Can This Meeting Be an Email?
Updated: Jul 16, 2022
If we learned one thing in 2020, it was that meetings are core to how we do business. But should they be? We spent a lot of this past year thinking about meetings and what makes an efficient virtual meeting place.
Sometimes the secret to better meetings is just not to have a meeting! Especially when meetings are informative, rather than consultative, ask yourself this question:
Can this meeting be an email?
If the answer is yes - for example, you need to update your team on a piece of information, or inform a group about a new policy - try sending an email first. The email could be followed by a shorter meeting where you do a Q&A on the new information or host a Jeopardy style quiz on the new policy.
This kind of creative thinking about how to share information helps take down the meeting toll.
How much of your time in a typical week is wasted in bad meetings, conference calls, or poorly communicated sessions? I've gotten my own life down below the 20% threshold because I get to dictate a lot of my own schedule, but I definitely remember seeing my last boss's calendar at 90% meetings and 85% meetings that weren't a great use of time. How are you supposed to accomplish your goals if your life is a bit ole meeting suck?
The key to better meetings? Planning.
Healthy, productive, and engaging meetings require more time up front. Sorry to say it and burst your bubble. But remember - the goal here is more efficiency! That's more efficiency overall, not necessarily more time today.
Keep these tactics in mind where you are in the driver's seat:
Respect your attendees' time. Sure, start and end on time, but also acknowledge their busy schedules and whether it is worth their time to attend. Give them information ahead of time to help them determine whether they or someone else from their team should attend.
Get to the point. Be clear about the meeting objective, sharing an agenda and purpose or objective statement. Spend a few minutes at the top ensuring that everyone knows what you need to achieve by the end of the session.
Consider what they need to know. This starts with setting the agenda + relevant documents in the meeting invitation, but it also means anticipating the question your audience might have. Often, this could mean preparing your own remarks based on core talking points, but also preparing anyone else that you plan to call on during the meeting with what they will be asked to speak about or contribute, so they can also come prepared.
Track action items. And prepare to recap all those action items together at the end of the meeting (and in email afterwards). In person, I love to track these on a whiteboard or flipchart and guess what? We have tools to do that same practice in remote meetings!
Other considerations would be to change things up - asking someone to step up as a leader, change up the venue to a walking meeting, or take moments during the session to pause, reflect, or take individual notes.