Multiplying Meeting Efficiency — 2.06

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Today I will reveal a secret. The secret is how a company can multiply its meeting efficiency! Over the years we have achieved this level of efficiency consistently. Let’s look at how it’s done.

Time spent in meetings

Drawing of two groups of people. One group sitting around a round table and another group is in a conference room looking at a projector screen.

It’s pretty dramatic how much time we spend on meetings. Many have the opinion that they will spend a lot of time on meetings in the future as well. But, is there a way to be more efficient during meetings? Of course!

Drawing of an online meeting with six different people. Drawing also contains the text: “Online meeting”

The magic of online meetings

We have, by necessity, discovered the magic of online meetings. We can share videos and talk to each other over the internet. The current situation with the pandemic required us to start using this technology properly in a serious manner. As a result, our societies have made a digital leap. I am truly grateful that this leap has taken place.

At Stradigo, we began holding online meetings back in 2016. Once we had discovered the efficiency benefits that online meetings gave us compared to face-to-face meetings, there was no going back to the traditional way of doing things. That is pretty exciting. Our customers agreed with this. Working online was much more efficient. An infinite stream of meetings very often bogs down employees, so efficiency is highly appreciated. 80-90% of my meetings have been held online already for several years.

So, what is the feature that makes online meetings preferable? A lot of people say that they prefer a physical meeting. Of course, it’s a more humane way to interact. However, if we look at this from a business perspective, the online meetings are far more efficient timewise. The strategy must also be present in everyday operation. If we desire human interaction, there will be plenty of time to socialize outside our meetings because our meetings are fast and efficient. Everybody wins.

Are we distant after all?

Distance is an interesting word. Distant from what? If you’re working from home, the meeting is nearby. It totally depends on which angle you are looking from. Are you looking at it from my point of view or an employee’s point of view? Attending a distance meeting is also about going to the workplace, isn’t it? It is the perspective that strongly defines whether it is distant or nearby.

The only thing that has started to bug me is people’s timidity to switch their videos on during meetings. I’ve heard all the excuses:

“My hair isn’t straight!”

“Technology isn’t working.”

“My kitchen is too messy!”

Ugh! It’s so easy to change one’s background nowadays. Think if we were as rude when arriving at physical meetings. It’s the same as giving everyone else eye masks so that no one can see you. Come on, show yourself!

Drawing of a screenshare of a “PowerPoint” slide during an online meeting with four people. One person is speaking.

Screen sharing

Another thing which everyone has learned, is sharing their screen. A PowerPoint is screenshared and everyone’s videos are placed on one side of the browser. There are several software available for this.

Microsoft Teams and Zoom, for instance, have spread quickly. For a long time we used Zoom almost exclusively, because back then it allowed us to have hundreds of participants join quickly into the workshops. These days both Zoom and Teams allows us to sort people into smaller breakout rooms for small-scale group work. In the future, we may have even better software to help us out, but for the time being Microsoft Teams and Zoom have worked great for us. 

The fact that one person shares their screen and gives a presentation while others are commenting, is a massive digital leap. Now, I will, however, visualize what the problem is.

Drawing of a screenshare of a “PowerPoint” slide during an online meeting with four people. One person is speaking. Text: “Lot’s of quiet people!”

The fight for airtime

During a meeting, many people stay quiet because they do not want to compete for airtime. Because of this, many great insights and thoughts remain unheard. There could be many reasons. Some people are shy. Some don’t want to compete for attention with attention magnets, the very talkative people. Each company has extroverts and introverts, and everything in between. Even then, the best thoughts and input can reside with the quiet ones. If we only listen to the ones who are talkative, then the best ideas will not emerge. When everyone gets an equal chance to express themselves, that’s when the efficiency starts to increase.

Text: “The 5x Magic…”
A list on a writing surface surrounded by speech bubbles. Text: “Common writing surface”. It describes collaboration with digital software.

Common writing surface

“The 5x Magic!” We can use a common digital writing surface, like a whiteboard! Some have claimed that group efficiency increases significantly there is a common writing surface, a common board, that everyone can edit at the same time. When everybody can be active participants at the same time the meeting efficiency will skyrocket. People can be active participants if they can contribute with editing and commenting no matter who happens to be talking at that specific time in the meeting. When this happens, the meeting experiences The 5x Magic!

