I’ve worked in various roles within IT and communications for over 20 years and one thing that I’ve really noticed is the increase in meetings I host or attend.
As Head of Collaboration, I promote and deliver tools that help organise and manage meetings, delivering a rich user experience. It’s rare that I attend an entirely ‘in person’ meeting these days – usually at least one person is connecting via a video or remotely, using tools such as Cisco Webex Meetings. Audio-only conference calls are also declining, in favour of collaboration.
These tools, when used correctly, can help improve the experience for everyone. Gone are the days of unreliable, unbearable dial-in connections – now we can have a fully immersive experience, regardless of location or device.
From my personal experience, and discussions I have had with customers during project scoping sessions, here are some best practices that improve collaborative meetings:
1. Keep the length short and the numbers low
Most people schedule meetings for an hour purely out of habit. When you’re putting together an agenda or thinking over the meeting content, decide how much time you’ll realistically need – often it’s no longer than 45 minutes.
Adding 20 people to a two-hour meeting is the equivalent of having an employee out of the office for an entire week. Anyone who doesn’t need to be there could just receive meeting notes or an easy-to-access recording.
2. It’s all in the prep
Send out an agenda, detailing the purpose, running order, any expected pre-work and the expected outcome.
Research shows about 25% of its effectiveness occurs before a meeting if people can prepare for what’s required of them and can cover questions right there on the spot.
3. Use your technology
Video first: Meetings are much more collaborative when people can see each other. Even the most camera-shy person will soon become comfortable on screen when it becomes the norm.
Join using your name: It is much easier to see who is online when you have a list of names, rather than lots of ‘anonymous users’ or telephone numbers listed in the meeting tool. If there is an option to join the meeting anonymously, don’t do it.
Consider using the lobby: This allows you, as host, to bring everyone into the call at once. If the meeting includes lots of people that do not know each other, it avoids the awkward small talk whilst everyone waits for the meeting to start.
Mute on entry: Set the meeting to automatically mute everyone when they join. Allow them to unmute themselves when they wish to talk. This is particularly useful in large meetings, where people joining late can disrupt the flow of the meeting.
4. Follow up
No matter how good the technology is, inevitably your participants may miss important points or focus more on notetaking than fully engaging with what’s being said. Record the session and send out the link to participants so they can revisit the detail later.
5. Make the most of your tech
The best advice out there is to find out about every last thing your technology can deliver and make sure that everyone has training so you can really get your ROI.
If you’re unsure what your system can do, or want to see what’s out there, get in touch and we can point you in the right direction.
Who is Richard?
Richard Buxton has worked within the VoIP and Unified Comms industry for over 20 years. Starting out in the industry, he was responsible for adding IP telephony functionality to traditional PBX systems – years before the technology had been widely adopted. He then moved into the service provider sector and helped maintain and grow a SIP trunking platform and launch a hosted telephony solution.
Over the recent years, he has built a team and developed the Collaboration portfolio for Node4, our parent company. More recently, he has migrated the entire Collaboration portfolio and teams into our brand new business unit – N4Engage.
Find Richard’s full author profile here.