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Online meetings need more purpose

Online internal company meetings, where they’re happening, are taking the place of more than conventional round-table events in the office’s Meeting Room. For companies who have many of their staff working from home, online meetings have to take the place of casual conversations too.

For that reason, many of these meetings are including too many people by default, and some participants feel they have to ‘attend’ and ‘contribute’ just to remind everyone they still exist, and are working hard. In reality, they’d be contributing more by not wasting their time in a meeting which really didn’t need them.

As much as any physical meeting, online ones need focus and a really tight, well-signposted agenda. Anything that doesn’t need discussion, leading to an action, possibly shouldn’t be there. I recently went through the agenda of a meeting for an organisation I’m a member of, and could easily argue that not a single item needed a meeting. Sure, it was nice to wave to everyone, but we could have done that with ‘virtual drinks’ on a Friday night.

The worst items of all are ‘reports’ from someone, followed by: “Any comments?”. That doesn’t need a meeting. Why not just send the report as an email?

I’d also suggest that online meetings can be more productive if the number of participants is minimised. Perhaps members should opt in, instead of opt out, and somehow not be made to feel lazy or antisocial for not attending.