In the era of remote work, it can be challenging to keep people’s attention and make meaningful progress via meetings. Follow these nine tips to make yours more memorable.
For every meeting
1. Have a stated purpose and design around it
This first tip is easy to agree with but hard to implement. For every meeting, you should carefully consider the purpose for bringing people together, state that purpose to your invitees, and design the meeting to achieve that purpose.
Is the purpose to determine the path forward with a vendor? Make sure the decision maker is in the room and knows they will be asked to share their thinking. Is the purpose to introduce someone new to the team? Create an opportunity for that person to share their authentic self with their new colleagues.
2. End early and encourage people to use the time for a self-care break
In the era of back-to-back-to-back meetings on Zoom, Google Meet, or MS Teams, people find that their days run together—and they feel utterly spent by 5 pm if not before.
Your meeting can stand out by not being part of that problem. People will truly appreciate it if your 10-11 am meeting ends at 10:55, with an encouragement to use the next 5 minutes for a rejuvenating stretch or a coffee/tea break
3. Equip people with actionable next steps
Note-taking should be a given, but for many meetings it’s not. If, like most professionals, your meetings are still fully virtual, take the opportunity to set the next one apart with the use of a collaborative tool. Google Docs is a nice start, but we recommend going a step further.
Choose a digital whiteboard like Mural or Miro, both of which have generous free trial periods for new users. These allow people to record ideas and collaborate in real time, using visual structures as simple as SWOT analysis or as advanced as the Business Model Canvas.
For regular team meetings
4. Make “meeting facilitator” a rotating role among the team
When gathering your team on a regular (perhaps weekly) basis to go over regular updates, it can be refreshing to share facilitator duties from week to week. This gives people not in charge of a team the chance to polish their hosting skills and also gives the group a break from hearing the same voices drive a recurring discussion.
5. Alongside regular updates, include a prompt that changes by the week
At Do Tank, we follow a regular format consisting of individual updates for the first half of each weekly team meeting. More exciting, though: the second half changes from week to week, based on a prompt that the week’s facilitator shares a day or two in advance.
The prompt can be a call for solutions to a pressing problem we face, a request for social media content, or even a lighthearted ask for cooking and recreation ideas. On Friday, each person shares their response to that prompt. Where relevant (or when the ideas are really good), these are incorporated into our work plans for the coming week.
6. Seek opportunities to get people out of their routines
This idea has been deployed widely in 2020, but it’s worth repeating here. Get people away from their home offices (or off their couches) and into a new space for a change!
One great option is to make some meetings audio-only so people can take a walk. When that’s not possible, it’s still good to suggest that people take your meeting in an outdoor space with Wi-Fi, whether their balcony, a deck/patio, or even the front stoop.
For special meetings or virtual events
7. Create virtual backgrounds for participants to use
You don’t need to be an artist (or even have any on your team) to make special events more memorable through the use of assigned virtual backgrounds.
Are you having an all-employee meeting via Zoom? Leverage Google Images and assign each participant a background that pertains to their function or the city they’re based in, allowing folks to more easily understand where others are coming from if they don’t know all of their colleagues well.
Kicking off a partnership among multiple companies? Create a simple background for each person with PowerPoint, using their company’s logo and atop a secondary color. (e.g. yellow logo over a red background for participants from McDonald’s).
The best part of following this tip: You’ll be able to take a dazzling screenshot at the beginning or end in which everyone’s backgrounds form a mosaic that reflects the functions, companies or places that were represented.
8. Play music during arrivals, breaks, and the conclusion
Think back to the last conference you attended. As folks took their seats in a ballroom to hear introductory remarks or a keynote speaker, there were almost certainly some cues that raised or lowered the energy as needed. (e.g. upbeat music plays as people arrive, lights are lowered as the show begins)
Even for a virtual meeting, this can be a great pattern to follow. Zoom, especially, makes it easy for a host to share their system audio from YouTube or Spotify. Take the time to choose some mood-appropriate music at the start or break time of your next sizeable, lengthy meeting. Folks will really appreciate the care you take to enhance their experience—and they might be impressed with your taste in music!
9. Send small thank-you gifts to any external participants
While we’re mostly apart and foregoing in-person events, the personal touch becomes that much more important. We recommend sending a token of your appreciation to any special guests—especially those from outside your organization like speakers, advisors, or customers who gave you feedback.
This can take the form of a handwritten note, samples of your product, or a small gift card. If you take the time to thank people in this way, it will not go unnoticed.
After you’ve applied some of the above suggestions, we would love to hear how your meetings have changed—and hopefully improved! Drop us a note via email@example.com, or tweet @dotankdo. Let’s start a conversation about memorable meetings!