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Meetings in the age of hybrid work: how to run them effectively.

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

Is it true that less than half of the meeting time is used effectively? Meetings shouldn't keep you away from what you do best. According to research, virtual meetings score even lower.

An ineffective meeting can even derail productivity after it's over. According to a recent article in the MIT Sloan Management Review, attendees can lose work time while mentally recovering from a bad meeting. Even though most of us lack formal training in meeting management, anyone can learn to do it well - whether your team is in the office, fully distributed, or hybrid.

What makes an effective meeting?

Meetings in the age of hybrid work: how to run them effectively.
Meetings in the age of hybrid work: how to run them effectively.

It’s important to distinguish between effective and efficient. An efficient meeting starts promptly, stays on track due to good time management, includes as few people as possible, and achieves the stated objective.

Job done, right? Wrong. Efficiency is a superficial quality. It says nothing about whether the right people were included for the right reasons, or whether the meeting generated any value.

An effective meeting brings a thoughtfully selected group of people together for a specific purpose, provides a forum for open discussion, and delivers a tangible result: a decision, a plan, a list of great ideas to pursue, a shared understanding of the work ahead. Not only that but the result is then shared with others whose work may be affected.

Successful meetings have a clear purpose

Meetings in the age of hybrid work: how to run them effectively.
Meetings in the age of hybrid work: how to run them effectively.

Most of us want fewer meetings on our calendars. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that meetings are the one and only way to collaborate. That knee-jerk tendency gets us into trouble and gives meetings a bad name.

First, determine whether you really need a meeting

You don’t need a meeting to broadcast information – that’s what email, chat, and company intranets like Confluence are for. Department and company all-hands meetings are a notable exception. They provide a unique chance to hear directly from executives and other decision-makers – and, if they include time for Q&A (which they should), they get to hear from you. If your meeting features a productive discussion that will be more effective in real time than asynchronously via emails or comment threads, then it’ll be worthwhile. Examples include team or project retrospectives, brainstorming, and one-on-one meetings between managers and their direct reports. In the best-case scenario, a meeting’s purpose is to decide or create something collaboratively. Project planning, mapping out customer journeys, setting goals, solving a problem, choosing X vs. Y … all these are situations where holding a meeting is probably the most effective way to collaborate. And thanks to Trello boards, Miro boards, and Zoom’s virtual whiteboarding feature, you don’t even need to be in the same room to get it done.

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