7 questions to ask before scheduling a meeting

It’s time to question the norm about meetings, says Jenny Herbison. Here she suggests ways to change our approach in 2023

In today’s digital era, the way we connect, collaborate, and communicate has experienced a paradigm shift. With the transformation brought about by technological advancements and the omnipresent shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, we find ourselves at a pivotal juncture in 2023.

The pandemic sent companies scrambling to adapt to remote work, often without adequate preparation. In the years since, many businesses are sliding back into old habits as they try to navigate hybrid, asynchronous work.

A recent AT&T study shows that most companies are embracing hybrid work without a well-defined strategy but also worryingly predicts that, by 2024, over half of all work will be done remotely. Additionally, a 2022 study by Forrester revealed that disorganised software adoption has resulted in organisational gaps and blind spots. This fragmented setup hampers team collaboration and leaves leaders in the dark about their operations. As an increasing number of companies grapple with these challenges, meetings have turned into the go-to communication method for many.

The most pivotal question of them all. Are meetings always the best approach?

But in this new world where teams are distributed across the globe and we have access to more tools and technology for collaborative working than ever, are our business meetings still serving their purpose, or are they just becoming obsolete rituals?

Here are seven questions we should all be asking ourselves before hitting that ‘schedule’ button. While these questions are undoubtedly practical, they also offer more than just advice on efficient meetings – they pose a broader reflection on how we work, communicate, and prioritise our time.

1. What’s the goal of your meeting?

When you set up a meeting, how often do you pause to think about its real purpose? The danger of routine is that it becomes just that – routine. By defining clear objectives and circulating an agenda in advance, not only are you respecting your colleagues’ time, but you’re also valuing your own. It’s a nod to intentionality in the workplace. If you really want to ensure your meeting is focussed and productive, consider asking all attendees to share their thoughts and agenda items ahead of time and then make sure each participant reviews the materials before the call.

2. Who needs a seat at the table?

The culture of ‘more the merrier’ has no place in effective meetings. Over-inviting doesn’t just stretch the meeting’s duration but can dilute its purpose. So, let’s start valuing quality over quantity. Those who need to be in the loop but not in the meeting can always be updated afterward.

3. The physical vs. digital dilemma

While face-to-face interactions are great in certain cases, it’s high time you shed your traditionalist view of meetings. Remote work isn’t just a trend; it’s our reality. The convenience, flexibility, and inclusivity of virtual meetings often far outweigh the benefits of in-person meetings, especially when teams are dispersed. Virtual meetings are also less disruptive to your workday since you avoid the commute or the journey to the conference room.

4. Brevity is brilliance

We’ve all been in those meetings. The ones that drag on with no end in sight, where the point gets lost in a sea of tangents. Short, focussed meetings are more than just efficient – they respect the mental bandwidth of participants. Let’s prioritise purpose over duration.

5. Timing is everything

Scheduling meetings isn’t just about finding an open slot in your calendar. With the global nature of business, it’s about recognising and respecting the personal lives and time zones of others. Challenge yourself to find times that work for all, not just the majority.

6. The digital toolbox

It’s 2023, and we have a plethora of digital tools at our disposal. Why aren’t we making the most of them in our meetings? From virtual whiteboards to collaboration platforms, technology can transform our meetings from mundane to engaging. By leveraging these, you’re not just keeping up with the times; you’re harnessing the power of innovation.

7. Is the meeting really necessary?

This is perhaps the most pivotal question of them all. Are meetings always the best approach? With the collaboration tools available, often a quick chat, shared document, or brainstorming session on a platform can achieve what hours in a meeting room would. When a meeting is proposed add into the process the question: “Do we need a meeting for this or will collaborating in a different way be more effective?”

But beyond these seven questions, what stands out is a deeper narrative. It’s not just about having efficient meetings; it’s about redefining how we view collaboration and productivity. As many businesses place emphasis on streamlining processes and enhancing efficiency signals a broader shift in our work culture – a move away from what’s traditional towards what’s effective.

In the changing dynamics of the modern workplace, meetings should not be a default, but a deliberate choice. Their form and format should be fluid, adapting to the needs of the participants and the objectives at hand.

To balance out the challenges of asynchronous working it more important than ever to question your company’s meeting culture and set a new norm.

Jenny Herbison, VP Marketing, Craft Docs

Jenny Herbison

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