Dance lessons for kids. Schooling. Weekend happy hours. Game nights. Weddings, and even funerals. Most activities and events are held online now because of the pandemic. Work, of course, happens online. And because of this, a digital ennui has begun to set in. The task at hand – ensure our digital meetings are purposeful.

The first step towards it is to think about why you’re having the meeting. Scheduling video meetings is almost an automatic response for many of us. We might be meticulous about setting meeting agendas and communicating it, but there’s more to consider. Echoing Alexis Palá, Research Associate at the Public Services Innovation Lab for Wales, ask yourself: What will this meeting enable you to do that you couldn’t do before, and is it worth the energy?

In Doodle’s State of Meetings Report, 100% of respondents stated that poorly organized meetings were a waste of time and money. The cost of this in 2019 was $399 billion in the U.S. and $58 billion in the U.K. Even online meetings have costs, albeit less. Especially now when people are stretched and doing a lot more online, think about whether the meeting is really really necessary. If not, please let go.

And if you must host a meeting, here’s how to make the most of it:

  • Decision-making meetings. Instead of giving facts verbally on the call, share information in advance and have the participants follow a PPT or visual of the facts when you present them live. Keep the meeting to a maximum of 45 minutes, leaving the last 15 minutes for Q&A or gathering opinions/ creating consensus. Share the decision made in about a week, but not through another meeting – an email with facts/ your thought process will do!
  • Team-building meetings. These help strengthen the team’s fabric, connectedness, and trust. We need it all the more now to know that we belong. But such meetings cannot be random and un-moderated. They need to be planned and facilitated well.

Let participants know beforehand that everyone needs to have their video ON. Also share what they can expect during the session – personal conversations, a game, a guest presenter, etc. When online, avoid banter as it can exclude people. Allow deeper conversation in small groups to ensure everyone gets to speak, and use big groups for celebrations – achievements, personal milestones, birthdays, etc.

  • Update meetings. As far as possible, share the key information in advance and use the meeting time for clarifications and questions. It helps to keep a one slide brief ready for people who might not have gone through the information earlier. Another point – choose your spokesperson wisely. Who in your team is best suited to answer queries and offer people clarity? This is called the messenger effect where the impact or weight of the message depends on who delivers it.

Much of the success of an online meeting depends on what you do before the meeting to prep people. So maximize that. And organize one, if it’s truly necessary.

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