Online meetings, which gained popularity two decades ago, rose by 535% (2020 daily traffic) amid the pandemic 一 an indication that most of us are pretty much drowning in meetings. While this trend has increased productivity, it has also caused virtual fatigue. So how can we ensure productivity without taking the surefire route to burnout? Digital success need not be painful, and hosting online meetings can be rewardingly productive. Here are a few ways to keep things at a healthy balance.
1. Schedule meetings in advance
With everything vying for our precious time these days, scheduling meetings in advance helps your invitees make it to the meeting. Sending advance notice through a calendar allows them to adjust their schedules around those chunks of meeting time. An early heads-up is a respectful gesture as it tells your colleagues that you are considerate of their busy schedules.
Avoid putting unnecessary stress on your colleagues by scheduling meetings in advance so they have ample opportunity to prepare. Upfront groundwork can decrease the number of to-do’s which could be taken care of beforehand.
2. Share expectations
Always clarify with your team what online meeting platform will be used. In audio calls, participants depend entirely on verbal communication and the technology that supports it. They need not worry about looking presentable in audio-only meetings since cameras are off. In contrast, video calls require more preparation. In a video call, similar to an in-person appointment, participants need to know if they can go business casual or suit up. Some may require more time to tidy up their workstations, or perhaps adjust their video filters as needed.
Because video calls require more bandwidth, knowing if it will be an online “face-to-face” can help everyone test their technology well in advance and allow them to prepare a backup or getaway gateway in case of glitches in your preferred platform. Nothing is more disruptive to your creative flow than needing to coordinate with multiple participants and get them back into a virtual meeting in the midst of a serious discussion.
Our global async culture has enabled collaboration from different locations. Thus, it is necessary to be aware of the time zones fellow invitees are in, as well as be aligned on the time zone the meeting is scheduled for. A considerate gesture would be to include the time zones of all invitees when scheduling online meetings. Give a grace period of 15 minutes or so prior to the start of the meeting by setting up a waiting room where early birds can break the ice while waiting for the rest to log in.
3. Set and share agenda
Remember Stephen Covey’s WIGs or “Wildly Important Goals?” Make sure you know what the priorities of the meeting are that must be addressed by the meeting's end. “Nice-to-haves” usually dilute the agenda, leaving the more important issues unresolved.
Listing out the talking points or topics you want to discuss helps you focus and think systematically. This allows everyone to devote more energy to each of the items and save time by steering clear of needless discussions on out-of-scope topics.
Once your agenda is complete, share it with the team ahead of the meeting. Knowing the items to be tackled in advance will give participants ample time to prepare. Having a pre-read and a bit of pre-work will allow you and your team to devote less time to fact-checking and more time to crafting resolutions and targeting opportunities.
4. Encourage activity
Virtual meetings usually mean sitting for long hours, resulting in sore backs and joints一not to mention exhausted minds! Aches and pains can definitely make your mojo go amiss.
Because online meetings are indispensable today, finding a work-around to this dilemma has never been so critical. The solution? Simply move! Program physical activity breaks into your meeting schedule. These scheduled breaks can ease up the cognitive demands of digital meetings, allowing participants to feel more refreshed and energized.
You know what’s an even better idea? Having your entire online meeting as a walk! A walking meeting is a type of working meeting that is usually held outdoors while walking. If weather conditions don’t allow for it, a walking meeting can also be conducted while walking inside a building. This is in contrast to work engagements that confine your brain cells (and leg muscles) to the four corners of an office room.
The invigorating boost that walking can give your health, and consequently your work productivity, also does wonders for the mind. When incorporated into your web meetings, each step calms you, allowing you to be more centered and focused. A relaxed state of mind infuses dopamine into our brain cells, enhancing creativity. In fact, immersing oneself in nature (something which you can absolutely do with walking meetings) improves creativity by 50%, allowing you to focus more, process information better, and ease the flow of ideas.
Spot, a virtual meeting platform, is an ideal tool to enable and facilitate walking meetings. Imagine being able to hit your daily step goals and work targets at the same time.
5. Take notes
Note-taking during meetings ensures that nothing important is missed or forgotten. Without proper documentation, it is easy to move on to whatever is next on your to-do list and completely dismiss what was earlier discussed at length. It is essential for you to accurately take notes in real-time. A thorough report will allow everyone to have an in-depth understanding of what has given rise to issues, the insights that should lead to the solutions, and clear next steps.
No matter how adept at multitasking we have become, the truth is, it is difficult to think properly while simultaneously explaining, convincing, remembering, and writing. There are several powerful digital tools today that can help you transcribe or record while you're busy doing the more complex brainwork.
The Spot app has the perfect solution with its Smart Assistant feature, which allows you to transcribe parts of the meeting. Simply tap the icon in the app and Spot will do all the documentation for you. This note-saving aid can literally save the day.
6. Share minutes of the meeting
After the meeting ends, share your notes and meeting minutes with fellow participants. The more time that elapses between the meeting and the sharing of minutes, the less impactful (and less important) your notes will be. Remember that your meeting is probably one of several that your attendees will have during the day or week, with each host pushing their agenda as a priority. Keep your agenda top of mind by asking the participants to check the accuracy of your notes. An app that allows you to share instantaneously can help expedite your note-sharing with ease. Once corrections or add-ons are made, be sure to share the final minutes with attendees.
7. Act on any follow-ups
Once you and your team align on who will do what, when, and how, following up should be a cinch. The clearer the expectations are, the easier it will be for everyone to follow through. A CPS or critical path sheet can help the team set project milestones, course-correct, and make the necessary adjustments if objectives are not met on time or are not adhering to expectations. Consistent monitoring and evaluation are key to achieving any objective.
8. Repeat for success
Quoting from W. Edwards Deming, “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” Incorporating these tips into your online meeting structure helps ensure that your meetings are consistently more productive and enjoyable for both you and all participants.