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Meetings Aren’t What They Used To Be. Here’s How To Make The Most Of It.

By Smita Hashim, Director of Product Management - Google Workspace

Date Published: May 6, 2020

The oft-maligned “meeting” is now becoming an essential service to keep us connected as humans.

Let us be honest—what comes to mind when you hear that someone is calling a meeting? For far too many of us, it feels like a mental groan. Meetings are often inefficient, frustrating, and stressful, and many of us would rather avoid them altogether.

One of the most dramatic and not surprising outcomes of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic has been a surge in interactions via video meetings. What was before a corporate paradigm has become the only way for most of us to visually interact with each other.

Meetings Aren’t What They Used To Be. Here’s How To Make The Most Of It.

Since January, Google Meet, Google Cloud’s video conferencing solution, has seen its peak daily usage grow by 30x. In April, Meet was hosting 3 billion minutes of video meetings and adding roughly 3 million new users every day.

Some of these video interactions are clearly remote manifestations of a traditional business meeting, as virtually all coworkers and customers meet remotely during this time. But in this new world of video interactions, meetings are more varied, as organizations everywhere establish new ways to interact with each other, their customers, and the world at large. A new breed of business meeting is emerging, defined less by agendas and pie charts—and more by human connections.

Examples of these new types of meetings we’re seeing are rich and diverse, and from organizations across many industries.

A new breed of business meeting

Take Schnucks, for example. This family-owned supermarket retailer with 100 stores in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin was able to bring the human touch of their stores to their video presence by running their help desk 24/7 on Meet. This lets both corporate and in-store employees connect with customers to help answer questions quickly, giving shoppers the confident expertise and human connection they’d get by asking questions in the store.

In Norway, the city of Trondheim is using video conferencing to collaborate effectively and address important issues within the community, and to make sure children can learn remotely—in seven days alone, they held 60,000 Meet sessions. In the Georgia Department of Community Supervision, officers are using Meet as an additional monitoring tool for probationers and parolees under supervision. In New York, it is used for education and teacher training. And in the Philippines, as a result of COVID-19, the Department of ICT (DICT) has been continuously seeking ways to improve its programs and services to help quarantined workers and citizens, including use of Google Meet.

Contrast these examples with the traditional view of meetings in the corporate setting, where they’re seen as tedious, slow-moving affairs. Perhaps it was because those meetings were excessively focused on formal problem-solving rather than any opportunities to promote human contact and mutual aid.

Getting more out of your meetings

If the judiciary branch of Peru is successfully using Meet for both internal meetings and hearings, keeping the administration of justice running smoothly while keeping the virus from spreading, what can your business do to get the same level of success from your meetings?

The answers revolve around shifting your mindset to thinking of meetings as a way to connect with your customers, partners, and coworkers at a massive scale—transcending geographical boundaries to solve problems and serve their needs in real time, at the speed of cloud. Some of my observations on successful meetings are:

  • Broaden your perspective on the meeting as you know it. It can be a way to connect with an individual or group to solve a problem, to provide training updates, or to informally continue relationship and team building.

  • Establish a commonly understood purpose, both for yourself and for the meeting invitees.

  • Ensure that participants know their roles and have access to the information they need to succeed ahead of the meeting.

  • Be especially mindful of inclusion in a virtual setting. Take time to explicitly engage with meeting attendees, and promote trust and respect throughout the meeting.

  • Share decisions and outcomes with the meeting attendees.

  • Seek feedback after the meeting on how it can be improved.

Many of these principles are timeworn, because they are valuable. What is inspiring is how quickly they are being grasped and used as people move into the seemingly new technology of video conferencing to “connect and keep business running” rather than “organize things.”

A good, effective meeting both solves problems and brings people together. With video meetings, our challenging world is becoming more manageable, thanks to the ability to interact in a more human way, even though we are remote. The meeting is getting redefined, and the key is human connection.

This article originally appeared on Forbes BrandVoice

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