I think it is fair to say that many of us have probably attended more virtual meetings over the past few months than we have in the past few years.
In addition to having to learn about the different platforms of virtual meetings such as Zoom, GoTo Meeting, Teams, Webex, StarLeaf, and such, we have also had to learn proper etiquette. Some examples include turning your camera on, having a professional backdrop, remembering to mute your microphone to minimize background noise, and not working on something else while in the meeting. There are plenty of useful resources online to read helpful tips on which platform to choose or etiquette to follow, but what I would like to talk about is making sure your virtual meeting is efficient and effective.
It is very frustrating to sit through a virtual meeting that does not start on time or that runs long. Also annoying are the virtual meetings that do not have an agenda or structure. The worst, though, are ones that lack notes needed to follow along.
With these pain points in mind, I would like you to consider making lean changes to the way you run your virtual meetings. The goal of a lean meeting is to reduce waste and/or add value, finding ways to simplify the process by eliminating steps and handoffs that don’t add value wherever possible. These changes will result in considerable improvements in the effectiveness of your meetings and may get you great feedback from your clients and coworkers.
- State the meeting’s objective
In the body of your meeting, invite, state the objective. The objective should answer what attendees are there to discuss, what solutions the team should intend to deliver, and what decisions need to be made. This helps to narrow the focus of the meeting.
- Allocate time for each agenda topic
Breaking the meeting’s objective into agenda items will allow you to divvy up the time of the meeting, allowing a set number of minutes for each agenda item. The meeting won’t run long because it has been outlined for efficiency, and everyone knows how much time they have allotted.
- Assign a time-keeper, note-taker, facilitator,
If you want to honor the clock, you’ll need someone to be responsible for that. The time-keeper tracks the allocated time, and documents the actual time used. The note-taker is accountable for capturing action items and meeting notes, and the facilitator is in charge of managing the entire process.
- Start on time, finish on time.
Make sure the technology is running correctly ahead of time and don’t wait for stragglers. Once people learn that you don’t wait for them, they’ll make extra effort to be on-time. Respect everyone’s time by keeping to your schedule and not allowing ancillary items or conversations to derail your meeting.
- Differentiate meeting notes -vs.- action items
“Who said what” is different from “who needs to do what by when” – you’ll want your note-taker to track both in separate places, so the difference is clear, and action items aren’t lost.
- Assign responsibilities and a due date for action items
Things that need to be taken care of answered, learned, or followed up on should be assigned to specific people. Document these action items with the name of the responsible party. As each one is identified, clarify and indicate by when they are expected to deliver.
- Articulate the next meeting’s objective
When wrapping up this meeting, set your plan for the next one. Articulate the objective now, with everyone in the room, so you agree, and expectations are managed.
- Establish the time, date, facilitator, note-taker, and time-keeper for the next meeting
The more work you do here to set things in stone for your next meeting, the easier it will be for everyone. Switch up the roles, so you have different people managing different parts at each meeting.
- Perform a quick Plus/Delta evaluation on the meeting
Take a minute or less at the end to perform a Plus/Delta. Ask: did we stay on track? Did we meet our objective? Did we clarify the next steps? Did everyone participate? Was this time well spent? What can we do to improve this process for the next meeting?
- Complete the meeting notes live, and send them immediately afterward
Capture the meeting notes on-screen so attendees can be sure that they have been heard correctly. Because you’ve captured meeting minutes, notes, and action items live as they happened, the final document is ready to distribute after the meeting. Take a few minutes to review the minutes, add in more detail if needed, and then send. Your attendees will receive the minutes while the meeting is still fresh, and action items are clearly defined. Everyone is aware of the next meeting date and objective and who needs to accomplish what in advance of said meeting.
Over time I am sure the technology of virtual meetings will continue to improve as will the engagement and etiquette, but how to make the most of those meetings will be up to us. Take baby steps and look to start implementing some of these Lean best practices to your weekly meetings. Over time you will see much improvement and have some more time back in your day.
Keyan Zandy is the COO of the Skiles Group.