During the recent lockdown and the “zoom fatigue” many of us experienced, a need for focus, efficiency and productivity within meetings became highlighted even more. We spend a lot of our working life in meetings, in fact, according to The Times, in the UK we spend over 23 days per year in meetings, and according to studies by The Independent, 13 days of these meetings are completely unproductive. This could be costing you tens of thousands of pounds per year in lost productivity. In this post we have detailed below some useful best practice and ground rules for meetings to increase their productivity and efficiency.
Useful Ground Rules for Meetings
Setting some ground rules for meetings in your business can be really useful in making sure that they are effective and productive. We have share some of our recommendations below:
- Consider The Numbers – If you want a meeting to be interactive, versus just informative, consider how many people you invite. If you have more than 10 people then individuals get less “airtime” and often don’t feel as comfortable sharing their groups. If you need to do larger numbers, think about how to break this down so you can hear from everyone – you might include breakout groups, chat rooms, voting buttons, anything that will enable you to still have interaction and participation.
- Share An Overview & Outline Expectations – Even if you aren’t typically one to send meeting agendas, it is useful to send a brief overview ahead of any meeting to make them as productive as possible. This just needs to include – an overview of key areas for discussions, if you need them to prepare anything, a heads up about any questions you will need their input on (so the more reflective people have time to think this through prior to the meeting) and what the outcomes of the meeting will be.
- Designate A Facilitator – Many businesses use external facilitators as they are experts in keeping meetings productive and efficient, even if you don’t have someone external it is useful to designate a facilitator role within the meeting so that you have one person who is responsible for keeping things on time, cutting through any unproductive discussions and to generally keep the meeting on track. The key is to make sure this person is strong enough to know when to step in, and unafraid of cutting a conversation off, or moving someone on.
- Keep To Time – One of the biggest time wasters, and frustrations of meeting goers, is meetings running over time. By keeping your meetings succinct, and sticking to the agreed timescales, you not only showing the people in the meeting that you respect their time, but also often get more done by staying focussed on a timeline.
Additional Virtual Meeting Considerations
- 43 Minutes – According to research, 43 minutes is the maximum time anyone can concentrate in a virtual meeting, so make sure if your meeting is longer than this you schedule in breaks at least every 43 minutes. This is good best practice for even meetings in person, to keep everyone attentive and engaged.
- Participant Not Observer – Virtual meetings can often involve less participation than face to face, so if running an interactive meeting it is important to set out at the beginning that you expect all people to be active participants, and this will involve no side working or tech, that they have their camera switched on, and that they will be expected to contribute. Don’t then be afraid to call people out who you see not actively engaged.
- Set Your Stall Out – At the beginning of any meeting it is best practice to set out the outline but this is particularly important when running meetings virtually where it is not as easy for people to ask a question. Let people know an outline of what you will cover, timeline, when you will take breaks and how you want people to contribute (i.e. over chat / unmute etc).
- Round Robin To Avoid Tumbleweed Moments – In virtual meetings, people are often less inclined to speak up when a general question is asked, than in a face to face meeting. This is often due to not wanting to speak over someone, or sometimes just a lack of comfort with this meeting style. As a meeting host this can result in radio silence and some awkward tumbleweed moments. A good technique is to put a topic or question out there, give people time to consider (maybe over a coffee break), and then when you come back go round the group in a round robin so everyone gets a chance to contribute. This also stops it just being the loudest in the room talking, and requires everyones active participation.
- Use The Tech – We see so often people not using technology to its max in virtual meetings – use what you have to make sessions as interactive as possible.
- Polls – polling questions are great ways to gather instant feedback and input, on zoom they have a feature where you can see how many people have answered, and you can make them anonymous, or open so you can review information post meeting.
- Breakout Rooms – We have had some great examples of using break out rooms in our virtual training over the last few months. A few tips to make these work – make the group sizes manageable so everyone gets a turn – we would advise no more than 5 in each group; set a time limit to keep conversations on track; have the group feed back to the wider group on return to the main session so you can benchmark and comment on their thoughts and ideas.
- Comments & Chat Functions – In a virtual meeting it can be difficult to manage all the voices so we encourage our clients to have their teams submit questions through the chat function, then we will direct questioning to that individual, versus a free for all where people talk over the top of each other. You can also use the icons like “raise your hand” on the different platforms – the key is just to have an indicator to open up the floor to others, without the chaos of everyone speaking at once.
- Virtual Whiteboards & Idea Generators – There are a lot of different online meeting tools you can use, like Miro’s Free Virtual Whiteboard that make your meetings more engaging, without death by powerpoint.
In addition to the above considerations, it is useful to look at how you flex meetings that are traditionally face to face, to running them virtually. Although we currently live in a world that necessities this in the middle of a pandemic with changing lockdown rules, this is a useful practice to develop for your business long term. By having more flexibility around where and how you run meetings, you may find you are able to get things done quicker and more efficiently. One great example of this is running a virtual offsite – most companies we know have paused any off-sites or away days for 2020, but what if you could successfully run one virtually?
For more insight around other productivity techniques to employ with your team, you might be interested in our online course – Managing Productivity In Times of Change and Remote Working