Should we manage online meetings in the same way we once managed face to face meetings?

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Have we got online meetings correct yet?  My guess is not!  Most of the time we have simply transferred our offline face to face meeting practice into a conferencing tool and ploughed ahead, without rethinking what works best when meeting remotely.  

1.  Create a clearer purpose statement for your meeting.

We advocate making a change to traditional meeting practice when online, introducing a new more virtual way of meeting.  At the heart of this change is the question of ‘meeting purpose clarity’.  When we are remote working we always do well to increase the clarity of what’s expected of each other.  This is always most effective when we simplify any meeting down to one single purpose.  Our research suggest that any meeting will have one or more of the ten following purposes, that fit into two categories:  

Things you want:

  • a decision?
  • to generate ideas?
  • to solve a problem?
  • to build relationship?
  • to learn from the past?

Things you are achieving:

  • getting an update?
  • communicating something?
  • making plans?
  • exploring options?
  • persuading others (including sales)?

Selecting one of these purposes and stating it clearly and singularly in the invite is the first step in creating a better online meeting.

2.  Define a short timescale to be enforced in order to reach your purpose.  

The second step is to define a duration for the meeting.  This needs to be as short as possible, sometimes even as short as 10 or 15 minutes!  Obviously this can be longer if a more complex purpose and when more participants are involved, but you should always aim for as tight a timescale as feasible.  Whatever duration you select, announce this clearly alongside the meeting purpose during your opening sequence.  It can also be helpful to have this displayed on screen to make sure any late arrivals understand even if they didn’t hear it at the beginning.  

To bring this to life, add a simple count down timer to your desktop and share it on screen throughout the meeting.   It’s amazing how this will focus the attention of the participants.  

3.  Use voting to make decisions.  

The third suggestion is to make decision making more definite by introducing voting to the meeting.  The easiest approach is to use the chat facility and have all team members state their preferences nice and clearly.  This however requires you to work out the answer options and articulate them very clearly before holding the vote.  A good way to step this up is to use an online tool that helps facilitate decisions.  If you search you will find many options, one we like a lot is Slido it’s free and straight forward to use (no we are not getting a kick back for mentioning them ;-).  The combined ideas of using a voting system alongside a timer for that decision, can really transform your meeting efficiency.  

Just because it can work, doesn’t mean an old school approach translates brilliantly into the world of virtual meetings.  This is a simple example of how we can change practice online for the better.  Think about other ways you should reinvent your meetings to fit the remote working environment and you will soon start to come up with many improved, more effective ways of working.  

Ships Captain