7 Habits for Maintaining Efficiency in Online Meetings

December 7, 2023

高效能會議的 7 個習慣!遠端工作靠它保持線上開會效率

Photo by Moyo Studio from iStock

【The article wants you to know】
1. Why are online meetings always lengthy and unfocused?
2. 7 essential meeting habits for remote workers
3. Things that must be done before, during, and after the meeting

Sometimes, during meetings, everyone engages in casual conversations, leading to prolonged discussions on a matter that take up a lot of time, yet result in little to no progress.Other times, everyone works hard during the meeting, but discussions drag on for too long and lose focus, making meetings a tiring affair.

I'm also part of the workforce, facing many internal company administrative meetings, client project meetings, and sometimes even meetings that require negotiation and decision-making. Looking back at my own experiences with various lengthy and efficient meetings, I can contrast the two and perhaps distill seven habits for making meetings more "high-performance" from my own experiences.

You might notice that the title of this article borrows from Stephen Covey's classic work "The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People." Of course, I'm not a management guru. The seven habits listed here are just from my personal experience, so I also welcome everyone to discuss and share your views.

Before the meeting, there is a basic thing that must be done: "Prepare the contents you need to report." If I need to discuss a product with a client, I have to prepare market analysis data. If I need to explain project progress, I have to prepare a work report.

Because it's so basic, it's not included in the seven habits below. So, starting from the prepared meeting materials, what else can we do for a high-performance meeting? These habits include actions before, during, and after the meeting.( You can refer to this article from two years ago for more information: How do I conduct efficient meeting discussions with "effective" planning? )

1. List the Key Issues to Be Confirmed for This Meeting

Meetings sometimes accidentally lose focus, with everyone chatting about everything under the sun or discussing whatever comes to mind, eventually straying off-topic and prolonging unnecessary discussion time.

Sometimes there is an agenda for the meeting, but sometimes not. Regardless, I always have a habit of listing the key points I want to discuss and the questions I want to confirm for this time. The so-called "list of key issues" is not about reporting data, but about what issues within it really need to be clarified? What are the real highlights worth emphasizing?

I usually ask myself, assuming there is little meeting time, assuming it's my turn to speak only at the end with no time left, but what are the key points and questions I must confirm?

I need this list whether or not I am the meeting facilitator.

If I am the facilitator, having a list of key issues means I know when the discussion is off-topic and can bring the meeting back to the main axis of discussion. If I am just a reporter, having a list of key issues also lets me know how to explain succinctly and what key points I should spend time discussing.

2. Arrange the Discussion Logic for Key Issues

Sometimes, meetings can get stuck on certain critical issues, resulting in an endless loop of unresolved discussion. Meetings can feel chaotic, leaving one feeling clueless about the overall structure of the project despite extensive discussion.

After listing out the key issues, I adopt another habit: I plan the order and flow of the discussion concerning these key points and questions. I rearrange these key issues and questions logically, starting with the simpler, more straightforward ones before leading into the more complex discussions.

I often ask myself, how should I sequentially introduce these points and questions to persuade others?

This habit helps build confidence in you during the meeting and eases into difficult topics from simple beginnings, making the whole process smoother.

3. Confirm My Own Answers and Bottom Line for the Questions

At times during meetings, when key issues are discussed, everyone might be unsure of the answers or whether certain actions are possible, preventing decision-making and leading to endless discussions.

Certainly, there will be challenging decisions to make, but after setting the order of key issues, another habit I have is to think about possible answers to these questions in advance or determine my bottom line for them. If the bottom line is not for me to decide, I will consult with the decision-making manager before the meeting and then proceed to meet with the client.

I ask myself, what is my best current answer if no one has a better one for this issue? What is my ultimate bottom line if the other party makes a demand?

These first three steps are interconnected; without a prepared list of issues, how would one prepare the bottom-line answers?

And once I’ve prepared my own answers, I can respond decisively during the meeting, easily adapt to unexpected situations, adjust, or even overturn previous plans if necessary.

4. Begin by Explaining the Meeting's To-Do List

Especially during planning and brainstorming sessions, participants may come with a casual mindset, and the meeting can easily become a mere chat, with no conclusive results achieved.

At the beginning of the meeting, if possible, I usually explain the list of key points and questions we aim to discuss - essentially, the logically ordered discussion list from the second habit.

I would say, today's meeting will progressively discuss these issues, and then we need to confirm what conclusion?

It only requires a brief explanation, possibly less than a minute, but this simple action serves two purposes.

Although it might not stop people who love to digress, it gives us a legitimate reason to steer the conversation back, like "Let's return to the next key point I mentioned earlier," and it makes it easier for everyone to accept when the conversation is redirected.

5. Pre-Meeting Note Preparation

Of course, we all take meeting notes.

However, I have a habit of preparing my meeting notes 'before' the meeting. That is, I note down the list of questions I want to discuss, my answers, and thoughts in advance. Then I proceed to the meeting. What notes should I take during the meeting then?

My meeting notes mainly record: What adaptations do I need to make next, and should the subsequent question in the discussion be adjusted?

Since I've already noted the main points and answers before the meeting, the notes during the meeting mainly focus on how to make the following part of the meeting more efficient. What did I hear from the other party, and what will be my response or inquiry? How can I adjust the process to facilitate smoother discussion?

6. Confirm All Conclusions at the End

When the meeting ends, everyone might remember the latter part of the discussion but forget the earlier parts. At this time, I have the habit of reiterating each issue's conclusion. It doesn't take more than a minute, but it has many benefits.

Summarizing the meeting conclusions helps everyone to confirm that there are no issues with each conclusion and gives a quick overall understanding of the meeting.

Of course, it is best to email a summary of these conclusions to everyone immediately after the meeting.

7. Discuss the Next Steps for Each Participant

A single meeting might discuss an entire project's process, which is a long-term and massive task for everyone involved. However, such meetings might not necessarily kickstart the project's progress immediately after returning to work.

So I have one last habit: after explaining all of the meeting's conclusions, I ask everyone, "What are our next steps?" It might be that Esor needs to draft an outline, A needs to prepare a contract, and C needs to send the meeting record to the relevant people and collect feedback.

I am accustomed to confirming at the end of the meeting what actions can be "immediately performed" upon returning. If the action is not immediate, a prompt check-in time should be set.

With these meeting habits, in my experience, it is easier to create high-efficiency meetings that move faster, end on time, and result in effective actions after the meeting.


This article is reprinted from:電腦玩物 (article)

(This article is translated by the Digital Nomad editor group.)

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異塵行者 Esor Huang

異塵行者 Esor Huang

Esor Huang, the founder of "電腦玩物" , is dedicated to documenting insights on mobile tool usage, and how to applying technology tools to work and life. He also shares tips on time management and work efficiency. The blog attracts over sixty thousand daily views, with a total viewership exceeding ninety million.