Screenshot of a Zoom meeting & Text: "We’re all in the same room!”

Here you see the point in online meetings. I have held workshops with over 150 people, who I can divide into 50 breakout rooms at will. Everyone can contribute input at the same time.

Screenshot of a Zoom meeting, Trello board & Text: “Video + writing surface”

 I use Trello boards as the common writing surface.

Screenshot of a Trello board with the contents of the board in Finnish. The screenshot relates to an Online Workshop.

A board for each meeting

Every meeting has its own separate board, on which the full meeting agenda is clearly visible. The agenda proceeds from left to right. If it is the first time I’m facilitating the meeting with the organization, I always begin the meeting with a briefing where I introduce them to the work process. It’s very simple to understand.

The board layout allows everyone to see and follow what is going on. This includes the introduction and the wrap-up of the meeting. I also collect pulse comments regularly during the meeting, which allows me to keep tabs on how everything is going. Pulse comments are a great way to gather feedback, because from them I learn how we did during the meeting and what should be done in the next steps of the process. Each column on the board represents a specific topic that needs to be covered during the meeting. We go through them one by one and we get input from the meeting participant.

At the end, everyone writes their thoughts about the meeting and what they learned from the experience.  I have also built a course that teaches how to utilize this working method, and it is suitable for a larger group.

People should be activated in different ways during the meeting according to the topic that is being covered. Personal comments and tasks, including groupwork, can be assigned to the various participants. We can also encourage participants to brainstorm. We can identify the best ideas by asking everyone to give thumbs-up to the input people write on the board. By doing all of these things we can turn online meetings into an absolutely solid way of working together. And on top of this, at the end of the meeting we already have everything documented. In a regular meeting all the documentation work would have to be done separately after the meeting. Quite a time sink! Like… it used to go like this:

No more sticky notes!

The old way is to sit in a conference room and post sticky notes on the wall. The wall becomes colorful, but no-one is able to read the text from afar – let alone see the handwriting! When the meeting ends, someone wraps the brown paper into a roll and after two days you finally get the transcription of the sticky notes. What a waste! So slow.

A multitude of unwritten sticky notes on a whiteboard.

With a digital writing board everything is taken care of all at once: The notes are immediately transcribed, they can be opened with a click and discussed about. Everyone is able to comment on the note simultaneously. And every comment is on the same platform automatically. This medium enables meeting efficiency to increase.

A screenshot of a word cloud produced with the survey tool Mentimeter. The word cloud comes from an online video workshop.

I often ask people to give one-word feedback to questions, e.g. “How was the strategy meeting today?” By using software we get hundreds of comments compressed into a word cloud, which makes it easy to see all the feedback. Pretty efficient!

Another benefit with holding online meetings is that we polute much less, since people don’t have to travel. No-one has to drive their car to a meeting. We save time by not commuting. Online meetings also tend to begin punctually, and people rarely come in late (at least in Finland).

Include everyone!

This figure represents a full strategy process that contains workshops and digital boards that people can collaborate on during the process.

Here is an example of our strategy process and its digital boards. We include the staff at the beginning, middle, and end of the process. We hold workshops with volunteers in between these meetings, and every meeting has its own digital board. The agenda is visible, and everything is open for everyone to see. This is full transparency in practice. The boards can also be looked at later if somebody is absent from a meeting or a workshop or wants to make revisions.  

If you learn this facilitation method, you can achieve great efficiency! Tasks are completed faster, and the quality of the output increases because the meeting efficiency gives time to iterate during the meeting. This way, we can get so much more done!

Efficient meetings increase productivity and probably result in more money coming into the business down the road. When the business makes money, it can pay out salaries to its employees. 

Ignite your strategy by multiplying your meeting efficiency! Read more.🔥

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Stradigo is a brand owned by Rdigo Oy (Business-ID: 2120844-1).

Learn more from our Imprint.

Rdigo Oy is registered in Finland as a Limited company. We are a strategy consultancy located in the Helsinki capital region.

We’ve been in business since 2007. The company name comes from the latin word Redigo, meaning both ‘I shape’ & ‘I renew’.

Stradigo combines the word strategy with Rdigo.