
In the current situation when remote work and online meetings are the new black (read: new reality), there are lots of distractions we can find in most virtual meeting rooms. Here’s a list of 6 common meeting problems and their effective solutions we all need to keep in mind.
#1 Too many meetings
An intense meeting schedule can be everyone’s bottleneck – too many team calls, too little time for actual work. And what’s more – it costs bucks! Reports have shown that more than a third (37%) of professionals consider unnecessary meetings to be the biggest cost to their organization.
What to do?
If you’re convening a meeting just to inform your team about an important topic – stop doing this! The best way to spread information is via email. Make a structured, clear and straight to the point message. Your team will appreciate your time-saving approach.
Though, if you’re looking for a discussion or brainstorming session, make sure your proposed length of the meeting is absolutely necessary. Plan the agenda beforehand and carefully set the time slots for each agenda item, so that no time is wasted!
#2 Unclear Purpose and Course of Action
Who’s enjoying traveling by airplane, when its pilot doesn’t have a clue, where to land? Exactly…nobody!
Same goes with meetings – if you’re a meeting’s convener and you send an empty meeting request to teammates with a title “Project development”, what should they be prepared for? Is it your stand-up, brainstorm, or perhaps each one of them should present their ideas?
What to do?
Clear meeting agenda and objective are key elements for a successful meeting. So, make one!
In your next meeting request include:
- Defined objective – what exactly is the achievable goal of this meeting?
- Short description – draw a baseline, so that everyone’s on the same page as soon as the meeting starts.
- Agenda items – name the discussable topics, responsible person for each one of them, and set up the duration to agree on how long you are willing to discuss each topic.
- Documents and links needed for the meeting, so that team can access fundamental information right on the spot and be prepared.
#3 Chaos in Meeting Management
Once the meeting starts, there’s a lot of questions that should be answered.
- Who’ll be the chosen one to protocol the discussion? Is it even necessary?
- How to find the right documents?
- Where does everyone mark their to-do’s?
- Who will write a follow-up email for the client?
- Where to land meeting notes?
While online sheets, notebooks and sticky notes might be a habitual way of managing tasks for so many, remember, the course and outcome of your meeting should be accessible, traceable, transparent and understandable, so that those, who haven’t attended the meeting, can also get acquainted with the decisions made.
What to do?
For successful meeting management implement digital solutions, that already have proved their efficiency. For example, Meetinch helps users in all stages of meeting management:
- Before the meeting – create a clear agenda (including all those previously mentioned bullet points).
- During the meeting – track time and progress, mark to-do’s, assign responsible persons and deadlines, write down made decisions. The best thing – the meeting’s organizer isn’t the only one who can protocol the meeting – it’s a shared workspace, where everyone can collaborate.
- After the meeting – export to-dos to your private Microsoft To-Do or Outlook Tasks profile and send meeting’s summary email immediately after it ends.
Sounds like a piece of cake, but you’re not sure if you’re ready to change the habits? Try it once and your team will appreciate the results.
P.S. It’s for free up to ten users, so you literally can start it right now.
#4 Derailing from the Agenda
It’s easy to deviate from planned agenda topics if you’re having a virtual meeting (well, let’s be honest – in every type of meetings). A crying baby, a barking dog or a long-time-no-see colleague in your videocall window can bring out some off-topic chats. It’s a real time waster and can guide your meeting to the unproductivity cave, some individuals can even start to feel anxiety level rising…
What to do?
Try not to (in will.i.am words) scream, shout and let it all out.
Instead, propose a friendly activity – capture moments when a side conversation starts to show up and turn them into KPI. Then, set a goal for the next meeting to reduce the number of deviations. We’re all adults, but it doesn’t mean you can’t add gamification to your meetings to get everyone’s attention.
By the way, to make it even more fun – Meetinch has a magical “OFF-TOPIC” button, which stops “productive time counter” and generates a meme, which helps everyone to get back on the wagon. We love it!
#5 Lack of Focus and Passive Meeting's Attendees
Long meetings, boring topics, never-ending discussions… We all have been in this – let’s call it The Great Moment when the ability to focus fades away and someone even starts to scroll the Instagram feed. The Great Moment is difficult for everyone: for the attendees, who can’t focus anymore, and for the meeting’s organizer, whose team is full of apathetic and irresponsive colleagues.
What to do?
Deadline-driven motivation – ever hear about this?
It can be a very effective method for your team, and it all starts with time planning. Instead of default 30 minutes or 1 hour for a meeting, divide it into smaller parts. For example, 7 minutes for decision making. Ignore the old habit to round up all your time slots and start to save time!
For even more effective decision-making, set up a count-down timer to focus all your energy on important tasks, eliminating a chance to fade away.
#6 The “Cast Away” Feeling
You know that Tom Hanks movie, where he was left alone on the Island, right?
Sometimes it’s the same feeling when you’re in the virtual meeting. It’s hard to speak if you don’t see any reaction or facial expressions of the attendees. And it’s also difficult to perceive information if you don’t see the speaker and his body language.
What to do?
Set some virtual meeting rules.
For example, the first 3 minutes of the meeting dedicate to a “reality check”, when every attendee turns on a camera and smiles at the team. You can even ask some question or initiate a small talk, to involve colleagues. Just remember – be careful with such an approach, for some people the idea of 3 minutes chitchat can be very stressful.
What’s an alternative?
Ask for your team’s favorite songs, then put one of them right before every virtual meeting. Of course, it will add up a couple of minutes to your agenda, but – hey, we’re all humans – and an ice-breaker at the beginning of the meeting will boost all our energy level, increase the ability to focus and create an open-minded atmosphere.
Leading the meeting is never an easy task – especially when it’s a virtual one. It takes time and great effort to properly prepare, to fully understand and to sufficiently handle it.
Include these 6 ideas in your next meeting and enjoy the outcome yourself!