33:6 Productive online meetings
Are you getting burned out on online meetings? Many agencies are seeing their meetings increase as clients and team members seek assurances and companionship. Whilst lockdown may have removed the travel burden, regular and unproductive meetings can continue to have a negative impact on your productivity, motivation and mental health.
Lee Matthew Jackson
Over the last few years, as someone who has found travelling to meetings a mental struggle, I found that meeting through the internet still had its challenges. If you are getting “zoomed out”, then this is the episode for you.
- Does it need a meeting
- Can this be sorted on email
- Have the questions already been answered
- Can I add value?
- Who needs to be involved
- Invite based on meeting content
- Decision makers involved
- Set an agenda
- Establishing a meeting lead
- Time keeping
- Taking offline
- Enforcing hard stop
- Follow up actions
- Meeting notes
- Actions and owners
Welcome to the Agency Trailblazer Podcast. This is your host Lee, and on today’s show we are talking about productive online meetings. Let’s set the scene. We are all in lockdown. You probably all knew this and lo and behold instead of having less meetings, you feel like you’re actually having more an even if you’re not, you may be feel like the meetings you are having are perhaps not the most productive. So this episode is designed to help you get better at setting up meetings, at accepting meetings, running those meetings and make sure that you get the very most from them. This episode was really born out of a conversation with me and my business partner, Tim, and he just said to me the phrase, I’m old, zoomed out, and I was like, sorry, what do you mean? And he was explaining that he’s just kind of like exhausted from zoom meetings.
He has a call with me practically every day. He also has three calls with friends a day and other things going on and he just kind of got to the point where he felt all zoomed out. Now a little bit of personal background for me. I’ve spent the last maybe two to three years really struggling with travelling and going out to meetings, so going down to London, perhaps having a physical meeting and engaging with people there, it would be a huge struggle for me. I’d certainly be dreading the process of travelling down. I then struggle whilst I was down there with clients and be really, really happy to get back as soon as possible back home, back where it was safe. One of the worst experiences I had was a panic attack all the way down to London when me and Tim were driving down and it was this worst feeling of feeling out of control and of dreading the meeting itself.
Even though I was going to be hanging out with a wonderful client, there was just so much fear built in and one of the things I realised I needed to do for the physical meetings was to ensure that the meeting had purpose and that there was a proper clear agenda and we knew what we were going to get from that meeting. The moment I had those that made it easier for me to get outside of my comfort zone and head down to those meetings. I’d always try to push however, whenever I possibly could to either avoid having a meeting altogether or to make that meeting happen online rather than having to travel. And I’m glad I did a lot of that because that’s really helped prepare me for what’s happening right now during this COVID outbreak. But also it’s made me very intentional about the meetings that I accept and how those meetings progress.
So I’m going to share with you today the top tips of making sure that you get on the right meetings and you get the right subjects discussed, nailed, and you’re bouncing right out of there the second it’s done. We’re going to ask the following questions. Does it need a meeting? Who needs to be involved? What is the agenda? Who is owning or leading this meeting? And also what are the follow up actions? So these are the key ingredients to any productive meeting. And let’s deep dive into each one of these to make sure that you are prepared for the right meetings. Let’s start then with question number one. Does this need a meeting? More often than not, I am asked to be on a meeting that I actually don’t need to be a part of. All the meeting needn’t take place anyway, so I’ll ask myself the following questions.
Can this be sorted on email? If we have to meet up, are the questions that are being asked, something that can be covered off in one or two emails quickly over the course of a day rather than getting a whole load of people involved in the meeting. If the answer is yes, I will try and push back to get what the questions are and to try and get the right people to answer those questions quickly. Going on from that, the questions have often already been answered. People unfortunately are a little bit disorganised and they forget that you’ve already had these conversations. You have already answered them in previous emails, so more often than not, grab a previous thread and then forward that to them to answer all of the common issues that they might have. Next question I’d be asking is, can I add value?
