Since its launch in 2013, Slack has positioned itself as a way to replace email.
Seven years and an IPO later, we suspect the communication platform could also replace meetings—at least some of the time.
From automation capabilities to searchable, real-time chat, Slack has enough handy features to help teams collaborate more effectively when crowding around a conference table might not make sense.
But only when you get it right.
In this article, we’ll outline how to have a meeting over Slack. We’ll also break down five different meeting types that will benefit the most from leveraging the platform.
Here’s how to get started:
Step 1: Know when Slack is appropriate
Technology makes meetings better. A simple PowerPoint presentation once revolutionized the way people share ideas and information.
But problems can ensue when technology impedes the goal of a meeting. For example, if a customer success director wanted to review team progress against quarterly KPIs, using a PowerPoint would be an appropriate choice.
On the other hand, if they needed to build enthusiasm about a challenging new initiative, it would make the most sense to meet in a more personalized and empathic way.
The same goes for a CEO looking to create a strong emotional connection with the entire company. An email or memo wouldn’t cut it.
The truth is, there are many times when it makes sense to pull people into the same space for a chat, but there are also many opportunities to avoid pulling people away from their work—and focus on streamlining your meetings instead.
If your meeting goal is more emotion-driven than cerebral, limit technology use to avoid distancing yourself from the message. Everything else is fair game.
Step 2: Integrate Slack with your favorite tools
Slack boasts an impressive suite of integrations, many of which help teams centralize discussion, document decisions, and share action items.
With the right mix of integrations, your team can achieve more than whisk what happens in Slack into other systems. Many of Slack’s integrations will also automate tasks, including:
- Check-in apps
- Calendar/scheduling apps
- Meeting notes/document sharing apps
- Apps that convert messages into tasks in Slack
Given the convenience and significant time-savings possible with integrations, anyone thinking about running more meetings on Slack would be wise to explore their options.
By connecting Slack with meeting note apps like Hugo, each member of your meeting can collaborate on notes during the meeting—and you can fire off tasks and information to whoever needs it after.
Step 3: Reinforce your follow-up plan
Expanding your meetings to include Slack isn’t entirely set it and forget it. Even the most sophisticated and integrated setups still require awareness and investment to succeed.
In other words, all the best practices around meetings—such as setting concrete action items and assigning tasks with deadlines—still very much apply.
For example, if you were planning to push action items from Slack to a Trello board, you’d probably want to spend some time preparing your team for the change.
In all likelihood, this would include training people on how to get the most from the integration—whether that means updating colleagues on their progress or assigning action items to others.
With the right blend of technological prowess and employee engagement, having meetings with Slack can help drive visibility and accountability long after a meeting ends.
Meetings that make sense in Slack
While Slack may not be an appropriate choice for all meetings, there are several meeting types that will work better on Slack than in other formats, including in-person. There are also a few that will come down to individual preferences.
There’s no doubt that Slack has reduced the number of company-wide announcement emails, but the platform has also decreased their meeting equivalent: the one-way broadcast.
The one-way broadcast is a scenario where everyone in the office huddles in the largest area possible to learn about the company’s new healthcare plan or recycling policy.
This communication may be necessary, but forcing employees to drop what they’re doing to share relatively low-stakes information isn’t.
With Slack, broadcasting a one-way message is a matter of pinging the right channel:
- Ping #general for company-wide announcements
- Ping custom channels for department announcements
- Create group DMs for specific announcements that don’t involve a predefined team
Whether they happen daily or once every two weeks, the standup has extended beyond engineering teams to include any group of knowledge workers tasked with regular status reports.
But standup meetings can also become tedious. For larger teams especially, listening to everyone report on what they’re working on, what they’ve completed, and what they plan to do next, can eat up considerable time.
There’s also the possibility that not everyone needs this level of visibility into what their coworkers are doing to advance their own work.
Instead of turning stand-ups into a sprawling affair, try making use of Slack’s /remind command. This handy automation will automatically trigger a push notification to your chosen channel based on the specific day, time, and cadence selected.
This will enable your team to easily report on their progress, provide visibility to their teammates, and get back to work just as quickly.
Traditional brainstorming usually works better at the individual level than it does in groups.
Despite this, managers often make the mistake of pulling their teams into a room expecting that they’ll spontaneously produce solutions to a pressing challenge on the spot.
This approach usually amplifies the risks of a normal meeting, with vocal people speaking too much while quieter people fade into the background.
Using Slack for brainstorming sessions offers an opportunity to bypass these social dynamics.
Whether you create a channel specifically for brainstorming or rely on your team’s main channel, start by scheduling time on everyone’s calendar to formalize their participation. Then provide them with the prompt and encourage folks to flood the channel with their ideas.
Whoever misses the meeting can review the responses later. More importantly, once the session is over, you’ll have documented everyone’s ideas in a shared location.
Slack’s functionality goes well beyond instant messaging. With its built-in Calls feature, for example, you can hop on a call with a colleague in a single click. In another click, you can enable video.
But one of Slack’s most cutting edge features is collaborative screen sharing. When two or more people participate in an audio or video call, one person can enable screen sharing while everyone else—including the screen sharer—can interact with elements on the screen.
This is an especially useful feature for training remote colleagues and team members. With screen sharing, you can guide people through new products and processes and invite their active participation to cement learnings.
Review and approval meetings
Another meeting type that benefits greatly from collaborative screen sharing is the review or approval meeting.
Whether two colleagues need to collaborate on a critical presentation, or a designer needs to talk through a problem with a developer, reviewing project or design specs is arguably one of the best ways to have a meeting over Slack.
The unique combination of audio, screen sharing, and chat means that meeting participants have multiple ways to get their point across—the essence of flexible communication.