Why so many people are frustrated with online meetings and what you can do to avoid it
As we all know, in the “new normal” online meetings have become an essential part of collaboration. And whether they are completely online for all or in a hybrid context, doesn’t matter. The latter makes it just slightly more complex.
When reading surveys about online meetings you always get a wide spectrum of opinions about whether or not they are good and effective and whether people like them or even hate them. Part of these opinions are obviously influenced by how effective the chair of the meeting, leads/facilitates it. The other part is highly influenced by personal preferences of face-to-face vs. online meetings. And even this preference can already result from good or bad experiences people had!
Over recent weeks I’ve found that quite a significant number of people who had been enthusiastic about online meetings are more and more fed up with them. Digging deeper in these conversations it becomes clear that the main reason why they are fed up is the sheer number of meetings they are called in and the deterioration of the quality of meetings they are asked to attend. I’m convinced that this can be avoided very easily. In the following I will share four tips how you, as the chair or leader of an online meeting, can avoid people being fed up attending online meetings, maybe even being excited to be in a meeting with you as chair.
The four tips in short:
- Critically review whether you need a meeting for the subject you have in mind
- Information sharing should happen asynchronously and not in your online meeting
- Engage everyone who attends in an interactive exchange and collaboration
- Only call people to your online meeting who add value and get value from it
Actually, when I think about it, these four prerequisites basically apply to all other meetings just as much. Online meetings have the additional challenge, though, that it is even easier to get distracted and much harder to keep people engaged.
Now let me explain in some more detail what I mean with these tips.
1. Critically review the need
It seems that people act more out of reflex to call a meeting to discuss something when working over distance or working from home as they can no longer meet at the coffee machine to have a quick chat about a subject, they need input for. Sometimes these questions can be discussed in a chat function of your company’s messenger system. Alternatively, you can establish a virtual coffee corner to meet online with people for a quick chat. I had published a blog about the idea of a virtual coffee corner quite some time ago, long before the pandemic hit. A relatively new system I see most appropriate for this would be a platform in which you can create an open room, people can go in and out and have a chat in pairs or a smaller group without any facilitation needed. It is called wonder.me .
2. Asynchronous information sharing
The worst you can do is read through a document or present information in a monologue in your online meetings. There is nothing more boring than to sit in front of the computer screen and listen to monologue while you have all sorts of distractors around you, either at home or even in the office space. Online meetings should be used to discuss the information rather than receive it. Make it a habit to share information before a meeting with the request to read and then discuss what needs to be discussed.
3. Aim for high engagement
When people are engaged in interactive collaboration and discussions, they get motivated because they feel that they are heard and can contribute rather than have to play a passive role. Hence, whatever you put on the agenda in your online meetings ensure that you work through it in an interactive way and call on people for contributions when they have been more on the silent side.
4. Create value
Very often I hear from those who are frustrated that they are put into a passive, spectator/listener role in overcrowded meetings. They attend because they have been asked to but more often than not see how they can add value to what is being addressed or what value they would get out of this meeting.
I have previously written a blog about being more selective on who to invite and maybe even invite people only to a part of a meeting rather than having them attending it full-time. Then they can add value and get value from very specific parts of the meeting that are of interest and important to them.
To avoid that people are fed up with your online meetings you should be very conscious about whether or not the subject matter really needs a meeting in the first place and who should be there to add value or get value from the discussion.
Ensure that your meeting is really engaging and involves everyone who attends.
Each attendee should feel that (s)he got value out of attending.
And if you want to discuss your particular situation in more detail feel free to …