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Meeting Tips

8 Tips to Make Recurring Online Meetings Productive Again

Published
November 24, 2023
Read time
8
Min Read
Last updated
February 15, 2024
Jenna Pitkälä
8 Tips to Make Recurring Online Meetings Productive Again
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"Why are we even having this meeting?" It's a silent question many have pondered as they sit through yet another recurring meeting that seems to lack direction.

Why do so many dread these meetings, and how did they earn such a notorious reputation? Isn’t it just nice and simple that we have to create a meeting link only once, it’ll always occur at the same time and everyone will join? Why can’t the participants just understand these meetings’ importance, just like the organizer does? Well…

What’s the problem?

They might feel bored. Anyone would if they had to constantly sit through the same irrelevant, repetitive meetings that have no clear direction and that could’ve been an email.

Since people can’t really focus on work in meetings, they start doom scrolling on social media. When other people see this behavior, they start doing it too.

Now most people are zoned out. Even if one person tries to be engaged and active in the meeting, no one will listen and ask questions. Then it’s someone else’s turn to speak, and each speech feels useless because there’s not enough chatter and exchange of information.

And finally, attendees are left with no action items to follow through after the meeting. It all seemed to be a waste of time, keeping people captive in a meeting space till the clock ran out.

Woah, that was… A rabbit hole.

You might know all this as a presenter but not know what to do to fix it. You just want these meetings to do their job: keep up with what’s going on in different teams, create a sense of accountability, and so on.

How would you feel if you could avoid the meeting hate and have recurring meetings that most attendees would like to join? Is it even possible? We might have just the answers.

  1. Always Create a Custom Meeting Agenda
  2. Ensure Relevant Attendance and Active Participation
  3. Utilize Visual Aids
  4. Respect Time
  5. Foster Open Communication
  6. Embrace the Power of Automated Note-Taking
  7. Summarize and Assign Action Items
  8. Continuous Learning

This blog is meant for anyone who hosts recurring meetings online or hybrid and wants people to enjoy them.

1. Always Create a Custom Meeting Agenda

Without a defined agenda, attendees might be wondering if they’re on the same page as everyone else.

The key to a successful and productive recurrent meeting is preparation. Always have an agenda prepared beforehand. This ensures that the meeting has a clear objective, it stays on track, and all essential points are covered.

Agenda vs. Objective

The two might seem similar, but they serve distinct roles. An agenda is the detailed outline of topics or activities to tackle during the meeting. Think of it as your roadmap. The objective, on the other hand, is the overarching goal or the "why" behind the meeting. It's the destination you're aiming for. For clarity and cohesion, always include the objective within the agenda.

Example: Your agenda might list out segments like feedback review and team training, while the objective could be "Aligning on customer feedback to improve service quality."

Benefits of a Well-Crafted Agenda

  • The meeting stays on course, covering all essential topics.
  • Attendees come prepared, leading to more productive discussions.
  • There's room for spontaneous, creative chats. Sometimes, the best ideas pop up unexpectedly!

Three Golden Tips for Crafting Agendas

  • Utilize Ready-Made Templates: Platforms like Taskade or ClickUp offer ready-made agenda templates tailored for various occasions. Why reinvent the wheel?
  • Include Space for Spontaneous Discussions: While structure is essential, ensure there's wiggle room for spontaneous discussions. It's where the magic often happens.
  • Share in Advance: Give attendees a sneak peek of the meeting's flow. It not only shows respect for their time but also sets the stage for a focused discussion and reduces uncertainty.

If you're in a hurry, then go ahead and use this template below if it's suitable for your meeting!

2. Ensure Relevant Attendance and Active Participation

Meetings are like puzzles; every piece, or in this case, participant, plays a crucial role in completing the picture. Without full attendance and active participation, the essence of the meeting can be lost.

However, not every session requires every team member. The key is to identify who truly needs to be there and ensure their active involvement.

Relevance vs. Routine

  • Not Every Meeting is for Everyone: While a weekly team catch-up might require the presence of all members, a specialized session, like a deep dive into a software bug, might only be relevant to the developers and QA testers. Inviting the marketing team to such a meeting might not be productive.
  • Balancing Broad and Specific Topics: A monthly strategy meeting might involve everyone as it sets the direction for the entire team. In contrast, a recurrent meeting on content optimization might only involve the content creators and SEO specialists.

The Impact of Absence and Passivity

  • Missing Relevant Players: Imagine a brainstorming session for a new ad campaign. If the creative head is absent, the team might miss out on a game-changing concept. Conversely, if someone unrelated to the project, like a finance executive, is present without a clear role, it could lead to confusion or tangents.

The Power of Active Participation

  • Focused Contributions: In a session discussing the user interface of an app, having the UI/UX designers actively share their designs and rationale can lead to a more user-friendly final product.

