No one is Listening in your meetings… Here is how can tell:
I would argue with Dante that one of the circles of Hell involves meetings. Specifically, those that get nothing done and shouldn’t have been a meeting to begin with. There’s nothing that makes my skin crawl more consistently than sitting through a terrible meeting when I could be getting my work done. Sound familiar?
Meetings have been a point of contention even before everyone started working from home. But now that we’re all virtual (to varying degrees) it becomes even more important that your meetings are run efficiently and have purpose.
Here are 5 warning signs that your meetings are wasting time and approaching Dante’s circles…
1- Your meeting shouldn’t be a meeting.
This probably seems obvious, but think about it. How often have you (or one of your colleagues) paused and asked – is a meeting the best format for this conversation? If all that happens in a meeting is that people are sharing updates with no action items afterward – couldn’t that be done in an email? Or get creative. Maybe it’s a brief audio recording with the weekly updates. With on-demand options, it’s much easier to get everyone updated but on their time. I know I’d much rather listen to an update while doing the dishes vs sit in a meeting for an hour of updates.
2- You don’t invite others to share.
Even if you have a packed agenda with incredibly relevant content for everyone to hear, don’t forget to create space for others to share. Do this at the beginning of the meeting. Not halfway through. Not at the end. You may not have time to address every single thought or suggestion made by your peers, and that’s ok. But get them to share. I promise you won’t be just filling the virtual room with hot air.
When people don’t get a chance to share what’s on their mind, guess what? They’re not going to listen. They’ll be too focused on their own ideas and thoughts. Don’t fight this, get their ideas out. Bring them to the table. A collaborative meeting is an engaging meeting.
3- You’re talking too much.
Even if you have amazing content, people don’t have the attention span to listen to an uninterrupted monologue. Especially in the virtual environment. You should only have one voice speaking for no more than 2-3 minutes straight. Even less time is better.
Wondering how to share all your content and still mix it up with other voices? Ask questions. Create polls. Use the chat feature. Again, anything to mix it up. If you don’t believe me, pay attention to the next podcast or radio program you listen to. See how long the speaker lasts before pulling someone else in.
4- You’re working with a passive audience.
We’ve already talked about how creating space for others to share gets folks talking sooner rather than later. But it doesn’t stop there. Once people get cozy and comfortable – and they’re likely in their sweatpants so you know it’s going to happen quickly – they stop paying attention. They become passive participants. Don’t let it happen! Pull them in. Just make sure you set them up for success when you do it.
This means calling their name FIRST and then giving a quick recap before asking them a question. It’ll feel redundant to you but I promise they’ll appreciate the chance to catch up… and at the very least, it allows them to find the mute button and avoid the infamous phrase, “Sorry, I was on mute.”
5- All talk, no action.
In the end, if your meeting doesn’t have some sort of next step, it was probably a waste of time. So make sure to save at least 5 minutes at the end to recap and assign next steps. Even if it’s just to have someone look into a project and report back later. Figure it out. If you don’t have any action items, refer back to step 1.