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Scheduling a meeting has become the default for most business issues. Not sure what to do in a project? Meeting. Have some ideas? Meeting.

Should I hold a meeting #

It can be tempting to schedule a meeting when you don’t have clarity about what you are doing. Unless the intent is to structure the project, it’s a waste of your and your colleagues’ time. Set aside some time to do some strategic thinking.

Block off time for work in your calendar by adding solo meetings. Ninety (90) minutes is a perfect amount of time.

If you don’t need a two-way conversation about an issue, send an e-mail or a Slack message that the other party can look at on their own.

Who and how long #

Only invite the people whose input is necessary or who will get valuable information from the meeting. We’ve all left meetings where we felt that it was a big waste of your time.

If your calendar system supports it, Outlook for instance, invite people as required and optional. This makes it clearer if I’m expected to attend a meeting or not.

Fifteen (15) minutes might be enough time. Research shows that people start to check out mentally after 10-18 minutes, which means that half the meeting could be unproductive if the meeting was 30 minutes. This is why TED talks are 18 minutes or shorter. Consider changing the default meeting length in your calendar.

Work expands to the time you schedule for it – Parkinson’s law

Agenda #

Create an agenda for the meeting. This minimizes distractions and helps keep the meeting focused. It also helps attendees decide if the meeting is relevant to them.

Have a place, a parking lot, to write down off-topic issues that arise during the meeting. Decide what to do with these at the end of the meeting if time allows it.

Review the agenda to determine what the meeting is about and if you need to complete any prework for the meeting. If the meeting doesn’t pertain to you, reach out to the organizer and clarify your role in the meeting or decline the invitation. If the organizer hasn’t provided an agenda, contact them for more information.

When you are going to share something in a meeting, make sure to prepare in advance. Have documents, content, or links ready. Test that your environment is working correctly if you are going to demo.

Meeting notes #

Writing notes is a powerful way of influencing others. It helps remind the attendees what was agreed upon. Writing notes might be hard to do while you are facilitating the meeting, so make sure to stop at times and summarize what just happened.

The palest ink is better than the best memory. — Chinese proverb

Prepare your notes right after the meeting, when the information is fresh in your mind. Distribute the notes within 24 hours, but the sooner, the better.

To better handle the role as a facilitator, consider appointing someone as secretary. You could also crowdsource notes by asking the attendees to take notes and summarizing everyone’s notes afterwards.

It’s always good to capture attendance, action items, due dates, decisions, key concepts discussed and requirements for your project.

Video conferencing #

Eliminate distractions. Sit somewhere quiet, preferably where you can close the door, but don’t limit yourself to taking meetings inside. You may have a quiet patio or deck area where you can work.

Before starting your video, look around you and make sure that your surroundings are appropriate for work.

Zoom fatigue is real because we have a harder time picking up on non-verbal communication and this consumes a lot of energy. We can also be stressed about our work environment. That the kids might run in or that the video background disappear and display my house in total disarray.

Research1 shows that looking at your own face can be stressful. Viewing our own negative expressions can lead to more intense emotions than when viewing similar expressions in others. Turning off self view inside video meetings can help you keep your energy longer.

Turn your camera on during team meetings as it can help you feel more connected with your teammates.

Turn off your camera:

  • When bandwidth limitations prevent you from participating
  • During town hall or all-hands meetings
  • If you are unfamiliar with the individuals
  • Or just if you are feeling tired or uncomfortable being on camera

Recording meetings can be effective for people who aren’t able to attend. Cons are that the file sizes of the recordings can get big and can’t be kept forever. I might need to look through the entire video to see if there is any information that’s relevant to me or if I was assigned something. This makes good meeting notes even better.

  • Elizabeth Grace Saunders. (2015-03-20). Do You Really Need to Hold That Meeting?. Link
  • Kevan Lee. (2014-07-21). 9 Science-Backed Methods For More Productive Meetings. Link
  • Paul Axtell. (2015-11-26). Two Things to Do After Every Meeting. Link
  • Carmine Gallo. (2014-03-13). The Science Behind TED’s 18-Minute Rule. Link
  • Libby Sander, Oliver Bauman. (2020-05-19). Zoom fatigue is real — here’s why video calls are so draining. Link
  • Frontiers in Psychology. (2020-03-31). Explicit and Implicit Responses of Seeing Own vs. Others’ Emotions: An Electromyographic Study on the Neurophysiological and Cognitive Basis of the Self-Mirroring Technique. Link .1

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