A few years ago, I wrote a blog called ‘What would Bear Grylls do?’ (WWBGD?).  It was all about embracing your inner no-nonsense survival expert in day-to-day office life to in order to be more efficient and productive.  At the time, I was talking about ‘pointless’ emails, and the fact that the adventurer was more likely to be found sucking the inside out of grubs than sending an email that featured inane chit-chat, pointless questions or vague answers.  However, I’m sure that even Mr Grylls had to come in out of the wilderness to make some video calls this Spring/Summer, so I started thinking about applying the WWBGD? reasoning to the world of online meetings...

Here are my top meeting tips, according to the WWBGD? criteria:

1.) Have a meeting plan – What do you need to discuss? Are there any issues that need to be resolved or actions that need to be finalised so that work that you are doing can move forward? Make a list (and ask other attendees for their view prior to the meeting too, if appropriate, so that if you’ve forgotten something they can highlight it) and aim to stick to it.  If you’re still working from home, you may not have spoken to another adult human for days, so you might be tempted to have a good catch up, but perhaps that could be scheduled outside of working hours as a ‘virtual vino’ or ‘coffee and chat’? If you can, try to steer focus if the meeting goes wildly off tangent. Obviously, if it’s an important and unforeseen issue, that’s fine, but if the priority for the meeting was to sort out an action plan and it hasn’t happened, you’re just going to need another meeting! And that means less time in the great outdoors, making a shelter out of moss.

2.) Keep to your scheduled time – as closely as possible. And don’t be late! If everyone on the call knows that everything needs to be covered in 30- or 60-minutes, they are less likely to feel compelled to share long and rambling, potentially irrelevant stories! Yes, people might be working from home but that doesn’t mean that the only thing they’ve got planned for the day is a meeting – it’s probably one small item on a 3-foot long to-do list, so keeping things prompt really helps to keep everyone happy! And when it comes to being late, it’s worth doing everything in your power before the event to try and ensure that you aren’t (though I know that sometimes, unforeseen things can happen - rockfalls, flash floods, having to jump out of a helicopter, etc.).  One thing that I highly recommended is to test the tech beforehand! Make sure that you have the latest version of the software installed and that everything is functional prior to the meeting so that you don’t have to update it a minute before the meeting starts. It’s all about that good old scouting motto – ‘Be prepared!’

3.) Mute yourself if appropriate. I imagine Bear as a good listener around a campfire, so I’m sure he’s a good listener on Zoom too. If you’re not speaking, consider muting yourself so that any background noise from your office or home doesn’t distract the other attendees.  Similarly, if there are distractions in the background, try a digital background or turning video off after initially joining. It’s always nice to show the other attendees that you are there and not calling from your bed/bath/a cave in Wales and that you’ve made an effort to get dressed, but if the other attendees are happy for you to switch off video if you are in a distracting environment, it helps to keep focus on the matters at hand.

4.) Stay safe out there… Just as Bear has a team on standby to help protect him should things take a turn for the worse, there are plenty of things that you can do to protect your online meeting!  For example, if you use a unique room ID and password for your scheduled meetings, and only share with the people who need it (not widely online!), you help reduce the risk of being ‘Zoom Bombed’, when random strange and often malicious individuals hijack your call and harass attendees. Another step you could take is to consider disabling screen sharing if you are the host.

5.) And finally… do you actually need to have a meeting? Could everything you need to discuss be covered in an email? Does everyone you’ve invited NEED to be there? I bet that Bear would much rather be out dangling off a precipice or fishing with his teeth than being on an unnecessary Zoom call, so this question, above all others, highlights the importance of the WWBGD approach to online meetings.





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