By Career Advice

Even when you work remotely, you can still be dragged into boring and unproductive online meetings with team members. Here’s a format to follow to ensure meetings are worthwhile.

Ahh, meetings!  Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re a necessary evil.

Meetings play a vital role in our ability to collaborate in project teams, communicate efficiently and problem-solve.

But meetings can also be a catastrophic waste of your time. In fact, our office counterparts place meetings at the top of the list of workplace time-wasters right behind emails. Research suggests that as much as 50 percent of meeting time is wasted and 39% of people admit to dozing off during a meeting.

As a remote worker you can sometimes dodge unproductive meetings just by virtue of your absence. But you’re not completely immune. You can still be roped into attending badly planned and poorly led meetings online.

Nina Sochon is a consultant, trainer and coach whose expertise lies in creating high performing distributed teams. She is the founder of Transformed Teams and one of our round-table experts here at Remote Work Hub.

Use This Format to Prevent Death by Meetings

When it comes to meetings, Nina explains the answer is not always to abandon meetings altogether, like some teams have done.  What is key is preparation.

Nina says that according to research, if you spend 50 minutes instead of 30 preparing for a meeting, you can double its productivity.

However, Nina adds that preparation isn’t the only way to make meetings worthwhile.

Most of the time, meetings fail to be productive because attendees are unclear about how decisions will be made.

If attendees are unsure about the tone of a meeting – is it autocratic or collaborative, can I speak up, will my perspective be valued – they are less likely to feel engaged.

As Nina explains, “powerful meetings need a clear format, with a clear purpose and clear roles – particularly in the remote work place where team members connect via videoconferencing or using their mobile phone.”

Nina has drawn on a range of best practice alternatives to provide the following meeting format which will ensure your next meeting (online or face to face) is a productive one:

Have a clear purpose. Establish an agenda that includes a clear objective, to avoid confusion and help people to prepare.

Give information ahead of time. People can’t be prepared for something they don’t have information about – provide information ahead of time.

Appoint a note-taker to take minutes or record the call. A note taker can ensure that details aren’t lost. Notes will ensure that people who are unable to attend the meeting will have an opportunity to catch up. Share your meeting notes immediately after the meeting via email or upload to your document sharing tool.

Start and finish exactly on time. Show that you value people’s time by keeping to time. No one wants to be kept waiting or held back from their next commitment.

Create discussion. Don’t use a meeting to hold catch ups with individuals on the team. During a remote meeting, yes it’s good to use the first couple of minutes to engage in a personal conversation. This helps to establish trustful relationships when you’re working at a distance. But be sure to give everyone the opportunity to participate in the conversation (keep it brief though). Do the same for business discussions as well. Keep everyone involved.

Establish actions or outcomes. State the conclusions and results of the meeting clearly so that agreed actions can be followed up.

When you follow this format, you’ll no longer waste people’s time and your meetings will be far more valuable and interesting.

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