Tips for Better Meetings

I've become a big fan of the #virtual meeting, especially when #meeting in person means preparation, a lengthy drive, finding parking, "settling in" time, etc. Virtual meetings save so much time. On the other hand, being in the same room with people has so much benefit.
So how do I plan for future meetings? Which is better for one-on-ones? For groups?

Here are the questions I’m asking myself as I plan meetings or receive invitations to meetings:

1)   What is the purpose of this meeting? So many people request meetings with no defined purpose, discussion points, or agenda. If the meeting seems to lack an objective, I’ll suggest a phone call instead or request an agenda.

2)   Is this a person I already know, or someone who’s new to me? If it’s someone I don’t know, do I want to know them? What do they have to offer me and/or what do I have to offer them? This may seem like a selfish or even arrogant question, but I’ve learned that if you don’t respect your time, no one else will either. Time is limited and precious. If this meeting is with someone I want/need to get to know I will request an in-person meeting at a place and time of their convenience. If it’s someone who wants to know me, I’ll suggest a time and location of my convenience, or more likely, a virtual meeting.

3)   Is this a group meeting? If so, I want to know if everyone in the group is in close proximity, geographically. But I’ll also want to know if everyone is comfortable being in a group setting. If we’re spread across the globe, then that’s easy, make it virtual. Should the group be close to one another then we have the option of in-person or a hybrid to help those who aren’t comfortable being in a group. I tend to find it easier to go one way or the other (virtual or in-person) over hosting a hybrid meeting, however, sometimes a hybrid gathering is necessary for maximum attendance and participation. Which brings up more questions, like how do you ensure equal opportunity to participate in the discussion when some attendees are sitting at the same table and others are on a screen?
a.    First and foremost is good technology! Have a large screen, ample mic and speakers, and a strong Internet connection in the meeting room so that all attendees can see and hear each other clearly.
b.   Next, be (or assign) a good facilitator. Don’t forget that there are attendees on that screen who may be waiting to jump in. One good tip I try to remember is that when someone at the table brings up a topic or gives their thoughts, turn to someone who’s attending virtually and ask what they think about the topic/idea.
c.    Implement “rules of engagement”. This is a good idea for any group meeting, but especially when you have a hybrid meeting. Rule number one for me is always: Be respectful of others; don’t interrupt. It seems to me that virtual attendees get interrupted far more often than those who are present in-person. Be watchful for this. It’s also common for virtual attendees to just drop out of the meeting if they feel it’s a waste of their time and they’re not being heard.
Overall, it’s more difficult to entice people to attend meetings than it was pre-pandemic, so be mindful of what will make a meeting beneficial for those you want to bring to the table. And don’t forget, the nicest thing you can do for a busy professional is to end a meeting early!



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