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7 Expert Tips for The Future of Meetings

We asked a group of panelists to share their best practices and advice on how to embrace a new way of working, how to continue having efficient meetings, and more!

By Kamela Nizio  •   June 4, 2021  •   7 min read

The future of work is different from what we were used to pre-pandemic. We asked a group of panelists to share their best practices and advice on how to embrace a new way of working, how to continue having efficient meetings, and more!

Here are 7 best practices your team can adopt to run great meetings and adapt to the future of work:

1 Have alternative ways to share status updates

After surveying 530+ leaders across different time zones, we found that status updates are people’s #1 meeting pet peeve. Having alternative ways to share status updates is a key factor of saving time in your team’s calendar and providing creative alternatives to keeping each other informed. 

Joe Giglio, Chief Remote Officer, highlighted the benefits of asynchronous communication.

“Asynchronous communication is gaining traction. With distributed teams spread across the world, meeting for status updates isn’t a great use of everyone’s time. Try a status update doc so everyone can participate. Questions and comments may spark conversations. Async does not have to always mean “written communication.”

To go off of Joe’s concept, Teresa Douglas, author of Working Remotely, gave a suggestion that includes using video as an asynchronous method. 

“A short (2-5 min) video update is a great asynchronous way to showcase your team. Ask staff to video themselves and send it to you (or a tech-savvy team member). Compile & edit those videos together using GarageBand or Filmora and voila, you’ve just created an easy-to-digest status update with wow factor.” 

Lastly, Jordan Walker, Founder of Yac, offered how he stays updated without having to take time away from his teams calendars. 

“We’ve found teams have a much better time updating one another asynchronously with just a voice message (or screen share if needed).”

2 Organize virtual meetings that people look forward to

If you find it difficult to have meetings that your team looks forward to, you are not alone. Virtual or remote meetings can be more difficult to keep the energy levels up and have your team engage in conversation. 

“It’s really important to set the stage for a virtual meeting. On our Friday call, I typically start them with a stretch or meditation via Wellness Coach. It’s a really nice way to minimize distractions and start the meeting with focused intention”

Janet Mesh, CEO and Co-founder of Aimtal 

Preparation is also key in creating a psychologically safe environment for your team members to show up as their authentic selves. One way to do this is to provide information beforehand so your team can gather their thoughts and ideas. 

“It’s hard to get people to look forward to meetings, but sharing information in advance, having a clear agenda, and time-boxing the experience is a great place to start. Also, consider starting meetings with quick check-ins on individual wellness.”

– Darren Buckner, CEO of Work From

Manuela Barcenas, Marketing Manager at Fellow, shared what we like to do internally to ensure each meeting stays fun and engaging. 

“ – Rotating the roles of note-taker and meeting facilitator

– Starting the meeting with a wins/celebrations section

– Encouraging shoutouts”

3 Avoid groupthink

In The Future of Meetings Report, one expert tip from Sed Simon was to avoid groupthink as a leader and meeting organizer. Groupthink is when people will set aside their own personal beliefs or adopt to the opinions of the other group members in hopes to have a consensus. 

So, how do you avoid groupthink? We asked our panelists for their advice. 

“It starts with values & culture! Hologram has a value of mindfulness, which means we purposefully seek out diverse perspectives, stay open to being proven wrong, and default to changing our minds when presented with new information.”  

– Courtney Seiter, VP of People at Hologram

Leading by example is a great way to reinforce diverse opinions and perspectives. Janet Mesh emphasises the importance of how leaders and managers participate in meetings. 

“Avoiding groupthink starts with creating a culture of psychological safety. As a leader, it’s up to you to foster a work environment that allows people to have different opinions, make mistakes (and learn from them), and feel supported I also think it’s important as a manager and leader to be vulnerable in front of your team and take ownership when you’ve made a mistake in order to normalize this practice within your company.” 

4 Give every meeting a clear purpose

We’ve mentioned it before and we’ll say it again – in order to ensure maximum productivity during meetings, they should all have a clear purpose and takeaway. Read on to see what our panelists had to say about meeting productivity.

Manuela Barcenas gave a sneak peek into what Fellow’s meeting report suggests: 

Darren Buckner listed his top tips on having a productive meeting. 

“- Share meeting agenda and other important sentiments in advance

– Have a note-taker if more than 2 people (share this responsibility)

– Share notes and any transcriptions that may be available after

– Recording meetings can help capture takeaways and context ongoing”

Pro tip

Use a meeting management tool like Fellow to share agendas, note decisions made, and collaborate on talking points!

5 Connect virtually through one-on-ones

Teresa Douglas asks her 3 P’s – personal, productive, and protect. Here were her examples for each category: 

“- For personal, I ask a question that touches on who they are as a person. This could be as simple as ‘How was your weekend?’ or something that touches on a hobby they have, like running. 

– Productive questions: How are they feeling about their task list? How’s their workload? (And especially during the pandemic), is there anything I can do to help you manage isolation, or defend your boundaries? 

– For protect: Are you waiting on anyone for information or work? Would it help if I prodded them? Who (other than me) is currently asking for your time? Do I need to be more protective of your time so you can work on the most important tasks first?” 

It’s important to have a variety of questions to continue to build a relationship with your direct report. Janet also shared examples of her favourite questions she uses during one-on-one meetings. 

“- How are you feeling/doing? 

– How can I better support you? How can the team support you? 

– What areas of process improvement have you identified recently? 

– What’s something you’re proud of that you accomplished recently?” 

6 Bring all voices into the conversation

Many employees feel uncomfortable contributing to meetings for various reasons, a Harvard study found that only 35% of employees feel comfortable enough to speak up. So what can you do to create an environment that promotes collaboration and healthy debate?

Naya Moss, Founder of Frauvis, offered her top tips:

“Check-in with each employee before the meeting if time allows. Encourage everyone to speak. For those who are shy to speak, ask for their thoughts, input, advice, and objections. Let them know in front of everyone you value them and their voice!” 

Courtney Seiter shares a concept she uses to ensure all voices hold equal weight during a meeting. 

“Structuring for more equitable meetings is so important! I like to borrow the “closing round” concept and offer everyone in the call a chance to share any final thoughts.”

7 Embrace hybrid meetings

With a sense of normalcy creeping back into most people’s lives, the concept of hybrid work has been on the rise. But what happens when some employees are working remotely and others are in-office? 

“Be mindful about ‘hallway’ conversations – if you have chats that are not digitally recorded or noted, record them afterward: put a summary in chat, write up a short document, or find another way to make sure info can be referred to by the whole team.”  

– Courtney Seiter

With hybrid comes new things to consider that in a remote or in-office setting you may not have had to. Hallway or watercooler conversations are a great example of something to keep top of mind. 

Engineering Manager at Fellow, Alexandra Sunderland, offered her top tips on running hybrid meetings. Some examples she listed included:

“- Don’t only turn on the camera when the meeting officially starts, turn it on as soon as you enter the room.

– Look towards people AND the camera when talking, so everyone feels included.

– Pay attention to time zones! This is harder to remember when the majority are in the same physical space.” 

A big thank you to all of our panelists on contributing their best practices and tips on embracing the future of work. Stay tuned for more #ManagerChats over on Twitter!

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