August 18, 2021
Meetings constitute an important part of any business and not all of them are bad or a waste of time, but sometimes they can be a disruption to your workflow. If not well thought out, they can turn into a glorified gathering that sucks out the productivity and energy of the team without any added value.
The first step towards better meetings is figuring out if they are necessary. To do so, think about the purpose of the meeting. What are you hoping to achieve? What are the alternatives to holding this meeting? Can the topic be discussed through email or a quick chat on Slack or Teams? The idea is that a meeting shouldn’t be the first and/or only approach to problem solving and decision making. Instead they should be the last resort, when other options aren’t suitable. For example, an email about some follow-up points might be better than a second meeting. And instead of an impromptu meeting to discuss some bugs with the dev team, it might be more efficient to send a quick message with a link to the user story.
In fact, figuring out which meetings are necessary is even more important now. As the workplace globally shifted towards a work-from-home setting due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meetings have been on the rise. Especially video format meetings. With that, many remote workers started experiencing Zoom fatigue, which is the feeling of extreme tiredness that is felt after using a video-call app. Imagine what that would feel like after back-to-back meetings spanning the entire workday (and then again in the evening facetiming family and friends).
Stanford researchers identified 4 reasons for this phenomenon.
One way to avoid these Zoom fatigue effects is to switch to audio-calls when the camera is not necessary. That way, you can even move those legs a bit while on the call. And when you simply miss seeing your colleagues, then scheduling the occasional social video-call will be welcome.
We can’t avoid meetings completely. So how do we make the most of the essential ones? The key – to no surprise – is preparation. A meeting is not the time to work on those improvisation skills. Makes sure to plan out the agenda and be clear about the purpose and desired outcomes of the meeting. Even better, allocate time to each point on the list. Then again, not all meetings are created equal and adjusting the level of preparation to your meeting-needs is important (that status update meeting doesn’t need an elaborate agenda). Sending the slides of the presentation and the agenda in advance is also a good idea so that your colleagues can get a head-start and come prepared. Also think about who should be in the meeting and only invite the people whose input is essential.
After the meeting, make sure to summarize the points discussed and follow-up steps, and sharing those with the team. This helps keep track of your progress and ensure that all important information is saved for future reference, thus avoiding any redundant meetings.
So before hitting send on that meeting invitation, take some time to think whether that meeting is necessary and which format is best suited for it. It’s also worth considering the well-being of your colleagues before scheduling a video call or when you know that their day is already packed with meetings.