Here at Spokes, we know that people are going through challenging times. As we all try to settle into the new, virtual workplace, there are bound to be some missteps and your online meetings may not be as productive as they once were in-person. Being in front of a video camera can feel impersonal and can cause many distractions as well. But the work you do is important so it is also important to make sure that your meetings are as productive as they can be. Three ways to do this include creating a clear agenda, keeping the meetings engaging and fun, and decreasing other distractions as much as possible.
Create a Clear Agenda
Sometimes it’s difficult to stay on track during online meetings. This can be alleviated with a clear, effecting meeting agenda. The agenda should include participant introductions (if necessary) and welcome greetings as well. However, the most important part of the agenda is the topics that are to be discussed. You can make sure the meeting stays on track by seeking input about what topics you cover from other staff members to ensure they are all relevant. You should also phrase the topics as a clear question to be answered. This will help dissipate any confusion about what the discussion is about and will allow participants to make contributions that are on topic because they must answer the given question. Once you have your agenda, it is important to stick to it. This can be done by adding estimated time intervals to each agenda topic. For example,
12:35 How can we redesign the website to encourage more donations through our link?
It’s not imperative that you stick to the exact minute that is on the agenda, but it creates some accountability and other members will know they can speak up if the group has been discussing the same topic and getting nowhere for thirty minutes. Finally, it can be useful to send out your completed agenda a few hours/the day before the meeting so participants can go over it on their own and start generating ideas.
Keep Meetings Engaging and Fun
Some structure, like a clear agenda, is necessary, but so is thinking outside the box! In 2012, the Harvard Business Review analyzed hundreds of studies and found what we’ve known all along to be true, that happier employees really are more productive. With the toll that COVID-19 has taken on everyone, it is important now more than ever to make sure your team members stay happy. On a surface level, this can look like changing up the “theme” of each meeting and encouraging everyone to participate. Some ideas include tea time, funky hat day, bring your pets to work day, etc. Just remember that you have to participate as well so others will follow suit! No one wants to log in to the meeting on funky hat day and be the only one wearing their bedazzled cowboy hat. However, it is arguably more important to foster happiness by checking in with your team members and fostering a psychologically safe environment during your meetings. You can offer yourself as someone to talk to and empathize with when being in quarantine gets too overwhelming. When team members are worried, they aren’t very focused. Keeping your meetings engaging and fun can eliminate some of that internal distraction, but what about other environmental factors?
Decrease Distractions as Much as Possible
Attending a meeting in your home office or your bedroom is a much different experience than attending one in a conference room. Other devices may pull your attention away from the task at hand and make it much more difficult to follow along. Making an effort to decrease the prevalence of other devices as much as possible is something that can really help. This includes silencing your phone (maybe putting it in a different room), deleting the other tabs open on your computer, and turning off any television or music playing. However, it can be impossible to eliminate all distractions when some team members are working from a house that has other people and pets living there as well. The attention-grabbing effects of these other distractions can be minimized by encouraging active listening and note taking. This allows you to really focus on what the speaker is saying and it gives you something other than the agenda to look back on if you have a question after the meeting ends.
With these tips, you can take a boring, off-track meeting and turn it into a productive one with happier team members. Sometimes, creating a clear agenda, keeping your meetings engaging and fun, and decreasing other distractions is all it takes to see a boost in productivity. Remember, Spokes is here to support you so please contact us if you’d like any more information about increasing productivity during your online meetings.