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Five tips for building an awesome (virtual) meeting culture

With a few simple rules of the road, you can help make meetings (virtual or otherwise) more meaningful and productive for everyone involved.

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We’ve all been there—you’re sitting in front of your computer on an important call but you can’t concentrate. Everyone is talking over each other and your messaging app was hit with what felt like 15,000 notifications all at once.

How are you supposed to work—and be productive—amidst such cacophony?

Luckily, with a few simple rules of the road, you can help make meetings (virtual or otherwise) more meaningful and productive for everyone involved. Here are five tips you can implement on your team—right now—to make sure meetings are always productive.

Tip #1: Start with a quick check-in

When you’re in back-to-back-to-back meetings, it’s easy to dive into the content as fast as possible then get side-tracked by chit chat a few minutes in. However—especially if you’re working with remote teams—it is important to take just a couple of moments to say hi. Why? First, it is a good way to build a little camaraderie. And second, it is helpful to know the temperature of the room before diving into certain work.

Here are a couple of easy ways to check-in without derailing your agenda:

  • Do a quick round robin—everyone has 5-10 seconds to say how they are
  • Have people add an emoji reaction to the chat
  • Set up a poll in your Switchboard room for a fast pulse-check

Don’t just sit on this information—use the energy level as a guide for how you should proceed. If the energy is flat, maybe today isn’t a good day for a brainstorm. However, if everyone is enthusiastic and ready to go, dive headfirst into a big discussion.

The voting widget in Switchboard makes it easy to get a pulse on how people feel.
Voting widget in Switchboard.

Tip #2: Don’t skip the prep

Have you ever showed up to a meeting thinking you were prepared only to find out pretty quickly that you were *actually* not prepared at all? Even the best of us have been there.

Luckily, if you use Switchboard, this is a pretty easy issue to fix: load up the room with important materials so people can prepare on their own schedule. If the meeting is recurring—i.e. a daily standup, weekly team meeting, or regular project check in—you probably can set up the room once and not have to prep before each meeting.

What is helpful information to provide ahead of time?

  • Meeting agenda—let people know if they can contribute to it or not
  • Pre-reads, like working documents or dashboards
  • Any other materials you’ll need during the meeting like presentation slides and the project link (i.e. the Asana or Notion project)

With everything organized in one place instead of scattered between the calendar invite, email, and a messaging app the whole team can show up on the same page and ready for work.

How you can organize your room for a meeting
Sections in Switchboard help you organize for meetings.

Tip #3: Reduce the temptation to multitask

Sometimes this one is easier said than done, whether you work in an office or remotely. However, it is an important tip to call out: set yourself up for success by creating a productive environment in which you aren’t tempted to multitask. Doing so involves thinking of both your physical environment—i.e. where you’re working—and your digital environment—i.e. what’s on your screen.

Here are a few easy tricks you can employ to make your physical and digital environments that much more conducive for meetings:

  • Close your door (if possible).
  • Use noise canceling headphones.
  • Turn off notifications on your computer or phone. Bonus points—put your phone out of sight, like in a drawer.
  • Close your tabs, or open a new browser with only the tools you need.
  • If you’re meeting in Switchboard, make your room fullscreen.
  • Filter out background noise (depending on which tool you’re using).

Tip #4: Be ruthless about your guest list

It’s easy to end up with a giant meeting guest list—after all, what’s the harm in adding one or two extra people so they can stay in the loop?

Beyond costing the organization a lot of money, doing so can waste a lot of people’s time. If you continually host meetings with a few people who aren’t contributing or always have their cameras off, this is a good sign that you should rethink who you should invite. When the right people are there, the meeting will feel active and engaging.

So what do you do for people who should be informed but probably won’t take an active role in a live meeting? If you host the meeting in Switchboard, tell them to go to the room after on their own time. They’ll be able to see your meeting notes, recording, and other relevant documents to the room. You could even create a section along the lines of “What we covered in the meeting” or “For informed stakeholders” to help direct them to the materials they need to see.

Tip #5: Just … cancel the meeting

If you start prepping for your meeting and realize there isn’t much to talk about—or everything has already been hashed out in Slack or Google docs—then…cancel the meeting. Everyone will be thankful! Too often we default to having meetings when, in reality, teams can get a lot of stuff done asynchronously.

With Switchboard, you can even host meetings asynchronously by asking people to review documents, tasks, etc. that are in a dedicated project room by a certain date. Move whatever needs to be reviewed into a specific section and then ask stakeholders to add their updates, comments, and approvals on their own time.

Better virtual meetings can help your in-person meetings

The best part is, these tricks can help any type of meeting—virtual, in-person, or hybrid. Instead of figuring out a meeting on the fly, with a little forethought and intentionality, you and your team can make sure that every meeting on your calendar is a productive one. And when that happens, hopefully you can actually start reducing the number of meetings you have overall.

Want to give your teams a collaborative space for meetings—and the time in-between? Get your free Switchboard workspace now.

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