Rachel Parnes* shares 12 ways leaders can make their meetings more productive.
Welcome to the new year. Hopefully, 2022 means a year of fewer meetings—and more productive ones.
The truth is, meetings just aren’t what they used to be.
Now that so many of us continue to work remotely, it’s time to rethink how we run a call so that we get the connection and productivity we need.
Here are 12 tips on how to have an effective and engaging meeting in 2022.
- Open the meeting five minutes early.
To encourage camaraderie, open the virtual meeting room early so people can say hello and chat before the meeting starts—just like they would if everyone was in the office.
Teams have fewer chances to build camaraderie these days, so it’s important to give them permission and space to connect in a healthy way.
- Call on people by name.
Instead of asking if anyone has a comment or question, invite individual people into the conversation with specific questions, like “Danielle, what is your opinion on this issue?” When you engage people in this way, you set them up to succeed and also create a culture where everyone has the chance to contribute.
- Create a parking lot or issue bin.
When topics come up that are important, but not relevant to the agenda, add them to the whiteboard in your meeting platform or to a blank slide.
This will help people feel heard and keep the meeting on track.
Just don’t forget to revisit the ideas and make a plan for how and when they’ll be addressed.
Tech tips for virtual meetings
As we’re all getting used to using virtual meeting software, it can take real skill to lead a virtual meeting in an effective, productive, and engaging way, says Zach Arnold in his course Leading Effective and Engaging Zoom Calls.
Start with these three pro tips to level up your Zoom skills.
- Set the ground rules for communication ahead of time.
To get better engagement with fewer interruptions, communicate guidelines ahead of the call on key settings like passwords, using the waiting room, whether everyone will be on mute (helpful for large groups), and using virtual backgrounds (some people find them distracting.) Create a template that you can easily add to your meeting invite or email, and rinse and repeat ahead of each call.
- Use fun features during the meeting.
Take advantage of features like the hand raise and reactions (hand clap, thumbs up) to encourage your team to engage with the discussion.
And try this: instead of fumbling for the mute button, they can unmute themselves by holding down the space bar while they jump in to answer a quick question.
All of these features add up to a more focused, smooth, and engaging meeting.
- Strategically position your Zoom windows.
Make eye contact easier by putting your Zoom windows as close to the web camera as possible.
The closer your gaze is to your web camera (without staring directly into it), the better you’ll be able to connect and emotionally engage with your team.
Watch body language
There are several strategic things you can do as a leader to make your video presentation more powerful to those listening and watching, says Jessicca Chen in Executive Presence on Video Conference Calls.
Try these for starters.
- Use confident body posture.
When you’re presenting or speaking, sit on just the front half of the chair (instead of scooting all the way back), which opens up your diaphragm to help you project your voice.
Keep your back straight, lean in just a bit, and let your shoulders relax—all of which leads to a confident body posture that indicates you’re engaged.
- Use hand gestures for emphasis.
Just like you would if you were in an in-person meeting, use your hands to drive a point home.
“Push” your hands forward (palms up) to emphasize an important statement.
Hold them wide to communicate that “big” idea.
Or hold up fingers to demonstrate numbers, like the three proposals you’re introducing
- Choose your time to chime in.
“Sorry—go ahead.” “No, it’s okay—you go.” Without the normal body language cues of an in-person meeting, it’s so hard to know when to speak up.
The best option of course is to wait for a short pause after someone has finished their point.
But if you’re in an especially chatty group without many pauses, you can also post a pending question in the group chat, or send it directly to whoever’s leading the call.
Make the meeting productive
To improve meetings, you need to be mindful and skillful about their design and delivery.
The Surprising Science of Meetings, a course from getAbstract, offers some fresh ideas to get you inspired.
Give one a go this week!
- Hold a walking meeting.
Especially when we’re feeling stir crazy and stuck at home, change things up by holding a walking meeting.
It may have to be audio-only, but it’s a great way to get the juices flowing creatively.
You can also hold a standing meeting on video, but keep it to 15-20 minutes.
Any subtle change in the set-up will help people focus, engage, and feel more invigorated.
- Keep the meeting as short as possible.
Inspired by team sports, where you huddle up before or after a game or practice, the work huddle is short (no longer than 15 minutes) and can happen every day, typically in the mornings.
You can also cut down your meeting time by 5-10 per cent—instead of 30 minutes, meet for 25.
Or set an arbitrary length of say, 22 minutes, to get everyone’s attention with the invite.
- Encourage silence.
When you’re trying to generate new ideas, you need to get everyone’s input and one of the best ways to do that is creating opportunities for silence.
Try “brain writing,” where everyone takes a few quiet minutes to jot down their ideas before sharing them.
Or assign silent reading on a new project proposal so participants can evaluate the proposal based on its merit, not the eloquence of the presenter.
Creating a good meeting culture is critical for this moment, and will help ease the stress of online meetings during the pandemic.
But the changes we make now will also inspire a new way to gather moving forward, with a focus on productive meetings that serve and support both our work and our need for connection.
*Rachel Parnes is a Senior Marketing Manager at LinkedIn.
This article first appeared at linkedin.com.