Optimize Your Meetings for Engagement
— So, does anybody have any feedback? Or questions?
Silence. 15 seconds feel like forever. I can’t tell by people’s expressions if they agree with what I have just presented. I know they must have things to say, why aren’t they speaking up?
This was so much easier with in-person meetings. Remote sucks!
What if we just don’t know how to run remote meetings yet?
After months of attending large VC-only meetings I think I found a pattern. I’ve also talked to a few people who also noticed the same thing.
- The person leading the meeting is talking 90% of time, and because they don’t get much feedback they just continue to fill the silence with re-iterating their points.
- Nobody else is speaking up.
- Somebody’s speaking up but they focus on a minor detail and talk through it forever, nobody’s willing to stop them
- In the end everyone is frustrated, the meeting feels like a waste of time and feels like it could have been replaced by a group post.
But not all meetings where like that. A few were actually really good.
Here’s the secret sauce:
In the current realities optimize your meetings for engagement
By engagement I mean this — imagine you meet a bunch of old friends that you haven’t seen in a while. Everybody’s sharing their stories, and everybody else is actively listening, asking questions, and are fully immersed.
Just imagine the things we could do if our remote meetings felt even remotely like that.
First of all, it’s a mindset shift. Switch your strategy from just doing the meetings the way you did before COVID (or the way everybody else is doing it right now) to optimizing for the engagement, and wonderful things will happen.
I think the solution has 3 key elements: organizational, human and technology.
- Reserve 15 minutes in the beginning to warm up your group. Don’t do “let’s start with status update” — in my experience this tenses up the people involved and they mainly think about what they are going to say and are not listening / engaging. Instead, ask a question that encourages engagement (see next section).
- If your goal is to generate ideas or collect meaningful feedback, split the large group into several smaller groups (see World Cafe Method). 4 or 5 people in the meeting seem to be the maximum we can handle to keep the engagement high.
- Ask and share personal bits of information, e.g. hobbies, silly facts, or opinions on things not related to work.
- Overuse non-verbal expressions: gestures, smiles, nodding, etc. This will help everyone else understand your reaction.
- Audio is extremely important. Low latency is a must to avoid people talking over each other. The quality is very important too, good software I’ve used before doesn’t broadcast your audio until it detects speech.
- Provide tools that expand ways to communicate non-verbally: raising hand, reactions, polls, messages.
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I write about programming, software design and side projects Subscribe