comic series: 1, Jack bleary looking in blanket holding tea with both hands and headphones, 2, noticing that the camera is on and that she's being seen, 3, hastily removing blanket and putting down drink, 4, looking alert with hands folded in front of her smiling

I’m sorry your virtual meetings are not very good

I worked on a distributed team before and had my doubts about going fully remote. It was a lot easier and nicer than I expected. That was two years ago. Now, teams that can work remotely are. After the initial churn, you may now even be in a routine.

Do you like it? Do you miss going into the office? Is it basically the same?

Even though our company had a lot of great remote-first practices already, I have recently felt revitalized in my approached to meetings and thought I could spread the love.

1. Why are you meeting?

First, importantly, a couple of tips from me isn’t going to solve your crappy meeting. Ask yourself why you’re meeting, what you hope to accomplish, if you have the right amount of time—and hold yourself if not the group accountable for it. Be honest with yourself.

  • If you don’t know why you’re in a meeting and never talk, can you excuse yourself from it?
  • If you’re the organizer and you’re keeping a ceremonial meeting in tact because of Tradition, is it still serving the original goal? Does it need to be reshaped or cancelled?
  • If you want a certain thing out of a meeting and it’s not going the direction you like, do you make the effort to get it there or do you complain about a ‘wasted time later’?

I regret any time I’ve joined a meeting “just to listen in” because I’ve just split my attention unproductively and was one of the black boxes that a speaker dreads. Honestly, sometimes I go to a meeting because I feel bad for the organizer. That’s an okay reason for me, but your mileage may vary.

2. Schedule around the amount the time you actually need

I found out recently that most companies default to an hour meeting? Is that true? Don’t do that, that’s such a long time to meet unless you need to.

Meetings per day illustration, lots of blocks of meetings with stressed out faces in between
@jackdrawstheline
  • How long do you reasonably think the question will take to answer?
  • If your company tends to drift into non-important things, do you need a timer?

Consider not starting meetings on the at the top or bottom of the hour. So, your 10am meeting turns into 10:05 or 10:10. People need a breaks in between meetings and ending early is a myth.

3. Make the effort to create an active meeting, yes, even if you’re the participant

@jackdrawstheline

Hello, when your video is off and you’re muted the whole time you are draining all the life out of meeting and not giving the speaker any feedback and probably making them care less too.

Or, you could all call each other?

4. Active facilitation

To me, virtual meetings need more of effort to facilitate because you can’t pick up on social cues as well. But they have also been a great equalizer for me. This is probably also our company culture, but I have never gotten the chance to speak in meetings as much as I have now. This is in part because we recognize the need to facilitate a conversation in some loose structure (ex: lean coffee).

This one is easy:

  • Who’s talked?
  • Who hasn’t?

Harder:

  • How do you get those folks to talk and contribute fully? How might you do this without just putting them on the spot (which might not be the best way they contribute)
  • Who was invited, and couldn’t make it? Should you still be meeting? If so, how do you communicate back to them what they missed?

If you lead meetings and you’re not doing some of these things, don’t worry, you can start as soon as your next meeting!!!!1!

For discussion time, my project team does a simple version of this (#5 was a game changer for me)

Screenshot 2018-07-08 18.13.37

Stuff that has informed my opinions

If you have felt the pain of meeting dynamics, these two articles by Chelsea Troy (written pre-pandemic so you know it’s legit) were really validating for me:

Others

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