How to Solve Inefficient Meetings Through Existing Technology

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Even small process improvements can make internal staff meetings run better. 

When organizations across the country were forced to move all their employees and operations remote, state and local governments were faced with unique challenges. Their work serving the community was often done in-person, because of both historical practices and laws regulating things like public meetings and sharing of information. 

Most government organizations quickly adopted tools like Microsoft Teams, so work did not stop completely, but there was a gap in the processes and technology to make virtual meetings run more efficiently. This is especially true for public meetings, which require formality and involve a high number of participants.  

Fortunately, digital leaders in government can leverage their existing technology stacks (from Microsoft Teams and Office 365 to Zoom to Slack) to improve virtual meeting efficiency and implement small process improvements to also make internal staff meetings run better. 

Leverage the Technology You Use Today

Virtual and hybrid (where some people are in-person and others are remote) meetings will continue to be the modus operandi in the months ahead. Whether you are using Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Webex to host your meetings, most platforms offer several features that are particularly useful for government organizations to operate organized and secure remote meetings.

  • Secure participant access: Microsoft Teams only allows approved users to access the meeting, while Zoom and Webex give you the option to create a password to enter the meeting. 
  • Waiting rooms: Hold participants in the virtual lobby until the meeting begins.
  • Mute participants: The staff member or meeting secretary can mute or unmute participants when there is background noise or to help manage the discussion so only one person is heard at a time. 
  • Record the meeting: With the simple click of a button in Teams, Zoom and Webex, users can record the meeting for on-demand playback and to publish on public channels, like a Council website.
  • Virtual hand raise: Organize questions and comments by asking participants to use the virtual hand raise feature when they wish to speak, or leverage add-ins for advanced features that allow rejoinders and requests for recess. 
  • Secure voting: Participants can vote through verbal responses or with cue cards, which will be captured in the recording, while solutions like Microsoft Teams also have add-ins for secure and organized electronic vote-taking.
  • Breakout rooms: Split large meetings into smaller “rooms” for intimate discussions before bringing all participants back together to report and share. 

Add Applications to Extend Meeting Capabilities

Add-ins, or platform applications, give you the flexibility to bring even more capabilities to your virtual meetings, from agenda builders to time trackers. Microsoft Teams already offers thousands of applications that provide secure voting, electronic signatures, minutes templates and more, while Zoom recently announced it is building out its app developer platform.

Process Improvements to Enhance All Types of Meetings

Technology is one way to improve virtual meetings, while small process changes can also make a difference in meeting performance.  

  • Structure the meeting: A well-planned agenda is the foundation to a good virtual meeting, and includes assigned topic owners, clear outcomes for each topic, links and attachments to relevant documents, questions to get participants thinking about the topic, and a realistic amount of time allocated per topic.
  • Prepare for the meeting: Encourage meeting participants to read the agenda in advance and jot down their personal thoughts and questions – OneNote is great for this, or even a regular notebook for an analog approach.
  • Start on time: Make it a rule that all meetings will start on time, whether everyone is there or not. 
  • Stay focused: Assign a timekeeper and note-taker ahead of each meeting.
  • Take complete minutes: Organize minutes by topic and focus on recording outcomes – decisions and action items – versus writing down every point of discussion. 
  • Track tasks: Recap tasks, deadline and assigned owners at the end of each meeting, and review past due and upcoming tasks at the start of the next meeting. 

Technology leaders in state and local government organizations can maximize their current tech investments and provide process tips to employees to create a secure and organized environment that will reduce waste from virtual meetings while making them more collaborative, engaging and productive.

Jorgen Solberg is the founder and chief executive officer of Decisions.

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