Are meetings more effective when there is a ban on all devices?

Some time ago, I was part of a meeting where many people brought out their laptops and started working. They kept glancing at their wristwatches and I could tell most of them would rather be elsewhere. It got me thinking if devices should play a role in productive meetings. If you are reading this article because you want a quick answer, let me tell you I don’t have one. On one hand, I have attended meetings where the use of technology enabled devices allowed for richer engagement. For example, we once used Jamboard to capture ideas from as many people as possible during a meeting. On the other hand, it’s easy for people to whip out their phones and play mobile games under the desk.

No cellphones
Should we put this outside conference rooms
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Bring the right technology to meetings

The basic etiquette for meetings is simple:

  1. Pay attention to the speaker.
  2. Don’t talk while others have the floor.
  3. Don’t try to catch up on work.
  4. Have a notebook for writing important information.
  5. Keep your devices out of sight.

How many of those have you broken recently? The last one is particularly difficult to enforce. We have had a lot more virtual meetings since the pandemic began. This has made it easier for people to carry on a whatsapp chat when they should be listening. Even before more meetings went online, people had the annoying habit of using their phones under the table.

Bored meeting
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A guide to productive meetings

Productive meeting

A phrase I hear a lot lately is “Zoom meetings.” A few weeks ago, a colleague mentioned they had back to back online meetings all day and as such couldn’t do anything else. What annoyed him was not having to attend so many meetings but the fact that most of those meetings were in his words “useless.”

COVID-19 forced people to adapt to new ways of working. Teams could no longer meet in person. This led to a spike in online meetings. However, if you are in back to back meetings 3 days a week, your productivity is going to suffer. When will you have time to work on those action items (action items are being assigned at the end of those meetings, I hope?)

Are your meetings ending on a happy note?
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Before you send that meeting invite

Unopened envelope icons

At some point during the past three months, you have probably attended a lot more online meetings than you normally would. If you are anything like me, you probably wondered why some of those meetings took place or why you were invited in the first place? COVID-19 has changed the way we work. More teams are staying in touch using digital technology. Zoom, the video conferencing app saw its shares increase in value as more people signed up to take part in online meetings.

It is understandable that as we continue to work from home, we will have to attend more online meetings. What many people don’t seem to realise, however, is that an online meeting is similar to a physical meeting in one crucial way: there is no guarantee that the meeting will be productive. A lot of people send out invites to online meetings because they confuse busyness with productive. Their supervisor is no longer breathing over their shoulder so they fear being thought of as slackers if they didn’t convene a meeting every few days.

An outlook calendar page
Let’s find a place for it in my calendar

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Meetings are where ideas go to die

A conference hall set for a meeting

I dislike meetings. Especially those that go on for two hours and the only task you have to do at that meeting is listen. Many meetings can drag on way too long and go beyond schedule. Despite this, a lot of people seem to like meetings because they create the illusion of one having been productive. They are supposed to be places where ideas get discussed. When they run too long, however, most people start checking their phones under the table (if they can get away with it) or even fall asleep.

Meetings are inevitable for some people. If you are one of those people, you have my sympathies. However, there are some policies you can get your organisation to adopt that can make your meetings more productive.

Continue reading “Meetings are where ideas go to die”