I’ve lost count of the amount of meetings that I have been on where I’m pretending to be engaged on the camera. But frankly I need not be there everybody else is talking and sharing their thoughts and it does not require my input and I have no real value to add to that meeting. So if you’ve received texts from me and I say I’m in a meeting, it’s because I’m stealthily texting you whilst pretending I’m listening on a meeting. Absolutely guilty as judged. I know Tristan has certainly received many messages from me saying, Hey, how you doing? I’m pretending to listen. I’m in a meeting I really don’t need to be into. And you know, even now, even this year I have taken on meetings that I probably shouldn’t have been a part of and then I’ve kicked myself halfway through for forgetting to ask myself these questions.
So I think more now more than ever, sorry, it’s important to protect our time, protect the time that we have at home, protect the time that we have with our families, protect the time that we have to work on our business. So we need to be asking these questions, can this be sorted on email or via other channels? Have the questions already been elsewhere, and finally, can I add value? Am I the right person for this meeting? If it’s clear that there needs to be a meeting, the next step is to review who is going to be involved and also what that agenda is going to be. So these are hand in hand. What are the agenda items and who will need to be involved in that meeting? You’re going to need the relevant business owners and the relevant decision makers. So evaluate what the topic or agenda of the meeting needs to be.
List out that content and then work out who those key individuals need to be. Who should be in on that meeting. Don’t have that meeting without those key players because one meeting with one person missing will beget yet another meeting where you have to catch up and fill them in and get further decisions to reiterate who needs to be involved. Invite people based on the content and the subject matter. All of that meeting and ensure that all of your relevant decision makers are going to be involved or accessible. During that meeting, I alluded to how important it was to have an agenda. You need to understand the subject matter of your meeting. You need to understand what the content is that’s going to be discussed. Therefore, it’s essential that you have an agenda. This is going to ensure the flow of your meeting and avoid meandering through multiple different topics.
That agenda will dictate the path and help you keep on time, will avoid you running over and we’ll help you build up a clear action plan. With an agenda, you really need to establish a meeting lead, so that is somebody who is responsible for ensuring that we all stick to the preplanned agenda. We move through the meeting productively, we stay on time, we gather the right notes and ensure that there are followup actions. The best way to take notes would be to note against each agenda item a tweetable response to each. Then underneath that create a list of actions and who will own each and every action. So having that person, that meeting lead who is both responsible for the timekeeping responsible for ensuring that the meeting progresses and for the documentation is absolutely essential to a productive meeting. Let’s do the recap. Step one, you have the option for a meeting and you need to ask yourself the questions, does this need a meeting?
Can this question or these questions be sorted out on email? Have the questions already been answered? And also do I need to be involved in the meeting as in can I add the relevant value next? If we do have to have a meeting, we’d need to seek who should be involved. So have a look at what the content or the subject matter is going to be and then make sure that the people with the relevant skills, expertise, experience as well as the decision makers are all available to be involved or accessible during that meeting. Next, we said we need to set an agenda. It’s important that we have a bulleted agenda that we can work through and that ensures that we will stay on time and get all topics covered and avoid meandering over all sorts of subjects. And the meeting over earning, then we said we needed a meeting lead.
That is somebody who is going to ensure that we stick to the agenda, we stay on time, and we also enforce a hard stop at the end of that meeting to avoid things getting out of control. And finally we said that that person or a person should be responsible for creating meeting notes and listing the actions and the relevant owners of those actions that allows you to ensure that the meeting was productive. That meeting got the answers that it needed and the meeting setup, the relevant actions that needed to be taken as a result. So if you are not getting this from your meetings, that means there is something that needs to change, including your attitude to jumping on a meeting. Your time is so freaking valuable as a business owner or as a team member in your agency and being dragged into meetings that you can’t add value to or that are wasting your time is awful for productivity.
It’s bad for the business. You need to be focused on what you do best, so ask yourself these questions and when you do have those meetings, follow these guidelines to ensure that you have the best online meetings ever. Folks, this episode was sponsored by my favourite host on the planet, that’s Cloudways. I currently own a C shirt for five days of the week, so I’m hinting for them for at least two more. Therefore, if you visit www.cloudways.com I’m sure that means they’ll send me more t-shirts. Don’t forget we have a wonderful Facebook group. There are three and a half thousand crazy, wonderful, awesome and amazing people in their sharing cat pictures and gifts and also asking the important questions that agency owners, web designers, web developers, ask all the time. You can check that out over on www.trailblazer.fm/group. If we don’t see you in the group, we will see you in next week’s episode.