In our next series of posts, we will be diving deep into the Google Workspace Guide to productivity. The main theme of this series is impact over output. When discussing productivity, people often think it’s about getting everything possible out of the day. Google argues differently, they think it should be more about getting things done you set out to do and making an impact. This requires you to understand yourself as a whole person and focus on balancing the things that make you happy, productive, and efficient. During the global pandemic of the last few years, these productivity discussions have become more important, as a hybrid work environment has forced us to balance working from home with aspects of homeschooling and caregiving. In our last post, we talked about transforming your inbox. This time we will discuss making meetings more meaningful.
Meetings can be dull. Like, really dull. Especially if you have no interest in the topic being discussed. On the other hand, when meetings are run well, we can get a lot out of them and they can be extremely productive in sharing diverse perspectives and getting things done.
This is not documented, but it is likely that meetings began happening millions of years ago when stone age humans were just starting to make tools. The first humans probably met to discuss practical things such as where to hunt or how to make the best fire. Either way, they worked together in order to get better ideas and achieve a greater goal.
Nowadays, meetings usually happen in one of two ways: in-person or remotely. Our in-person meetings are traditional. We all gather in a shared venue or room to cover the topics at hand. While remote meetings are fairly newer in the history of meetings, they aren’t something new just because of the pandemic. People have been doing conference calls for ages, whether it’s over the phone or from a remote office with a webcam. The pandemic changed things a lot in that it forced us to conduct more remote meetings and fewer in-person meetings.
The takeaway from all of these events is that it is now more vital than ever to conduct efficient and productive meetings. It’s also important to value your time and only join meetings that you think you can contribute to or get something out of. Without going any further down this rabbit hole, let’s check out some of Google’s tips on making meetings more meaningful.
Before you schedule any meeting and invite any of your colleagues, ask yourself, can I accomplish this with an email, shared document, or casual chat. As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, the sentiment towards meetings is not very positive, so why schedule more that might not be necessary? If you do determine that you need a meeting, schedule it with a shorter amount of time than you think is required. There is a law called “Parkinson’s Law” which states that work expands to the allotted time, therefore the meeting will always expand to the allotted time.
Only invite the right people and only accept the right invites
According to research in Decide and Deliver, 5 Steps to Breakthrough Performance in Your Organization, once you hit seven members in a decision-making meeting, each additional person will reduce the effectiveness of the meeting by ten percent. Think about each member that you invite to the meeting and why they should be there. They should add some sort of input to the conversation, show a different point of view, or help the group make a conclusion.
On the other hand, if you receive an invitation and don’t believe your attendance will add value, don’t accept the invitation and send a note explaining your decision to the meeting holder.
Send an agenda every time
This allows the attendees of the meeting to know what you are going to cover in the meeting. It helps guide their decision on whether they need to attend or not. Most importantly, though, the agenda helps the owner or host of the meeting critically think about the goals of the meeting and whether it’s necessary or not.
Delegate meeting management
Here we are looking for a manager of sorts for the meeting. We need someone not involved in the discussion to take notes, make sure the meeting stays on topic, and ensure we all get out of the meeting on time. For many people this could be an assistant or an intern, for others it might be someone you work closely with and you take turns running meetings for one another. Either way, this will help you and your team stay focused in the meeting.
Get people warmed up
Do something fun at the beginning of the meeting to drive engagement. Some suggestions from Google include:
- A trivia question
- A funny Youtube video
- A yoga stretch
No matter what you choose, try to get people interested and awake for the next set period of time. This will make your meeting more productive.
Take running notes
This might seem obvious now, but keeping an ongoing account of what’s happening in the meeting will help people stay on track and make the follow-ups to the meeting easier. Google docs is great for this as it provides a free-form way to create your own meeting notes template which your company can adopt. Share the document with all the members of the meeting and any stakeholders who weren’t present. After the meeting, you can assign action items to people and clean up the notes so they read easier.
Strive for one takeaway every 15 minutes
It happens far too often. We enter a meeting and exit and then say “What the heck just happened?” This is because we lose focus throughout and then it all blurs together. For your meeting attendees, try to give them something to take away every fifteen minutes. If you have a meeting that lasts half an hour, aim for at least two takeaways.
Keep everyone engaged
The easiest way to do this will be to have everyone keep their cameras on. While this is an ideal solution because you can see everyone’s gestures and facial reactions, we understand that we must respect everyone’s privacy, so keeping the camera off is common in remote meetings. If people have their cameras off, use questions for specific people to drive engagement. Call people out by their name and ask their opinion of things. For example, ”Brett, what do you think of this?” is much better than “What does everyone think of this?”.
In the meeting, you are accomplishing something. That something could just be a set of tasks or actions that need to get completed. These need follow-ups. You aren’t being an annoying salesperson, you are making sure the stuff your meeting covered gets done, which is all part of making meetings more meaningful. Send timely follow-ups, days, or even a week after a meeting. Refer to the notes when you follow up and even include a link.
Ask for feedback and evolve
This is another one that goes without saying, but you should always ask for feedback on anything you do. Some people will give unsolicited feedback and that’s great, but the silent majority will always need a push in order to provide feedback, so ask for it.
Think about meetings in terms of collaboration equity
As we fully embrace hybrid work, it’s important to make sure everyone has an opportunity to contribute in a meeting, regardless of where they are located, their experience level, or the device they are using. Don’t make people feel left out just because they are remote and everyone else is in-person. How do the remote people appear in the conference room? Are they easily seen or are they just off in the corner somewhere? For people who are more visual learners or need to listen in another language, Google Meet has live captions and translations you can use.
Meetings will never end
At the end of the day, we will always have meetings. The cavemen needed them. We still need them. What’s more important now than ever is getting the most out of your meetings. Follow the tips and tricks above to start having more productive and efficient meetings.
As always, if you need any help with the Google Workspace suite of tools, please contact us at Seibert Media and we can help. If you are struggling to have productive meetings after reading this, you can also reach out to us with any questions you might have.