Tips to Boost Relevant Attendance and Participation

  • Clearly Define Relevance: Use tools like Google Meet to specify mandatory and optional attendees. Clicking the person icon can mark an attendee as "optional," signaling that their presence, while valuable, isn't compulsory.
  • Pre-Meeting Communication: Send out a brief note detailing the objective of the meeting and what will be covered. This helps potential attendees gauge if the session is relevant to them.
  • Acknowledge Contributions: Recognizing a team member's insights can motivate them and others to be more involved in future meetings, ensuring that when they do attend, they're actively participating.

3. Utilize Visual Aids

Visual aids aren't just about adding color to your presentation; they're pivotal tools that can transform the narrative of your meeting, making complex ideas digestible and fostering engagement.

The Power of Visualization

  • More Than Just Pretty Pictures: While a marketing team might discuss the impact of a recent campaign, a well-crafted infographic can visually capture the campaign's reach, engagement, and conversion metrics, driving the point home.
  • Spotting Trends and Anomalies: During a financial review, raw numbers in spreadsheets can be daunting. However, line graphs can effortlessly highlight upward or downward trends, making decision-making more informed.
  • Facilitating Brainstorming: For a product development team, a simple sketch or a wireframe can spark discussions, helping to visualize potential features or user flow.

Tools and Techniques to Elevate Your Visual Game

  • Interactive Tools: Platforms like Miro or Lucidchart allow teams to create and interact with visual aids in real-time. Whether you're mapping out a project timeline or brainstorming a new product design, these tools can be game-changers.
  • Pre-Meeting Preparations: Before diving into the meeting, consider sending out infographics or visual data summaries to the participants. This primes them for the discussion and ensures everyone starts on the same page.
  • Seek Feedback on Visuals: After presenting with visual aids, solicit feedback. Are the visuals aiding comprehension? Is there information overload? Tweaking based on feedback can make your next visual presentation even more impactful.

4. Respect Time

Time is a universal currency, and in business, every second counts. Ensuring that every meeting respects this principle not only streamlines operations but also fosters a culture of consideration and efficiency.

The Ripple Effect of Time Mismanagement

  • The Domino Fall: Picture a bustling design agency juggling multiple client projects, internal reviews, and creative brainstorming sessions. If one meeting runs overtime, it can cause a chain reaction of delays, affecting subsequent meetings and potentially leading to missed deadlines or hurried, subpar work.
  • Value Beyond the Clock: Respecting time isn't just about punctuality; it's about valuing everyone's contributions. When meetings overrun, it subtly communicates that the organizer's time is more important than the attendees', which can erode team morale.

Embracing Time Inclusivity in a Global Workspace

  • Time Zone Tango: For multinational corporations, respecting time also means being considerate of global time zones. While it's noon in London, it might be bedtime in Sydney. Rotating meeting times or using tools that find common suitable slots ensures no one's constantly drawing the short straw.

Strategies to Ensure Timely Meetings

  • Set Clear Agendas: As discussed earlier, a well-defined agenda can be a game-changer. Knowing what needs to be covered can help keep the meeting on track and prevent overruns.
  • Use Timers: Some teams find success using meeting timers, ensuring each agenda item gets its due time without spilling over.
  • Feedback Loop: After the meeting, solicit feedback. Did the meeting feel rushed? Was there enough time for discussion? Continuous feedback can help refine the meeting's time management.

5. Foster Open Communication

Meetings are a melting pot of ideas, and every idea, big or small, has value.

The Magic of Diverse Voices

  • Fresh Perspectives: Take, for example, a seasoned research and development team, deep in the trenches of a challenging project. An intern, with a fresh set of eyes and unburdened by past experiences, might offer a novel approach or solution. This fresh perspective, when voiced and valued, can be the key to unlocking a longstanding challenge.
  • The Power of Collective Brainpower: It's often said that two heads are better than one. In the world of business meetings, this adage multiplies. When everyone—from the CEO to the newest team member—shares and collaborates, the results can be exponentially better.

Barriers to Open Communication

  • Hesitation and Hierarchy: In some settings, junior team members might feel hesitant to voice their opinions, especially if they contradict senior members. Breaking down these hierarchical barriers is crucial for fostering genuine open communication.
  • Cultural and Linguistic Differences: In global teams, cultural nuances can sometimes lead to misinterpretations or reluctance to speak out. Recognizing and addressing these differences is key.

Strategies to Encourage Open Dialogue

  • Active Listening: It's not just about speaking; it's about listening. Encourage team members to genuinely listen to one another, asking follow-up questions and showing genuine interest.
  • Feedback Mechanisms: Use tools or platforms that allow anonymous feedback or suggestions. This can help those who might be hesitant to voice their opinions openly.
  • Regular Open Forums: Dedicate specific meetings or segments where any team member, irrespective of their role or seniority, can bring up ideas, concerns, or suggestions. This promotes a culture where every voice is given a platform.

