We had a plan to help make 2020 a year of big changes in the way people had meetings at work.
And then, on the eve of publishing Vital Meetings, something else happened to meetings. Everyone left the office.
Not just our office. Every office.
As the world shifts to physical distancing, meetings at work have already changed for the foreseeable future. For many, without the routines of face-to-face communication, meeting quantity and quality has surged from a minor nuisance to a complete disaster.
Even in the face of widespread working from home, the main goals of Vital remain to help people have:
- Fewer meetings
- Shorter meetings
- Better meetings
And so, despite all that is happening, I’d like to introduce you to Vital, a simple new framework for better meetings, where ever they may be.
Vital began as an investigation into the habits and best practices of companies renowned for their effective meeting culture — companies like Amazon, Atlassian, Zoom, Slack, and Apple.
In the current climate, their meeting practices and secrets for meetings seem extra relevant. With school closures, social distancing, and economic uncertainty looming, the stakes for how we spend our time at work have never been higher.
To start having fewer, shorter, and better meetings in the age of COVID-19, there are only a handful of things you need to know. Below is the Cliff’s Notes version, and if you like what you find here, you can get the whole Vital Meetings handbook for free and read it in 15-20 minutes.
Step 1: Vital Core Values
Our research shows that better meetings are the outcome of embracing four values.
1. Meeting scarcity over meeting abundance.
Meetings are not free. They require time and focus — your team’s most valuable resources.
2. Thoughtful scheduling over broad invitations.
Good meetings are intentional in a way that respects both your colleagues and their time. No one is in a meeting except for the people who must be there. And no meeting goes on longer than necessary.
3. Active discussion over mind-numbing presentation.
Meetings are designed to be collaborative, not unilateral. Active discussion engages the entire room, generating significantly more value than dull, one-way presentations.
4. Freely sharing over knowledge silos.
Meetings are a shared activity. Information from them and about them should be actively shared, even with people who did not participate in the meeting.
Step 2: Every Meeting Needs PANTS.
If a meeting doesn’t have PANTS then it isn’t Vital.
PANTS stands for Purpose, Agenda, Notes, Tasks, and Shared. No meeting should be planned unless it warrants all of these components.
Always having a purpose and agenda ensure that everyone can show up prepared to every meeting. Taking and sharing notes and tasks ensures that what you decide to do actually happens.
Step 3: Put your purpose, agenda, and notes in your calendar entry
With all the chaos of COVID-19, meeting organizers must do everything they can to make things easy on meeting participants — which means putting a meeting’s purpose, agenda, notes, and tasks in the same accessible, shareable place every time.
That place is the calendar entry.
When you schedule a meeting, you send a calendar invite to everyone. It’s the only artifact that is guaranteed to be common, shared, and accessible among all meeting attendees.
Link to or post your Agenda, Notes, Task Assignments — everything from your meeting should be accessible right there from the calendar.
Those three simple habits — some core values, a funny acronym, and better calendar entries for your meeting invites — will make for fewer, shorter and better meetings.
Download the free Vital Meetings handbook to learn the full framework and also receive:
- 7 ways to cut down meeting time
- 8 tips for better discussions in meetings
- Examples of how to create effective agendas and notes
- Printable cheat sheets to post in your conference room when you’re back in the office