When the shift to remote work was new and unfamiliar, many of us became all-too-familiar with virtual meeting burnout. Managers and companies relied too heavily on virtual meetings to bridge the gap between in-office camaraderie and the often isolated reality. Meetings can be excellent at establishing and maintaining connections between team members (who might be geographically distant). But too often, virtual meetings are not a productive use of everyone’s time.
As we have written elsewhere, we believe, “video conferencing (when done right) is a helpful tool because it’s a high-quality communication method.” Implementing best practices can help your team use virtual meetings effectively and keep them from being time-consuming.
Of course, you can improve virtual meetings if you establish a shared virtual meeting etiquette with your team and determine who will take notes in advance. While these common-sense insights are good to remember, we have found that thinking more critically about meetings can provide some of the best practices for virtual meetings.
We know that when it comes to virtual meetings, it is important to ask yourself some questions before sending those invites. Your team members’ calendars are a valuable resource, so make sure you are using their time wisely. Here are some best practices that can help teams plan and execute virtual meetings more effectively.
Cancel (or shorten) meetings
This is a bold suggestion but hear us out. Canceling your meetings can help you make sure that you are thinking critically about how your team’s time is used. Before you schedule a meeting, identify what you want the outcome to be. What decisions need to be made? Are you looking for insight from your team?
Reflecting on the topic of the meeting, are the benefits of a meeting (such as interactive discussion and quick decision-making) essential? Instead of a regular status update meeting, written updates can provide the same information.
We have all heard the saying, “this meeting could have been an email.” Sometimes, a meeting should have been an email. Recognizing that a virtual meeting is not needed is a good skill to have. Written updates can provide a thoughtful summary of statuses for projects and tasks that you can easily reference later. You can add that summary to project documentation or share it with a team member.
If a meeting is needed, shortening it can help to make sure you discuss the important items. When a meeting is 30 minutes instead of an hour, the shorter meeting length can ensure that priorities are discussed and addressed first. It limits your meetings to only the essentials, which is what meetings should be for anyway.
Substitute your meetings with other tools and resources
While you might not need an hour-long meeting for check-ins, being able to communicate with your team about how their work is important. It contributes to overall transparency and helps you keep an eye out for any roadblocks. Giving your team the ability to check in on projects and tasks enables them to work independently and cuts down on some of the need for virtual meetings. Turn to your tools to find a solution that doesn’t rely on time-consuming meetings.
Take care of things with tasks
Tools like Rock often have a tasks feature to help workers manage and organize the actions that need to be completed. You can also give your team members access to shared files or task boards so they can check on how something is progressing when they need or want to. This frees up your time and puts the tools in your teams’ hands so they can work more independently.
Make the most of messaging
Group chats can also be a useful way of sharing information passively with your team. Those methods also allow your coworkers to respond when they can, so their responses will likely be more thoughtful and helpful than if you asked them to jump on a call.
With Rock’s messaging feature, you can chat with everyone in a space or tag a team member to ask them something directly while still enabling the rest of your coworkers to see their answer. This helps to prevent information from being siloed while freeing everyone to focus on their work. Rock’s messaging also allows you to share polls where everyone in a space can quickly weigh in with their opinion.
Rethink how you use your meeting time
Does your team spend time on discussions that could be a one-on-one conversation between two team members instead of the whole group? Do they ask for information? Instead of providing in-depth answers, create an action item to share existing documentation or task boards with a team member. This provides a more comprehensive resource for them they can reference whenever they need to. You will answer their questions and help them work more independently.
Structure can save you from stress
If your team has trouble staying on track, share an agenda ahead of the meeting. Agendas help make sure meetings have a defined plan and objective. They can also help shut down any tangents or vague discussions. Asking your coworkers to send items for discussion in advance can also help prevent the meeting from wandering off-topic. This also makes sure that you and your team are talking about the topics they have questions or opinions on. When a team member sends you an item for discussion, you may also realize that it does not need to be discussed at the meeting since it is easy to address via tasks or chat.
Summarize the meeting at the end, and reiterate any action items to confirm that everyone understands what they have been asked for. Making meeting notes along with action items available to your team after the meeting can provide a useful reference and be added to project documentation.
Your time is a valuable resource
Virtual meetings remain a staple feature of modern workplaces—whether you are working remote, part of a distributed workforce, or in an office connecting with coworkers on the other side of the world. It provides workers with a venue for interactive discussions and quick decision-making. Without structure or thinking critically about the objective, virtual meetings can quickly get out of hand.
Remember, best practices for how to tame virtual meetings are:
- Canceling your meetings means that you won’t “meet by default” which is what happens with standing meetings that are supposed to be for check-ins. Your time is wasted by calling in, reviewing updates, and reiterating unnecessary information that can be documented in tasks or messages. If you do need a meeting, shortening the length will force you to stick to the essentials.
- Replacing meetings with other tools involves thinking about what you need and the best way to get it. Using messaging and task boards can better organize information and empower your team to work independently.
- Rethinking how you spend time in your meetings means that, when you do need a meeting, it is effective. Structuring your meetings with agendas, note-taking, and action items can help you make the most of them.
These best practices will help you and your team focus on what matters, not meetings. As an all-in-one collaboration tool, Rock can help you share information via documentation and messaging, collaborate with task boards, and meet when you need to.