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Should Your Meeting be an Email?

In today’s business world, most information is communicated through email or messaging applications like Slack. This technological convenience has allowed for a productivity increase in your employees’ 9-5. Stereotypical meetings just don’t cut it anymore. However, companies who opt to only use messaging/email for communication are missing out on several undeniable benefits. 

Face-to-face contact has some high-quality benefits for your business that cannot be achieved through written words. Those who hold a weekly meeting to connect with employees can increase synchronicity towards business goals while concurrently working towards the creation of a more positive company culture. 

The question remains how do you decide what can be discussed through email and what needs to be discussed in a meeting?

Let’s reference Elon Musk’s recent advice regarding business-specific gatherings. He offered 3 rules that help guide his approach to meetings. 

  1. No large meetings
  2. If you’re not adding value, walk out.
  3. No frequent meetings

Any gathering that violates these rules should be reanalyzed. We believe they should be emails. Send the information out via carrier pigeon for all we care – just don’t take away the productivity of 20 different employees every Tuesday afternoon.

There is a strong chance that you do not hold the same amount of workplace clout as Elon. If you walk out of a meeting, everyone will certainly judge you. You will almost definitely face a negative backlash. You have to answer to managers while Elon only answers to shareholders (and even then – he only seems to do so loosely).

No need to make a scene – there are professional ways to do this. For example, reply all to the meeting invite and ask for specific details that make your presence mandatory. Some conversations need to be conveyed to a large group of people – we strongly suggest that those should take place via Slack or email to reduce distraction. The odds of interrupting a valuable workflow drastically increase as the number of participants rises. 

Morgan actually allows you to break up frequent meetings by auto-collecting all the pertinent information normally discussed around a table. No need to attend if everyone already knows your two cents. 

Why Hold a Meeting?

A recent experiment reported by the Harvard Business Review demonstrated the success of face-to-face connections in the workplace. The study made ~50 participants each ask 10 strangers to complete a workplace-specific survey. Half of the volunteers sent requests via email and the other half asked people in person. 

This experiment found that the face-to-face requests were 34 times more likely to receive a positive response.

Communication handled solely through online mediums decreases personal connection. Decreased personal connection increases our willingness to say ‘no’. While saying ‘no’ might help us manage our day-to-day personal schedules, it’s certainly not a reliable long-term plan for success. Virtual questions offer an opportunity to craft the rationale behind their ‘no’. If your desire is to solicit a yes, ask for an answer during your meeting.

Meetings in the workplace are meant to inform, communicate, solve problems, enhance feelings of comradery, and improve performance (among countless other goals). If you don’t have a proper structure for the meeting, this can turn out to be a big waste of time. 

The impact of one person losing the productivity of their morning is bad, but the cumulative result of decreased productivity among 15 employees is devastating for a business. Measure the disruption of their workflow in opportunity cost. Simply put – Don’t waste your time. Don’t waste your colleague’s time. Don’t waste company time.

Structure

The structure of your conversation is pivotal to leading successful meetings. Any agenda that permits productive collaboration is undeniably valuable. A successful meeting will find the perfect balance of structure and flexibility. Send an agenda to your employees a day or two ahead of time – this will give them time to prepare for the objectives you plan to tackle during the meeting. 

Face-to-face interaction with your employees provides an opportunity to see if your point is getting across. It offers a chance to hold an organic discussion. How do you run a meeting that’s productive, keeps your employees’ attention, and creates a pleasant environment? It’s essential to have a primary goal or purpose, use creative visuals, and encourage collaboration. 

Identify Your Purpose

What is the goal of the meeting? Find a solution to a complex issue. Build relationships through teamwork. Get feedback on important subject matters. These are all excellent reasons to hold a meeting.

It’s easy to get off track when leading a group discussion. You don’t ever want to leave the meeting without solving the problem that brought you together in the first place. Remind yourself of this goal throughout the meeting to stay on topic. 

Another reason to hold a meeting would be to provide hands-on training. You’ll be able to get a grasp on whether or not your employees understand the material through their body language and provide time for questions. There won’t be room for confusion or misunderstanding. 

Communication via email often overestimates the recipient’s ability to fully grasp the context of a situation. When we lack information in an email, we often guess and assume the situation. Whereas in a meeting, we can ask directly without waiting 2 hours for an email response.

Get Creative With Visuals

Visuals help to facilitate brainstorming and problem-solving and increase understanding. Powerpoint is obviously the go-to visual aid for meetings, though Prezi is certainly a more captivating way to command the room. Even while using this Powerpoint, you can think outside the box to keep your employees’ attention and get your point across at the same time. 

If you have a basic Powerpoint presentation that forces your employees to read a lot, you might be better off sharing it through email instead. Create a handout of the presentation for everyone to look at and take notes on can make the meeting feel less like a lecture. This also allows employees to reference the handout if their focus heads elsewhere. 

While getting creative with visual aids, make sure you keep your goals in mind. Graphs and whiteboard interactions are associated with increased levels of comprehension. While people are brainstorming ideas, assign a scribe to write ideas down on a whiteboard. This will spark creativity and help you reflect on the process of the meeting. 

Graphs, charts, infographics, and other presentations allow employees to visualize their goals and get a better understanding of where the company stands. They serve to realign attendees to the common, shared goal of your meeting.

Research

Do some light research before the meeting to find any helpful or interesting content. See if you can find any relevant videos that demonstrate good/bad examples. Have your employees point out examples from the videos and discuss new strategies. This is a great way to get your point across and spark a discussion. It’s also something that would be hard to do via email. Email replies are incredibly perplexing when it comes to following the context of a discussion.

Assign research to your employees a few days ahead of time. Each person will likely find something different and have a new perspective to bring to the meeting. This gives everyone time to think about the goal of the meeting. 

Someone might speak up that doesn’t usually participate in the discussion. 10x employees aren’t spending their whole day brainstorming ideas via email. Also, quiet employees have good ideas, too. Allow your employees to go around the room to voice their opinions and bounce ideas off of each other. 

People often draw blanks when asked to come up with something on the spot. There is a time and place for soliciting first impressions but those instances are few and far between. Allow your employees to come to the war room armed with the materials they need to make a strong impression.

Morgan can disseminate the proper information ahead of time and check-in with each attendee to ensure they read the necessary documents before arriving at the meeting. If they haven’t responded to our Slack bot, your meeting lead will know before they walk in the door.

If your workplace meeting achieves strategic goals, effectively communicates information through visuals, and allows for productive collaboration, then you’ve facilitated a successful meeting. You haven’t wasted company time. 

It’s easy to lament one’s current situation while sitting bored in a meeting and it’s easy to believe that your current meeting conversation could’ve been an email. If you spend too much of your time thinking along these lines, then you’re responsible for the direction of your current meeting. Get your head out of the clouds and do something. The opportunity to streamline, improve, enhance, and troubleshoot the meeting lies in your hands. 

If you want to be pragmatic about your approach to meetings, click on the Morgan homepage and learn more right now.

Logan Vantrease

Customer Success Manager at Nextup.ai