(Online) meetings: tips about organizing, joining… and leaving

Tom Van ‘t Veld

The other day, I had a dream. It was a work dream. In this dream, I was continually participating in meetings at the office, in different rooms. Probably, it was on different moments and different days, too. Who knows. Dreams tend not to be so keen on logic. What struck me was that, people walked out during the course of each of these meetings. And nobody gave it any consideration. So in the dream, I started wondering if I could come away with walking out myself like that, too. But each time I was about to, I just felt compelled to stay. Strangely, what went on in that virtual setting of my dream state, felt a lot more weird than it should have. I realized, I walk out of meetings quite regularly. Except, it’s often in another virtual setting: online Microsoft Teams meetings.

Online meeting has desacralized meeting culture. And that’s a good thing. Because, yes. Sometimes you can be in a meeting and realize: “hey, my presence here is no longer necessary.” So why wouldn’t you move on and spend your time more productively? The downside of that desacralization? We also tend to meet (online) too much. Because, it’s less of a hassle to get people together in one virtual room. So, I tried to come up with a few short tips to strike the right balance.

When you are setting up a meeting:

  1. Before you send out a meeting, think carefully about who really needs to attend.
  2. Think twice about optional invitees. If you do add some, clarify why they are invited, so they can judge whether it is useful for them to participate. Another thing you can do is foreseeing to include them in the meeting at the moment it becomes relevant to them. That way your optional attendants can accept the meeting, yet still foresee time to get a few other things out of the way, in the meantime.

When you are being invited to a meeting:

  1. Whether you are an optional attendant or not, if it isn’t clear why you are being invited, ask for some clarification.
  2. Dare to challenge or question whether you are truly needed at the meeting. This can be done before you accept, but just as well during the meeting. At Xylos, we tend to call this “the right to leave”.

When meetings don’t go to plan, stay mindful.

Keep in mind that if you invite someone to a meeting, there may be unforeseen circumstances.

Say you’re in a weekly management meeting, and you’re having a little trouble sharing a presentation. To unlock the problem, you call on someone. Maybe a service desk colleague or just a colleague with a lot of Office knowledge (let’s call him Tom ;)).

Tom joins the meeting to resolve the issue. But careful, he is now also an official participant in the meeting. That means, after he leaves the call. When people share information via chat, for instance, a confidential document, Tom will see it appear as well. And remember, this is a weekly meeting. So, the chat continues to run. And Tom will be able to read everything, until you remove him again.

The right Teams settings can get you a long way.

You can also manage a number of settings in Microsoft Teams. No matter how small they are, if you choose them wisely, they can really ameliorate meeting quality and culture. Here are a few examples:

  • You can close the meeting so that latecomers no longer have access
  • You can specify that participants only have access to the chat during the meeting. A good way to avoid information overload after and in between meetings.
  • You can set up your meeting so that certain participants have to wait in a lobby before you accept them in. This could allow you to maybe very quickly discuss a few confidential points with another attendee first. In case of a meeting with internal and external attendees, you can probably imagine this to be very useful.

Meeting culture: know what to improve, then improve it.

It’s one thing to pick up some good meeting habits yourself. If colleagues are not aligned in the way they hold meetings, things probably won’t get really better. In 2022, (online) meeting is intertwined with your digital technology and your organization’s culture.

Xylos wants to give organizations a taste of how much and how easily they can improve their meeting culture with Meeting Camp. Find out more and contact us to see how we can help you forward, via this webpage.

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