6. Embrace the Power of Automated Note-Taking

Manual note-taking in any meeting can be distracting. AI tools like Wudpecker can automatically transcribe and highlight key points of a conversation, allowing participants to focus entirely on the conversation.

Consider a global team spread across different time zones. During a video conference, team members from New York, London, and Tokyo brainstorm an upcoming product launch.

Amidst the flurry of ideas, Wudpecker captures every suggestion, question, and feedback. It identifies potential action items, ensuring no innovative idea goes unnoticed.

With individual accounts, every team member, regardless of their location, can revisit and reflect on the discussions, ensuring universal alignment.

  • Compatible with Google Meet, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams.
  • Makes a transcript, TL;DR, Summary, and Action Items list from the whole conversation.
  • You don’t have to write a single word of notes yourself
  • Aids in revisiting and comprehending crucial points across meetings.
  • Makes finding information and knowledge from previous meetings a breeze.
  • Multiple people can have their own Wudpecker recorder in the meeting at the same time and receive their own notes in their account after the meeting. The notes can also be shared to other people.

7. Summarize and Assign Action Items

Managing action items and follow-ups effectively post-discussion is crucial for the success of a meeting. Wudpecker, Asana, and Trello are tools worth mentioning that help maintain the meeting's momentum. For example, Wudpecker’s Action Items feature organizes tasks and suggests next steps based on the dynamics of the discussion.

Here's why action items and follow-ups are indispensable:

  • Task Organization: These tools enable systematic organization of all tasks mentioned, aiding teams in managing their responsibilities efficiently.
  • Timely Reminders: By providing reminders for important dates and deadlines, they ensure that no task is overlooked or delayed.
  • Strategic Suggestions: The tools offer guided suggestions for potential next steps, maintaining focus and direction.
  • Enhanced Accountability: Clear and objective allocation of tasks and progress tracking by these tools foster a sense of responsibility among team members.

8. Continuous Learning

Meetings are more than just time slots on a calendar; they're potential gold mines of knowledge. By actively reflecting on their outcomes, teams can refine processes, optimize strategies, and chart a path of constant improvement.

Learning from Every Meeting

  • Post-Mortem Analysis: Consider a team that just wrapped up a major product launch. In subsequent meetings, rather than just ticking off tasks, they dissect every aspect of the launch—what went right, what could have been better, and the unforeseen challenges they faced. This reflection isn't about dwelling on the past, but about gearing up for even more successful future endeavors.
  • Building a Knowledge Repository: Over time, these insights form a valuable bank of knowledge. New team members can tap into this repository to understand past decisions, learn from previous challenges, and integrate faster into the team's workflow.

Assessing Meeting Efficacy

  • Meta-Evaluation: Beyond the content of meetings, there's value in assessing their structure and frequency. An emerging startup might kick-off with daily huddles to maintain momentum. However, as they stabilize, they might find that shifting to bi-weekly or weekly strategy sessions is more productive. Such evaluations ensure that meetings evolve with the team's needs.
  • Feedback Loop: Encourage team members to provide feedback not just on the topics discussed but on the meeting's format, duration, and frequency. Was a particular session too long? Was another one too rushed? This feedback can be invaluable in ensuring meetings are both efficient and effective.

Conclusion

Recurring online meetings don't have to be a dreaded part of our work routines. We’ve covered things that can go wrong with these meetings but more importantly what you can do to avoid the mistakes. Remember, the key to a successful recurring meeting lies in continuous improvement and adaptability. Let's make every meeting count 🌟

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Weekly Team Sync Meeting Agenda (Copyable Template)

Date: [Insert Date]
Time: [Insert Start Time] - [Insert End Time]
Location: [Specify if it's an in-person or virtual meeting and provide necessary details or links]

1. Opening and Quick Personal Check-In (5 minutes)

  • Sharing of personal updates or weekend activities.
  • Notifying of any upcoming out-of-office days for the week.

2. Review of Last Week's Action Items (10 minutes)

  • Status update on tasks or projects from the previous meeting.
  • Discussion on challenges or roadblocks encountered.

3. Updates on Ongoing Projects (15 minutes)

  • Team members will provide updates on their respective tasks or projects.
  • Introduction and discussion of new assignments or changes in responsibilities.

4. Upcoming Deadlines and Priorities (10 minutes)

  • Highlighting of critical tasks for the upcoming week.
  • Discussion and delegation of tasks or responsibilities.

5. Feedback and Suggestions (10 minutes)

  • Sharing of feedback on recent work or team processes.
  • Suggestions for improving team collaboration or processes.

6. Training and Development (5 minutes)

  • Announcement of any upcoming training sessions or workshops.
  • Discussion of potential resources or courses beneficial for the team.

Notes and Pre-Meeting Reads

  • Possible reminders, announcements, any other pre-meeting items
8 Tips to Make Recurring Online Meetings Productive Again
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8 Tips to Make Recurring Online Meetings Productive Again
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8 Tips to Make Recurring Online Meetings Productive Again
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