Have you ever received a meeting invitation without an agenda? You are blind to the purpose. You moan and groan. You don't have sixty minutes to waste. You decide to accept with great hesitancy. At the start of the meeting, you have other work lined up while casually engaging in the meeting. We all have, more times that we want to admit.
Whether you are the facilitator or an attendee, the first requirement for a productive virtual meeting is to have a formal agenda. It sets the objectives and expectations and identifies any prep work that needs to be completed by the attendees. You need an agenda with four sections to use as your productivity road map.
Section 1 - Welcome and Ice Breaker
During this time of virtual work, opportunities for coworker interaction is minimal. Section 1 of the agenda is the welcome and icebreaker. The meeting facilitator should welcome the attendees and conduct an icebreaker to provide connection for all. You can use two different approaches. The first option is to do an around-the-call approach where each person introduces themselves and states their answers verbally. The second option is to use the chat box where each person types their answer and the facilitator shares to the group. Here are few icebreaker questions:
What is your favorite _______? Why?
What was a high moment/low moment yesterday?
Describe your dream day (weather, activities, etc.).
If you could start a charity, what would it support?
Section 2 - Topics for Discussion or Decision or Both
The next section is the reason for the meeting. The meeting facilitator will state the topic and desired outcome. Is it a topic for discussion only? Is it a topic for decision only? Is it a topic for both a discussion and a decision? Once the expectation is set, the meeting facilitator will turn it over to the subject matter expert who will share additional information necessary to achieve the desired outcome. This section will loop until all topics are addressed.
It is important to have a designated minute taker to capture the key discussion facts and document the decisions, communication requirements and assignments on the agenda for further reference. (We will talk more about meeting roles in our next blog.)
Section 3 - Recap
At the conclusion of the meeting, the facilitator or minute taker will review the decisions, communication needs and any additional information necessary for attendees to leave the meeting with clarity.
For the assignments, it is important to declare the who, what and when of each task and get a verbal "yes" from the responsible party. This is the first step to achieve accountability.
If time allows, an open question and answer session is always helpful. You can also use the chat function as a parking lot and address questions via a follow-up email or at the next meeting.
Section 4 - Closing
The last few minutes of the meeting allows another opportunity for connection. A senior leader, meeting facilitator, key stakeholder or someone of high influence should say words of optimism, encouragement or appreciation to the attendees. The time can also be used for kudos and shout-outs from peer-to-peer. Ending the meeting with positive vibes is critical to engagement and productivity.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the meeting agenda transforms to the meeting minutes. The meeting minutes should be published timely to the attendees and stakeholders via email or a shared document repository.
Now that you know the value of having an agenda for every virtual meeting, always ask for an agenda BEFORE you hit accept on the meeting invitation. Every meeting should have a declared purpose and an agenda to drive high productivity for the organization and the attendees.
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