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Talking Point – Meetings - some dos and don’ts

It’s funny how things can change without any real conscious effort or intention.

Take meetings.

Before early 2020 when the world changed forever, we mostly used to meet with people in person. The meetings were organised well in advance, with emails often being exchanged over a period of time, sometimes days, to find a time that worked for all parties. This was followed with a formal invitation, usually sent via Outlook.

Enter a pandemic. Everything changes.

Now that so many organisations have their staff working from home, most meetings held are electronic. It’s become de rigueur to assume that everyone should be available all the time to just drop everything and attend an online meeting, usually on Zoom or Teams, and often at short notice. The consultation process seems to have been sidelined, with almost instant availability being expected, or so it seems. Which is fine if you work within a team that’s part of one organisation – these days you can usually check everyone’s calendar to find a time that will work for most of those required to be in the meeting – and the meeting is an internal one.

Spare a thought for your suppliers who have multiple clients to support.

Not so for external suppliers. Some days are just back-to-back online meetings for suppliers. When are they free to actually do any work? Without meaning to be flippant, there can be a bit of truth in the old definition of business meetings – an assembly of two or more people in which minutes are kept and hours are wasted. Since 2020 there have been new sayings appearing (usually on coffee mugs!) but they all touch a nerve. Here’s a few that hit a nerve – “I survived another meeting that should have been an email” and “We will continue to have Zoom meetings until we figure out why the heck we are not getting any work done”.

Joking aside, it can really mess up a day’s productivity when unscheduled meetings are suddenly thrust upon a busy person who is already trying to provide support or complete important work. Whilst a well-run meeting can often save a lot of time and can clarify communication that might be missing in an email, it is still important to properly plan for it and give all the participants enough notice to undertake their own preparations. Sometimes the whole day can be taken up by meetings, and as well as no real work getting done on these days, the meetings become just one big blur unless thorough notes are taken or the meeting is recorded. Even if a meeting is recorded, someone usually needs to transcribe what was discussed and what the outcome was, or what the action points were, so more time is taken up on this.

Advantages of online meetings

On the positive side, having online meetings can save a lot of time, especially if travel is involved. They often result in more people attending, which is great for group meetings like membership associations’ AGMs, though it can be a negative in some situations if there are so many attendees, no-one gets a chance to have their say.

It can also be a great way to form ongoing relationships with people you might never get to meet, especially if they live on the other side of the world.

And they’re usually easier on our carbon footprints because travel isn’t required to attend.

Disadvantages of online meetings

However, the negative to this can be the loss of the warmth that is exchanged in face-to-face meetings, a chance to share some humour, handshakes (though these have become less popular since Covid, for obvious reasons), and the sharing of refreshments – the inevitable coffees and muffins at morning meetings.

In an ideal world it’s good to have a balance of the two options available, if possible, to reintroduce a bit of human interaction and spontaneity, and to also practice your planning and presentation skills.

Online Meeting Etiquette

Following is a list of dos and don’ts when having meetings - though I’m sure it’s nothing new to most people …


  • Consider if you really need to have a meeting – could an email exchange work instead?
  • Invite the right people – don’t include people who are not affected or able to add value
  • Check everyone’s willingness and availability to attend before assuming they’ll be there
  • Create an agenda and circulate it to all attendees in advance of the meeting, preferably when you send them the link for the meeting
  • Assign a chair person for the meeting to keep everyone focused and able to contribute
  • At the start of the meeting introduce everyone and quickly outline why they’ve been invited or the role they play
  • Set a time limit and stick to it (here’s a thought – do people manage time or does time manage people?)
  • Record the discussions either by using the meeting software, the recording function on a mobile phone, or by taking notes


  • Hold a meeting when an email will do
  • Waffle, argue or move off the subject
  • Mute your microphone and forget to unmute it when you want to say something
  • Turn off your camera to avoid being seen or making eye contact with the other participants (it’s akin to wearing sunglasses inside)
  • Walk around if using a mobile device for the meeting – it’s hugely distracting to everyone else
  • Talk over other speakers, though it can be tricky if your internet isn’t great and there are delays
  • Be distracted by other things going on at your end, like children, flatmates, pets or daytime television!

In closing, the jury is still out over which type of meeting is preferable. A quick Google search shows that face-to-face meetings are still more popular for relationship building than virtual meetings, though a virtual meeting is still better for convenience.

Some recent research around this topic includes a study by Great Business Schools which found 84% of people say they prefer in-person meetings, and Bloomberg published an article which identified that useless meetings waste time and $100 million a year for big companies, and that women are more reluctant than men to decline meeting invitations.

Apple Founder, Steve Jobs has been quoted as saying “There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat. That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions.”. Having said that, he did die on 5 October 2011, long before Covid, and when it was still considered normal practice to travel to meetings, in spite of carbon footprints.

I wonder if we’ll see a reduction in creativity as a result of removing the spontaneity and randomness from our meetings?

Perhaps a blog topic for another time…


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