Coming Out of the Pandemic, How Do We Handle Meetings?


Like everyone else, for the last year and a half I’ve been on nonstop Zoom and Microsoft Teams calls. With the pandemic, we were having virtual meetings because many of us were working from home. For me, I had been doing virtual meetings for years. In my current role as an advisor, I work alone a lot, so I was meeting virtually even prior to the pandemic.


However, during the past several months, I have noticed that we have been developing some bad muscle memory when it comes to meetings. What do I mean by that? If you start golfing without any sort of instruction or coaching, you’ll probably develop some bad habits in your swing. Once you develop those bad habits, they are very hard to unlearn. That’s true with any sport.


I think we have done that in the last 1 ½ years in virtual meetings; we have developed some bad habits that will translate over to our in-person meetings. I understand that some meetings will remain virtual. It’s just more convenient.


However, there are some meetings that will go back to being in person. Yet, during these virtual meetings, people have developed bad habits that need to be unlearned.


Let’s discuss these bad habits, so you can easily unwind your muscle memory before you start having bad meetings in person.


Bad Habits


The first bad habit we started during the pandemic is having too many people in meetings.  I join calls all the time when there are 10 people in a meeting when there should only be 3 or 4. There are far too many people attending meetings that they don’t need to be there. This bad habit was present before COVID-19, but it exploded during the pandemic.


Part of the reason why we began attending too many meetings is that we were all looking for something productive to do. You could sit there in a meeting and look productive, hear what was going on, but not participate. One way to combat this is, if you sit in a meeting, you should be participating. If you need information from a meeting, someone can send it to you later. If you need a measurement of whether someone should be in a meeting, ask the question: Is the person going to participate in the meeting? If not, the person doesn’t need to be there.


The second bad habit we have developed comes out of the first habit. Since we attend too many meetings, we end up doing work during the meetings. I have been watching meetings recently, and I have noticed people doing other work. They may be looking at the screen, but you never see their hands. You can also see by the way that their eyes are darting around that they are looking at different parts of the screen. (By the way, I have done it too.)


Can you imagine when we go back to in-person meetings, and someone keeps droning on? You’re going to say, “I just want to go back to work.” You have developed this habit of doing work while people drone on. What are you going to do during an in-person meeting? Are you going to open up your laptop during the middle of a meeting and start working? It’s easy to fake it in virtual meetings, but in the in-person meetings, it’s going to be hard to do that.


Pro tips: If you are in a virtual meeting, ask to see people’s hands. Have your hands visible as much as possible during a virtual meeting because that shows full participation. If I am sitting there and I can see people’s hands, there’s a very good chance they are not doing something else. Also, use your posture to show that you are engaged in a meeting. I like to sit forward to show that I am listening.


Collision Course


In a virtual setting, people are still able to maintain their workload while attending too many meetings. However, when we go back to in-person meeting, those two things—attending too many meetings and working during meetings—will collide and something will have to give. You will either have to not attend so many meetings or work during those meetings. One of the two has to give. I want to put forth this advice: Attend fewer meetings.


Death by Meeting


Go grab Patrick Lencioni’s book, Death by Meeting. As we go back to in-person meetings, Lencioini’s book is the number one book we should be reading. His book does a great job outlining what the best meeting rhythms are, and it also tells us how to conduct meetings.


When you go back to in-person meetings, you will have to hit the ground running with really great meeting management. If you don’t have it, you’re going to be in trouble.


Pro Tip: You will still have remote people. The good thing that has come out of the pandemic is that technology has taken light year advancements in virtual meetings. Make the investment in technology for meetings. Just recently, I bought an Owl, a virtual meeting assistant, which has a 360-degree camera and focuses on whatever person is talking. It cost me $1,000, but it is much cheaper than it would have been just two years ago. For a small investment, you can have really great technology to make your meetings better for the hybrid situation when you have virtual and in-person meetings at the same time.


During the pandemic, there were lots of articles and videos on how to run virtual meetings, but now it’s about how do we run great in-person meetings and make them as user friendly as possible for the remote people.


Improve Communication in Your Business


Since it won’t be possible or realistic to have as many people in as many meetings, your employees won’t get as much communication as when they attended all those virtual calls. So, you have to do a better job at communication in your business. You have to get back to working in Slack, Teams, or using email. Using verbal communication or company newsletters is okay too — just as long as you have really great cascading communication. Find what type of communication works for your business and do it.


Every business I visited pre-pandemic was always concerned about improving communication. It was always one of the weaknesses on their SWOT analysis. In fact, I never saw communication listed as a strength.


As we come out of the pandemic, we have to be mindful of how to have good communication if we all expect to be on the same page. We must have fewer meetings, but better communication. In order to do this, we must find the type of technologies that work best for our companies. In the meetings that we do attend, we must run them better. So go grab Death by Meeting to find out how to solve your problem of poorly run meetings.


Written By: Wade Wyant

Red Wagon Advisors, West Michigan Scaling Up Coach