Working from Home During COVID-19: Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings

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Now every meeting is an online meeting. In leading/facilitating thousands upon thousands of online meetings, I have learned what works and what doesn’t over time. There are issues specific to companies arising from company culture and communication challenges—such as language issues in this global economy and the level of comfort with sharing thoughts and ideas—but also several general issues that everyone faces.

Here are some tips that I have found help make online meetings more successful.

Tip #1: Meeting Prep

Having a successful meeting starts before the actual meeting. It involves the invite, attendees, agenda/goal setting and logistics.

1.1 Invite Only Relevant Attendees

  • Too many unnecessary people in meetings leads to confusion, wasting of resource productivity

1.2 Clear and Concise Subject of Meeting

  • Why are you meeting? Information sharing, brainstorming, requirements definition, decision making
  • If it’s for a project, include project name

1.3 Set up ‘Alternate Host’ if possible (and let that person know)

1.4 Prep Materials

  • Send out any materials that attendees need to read before meeting and allow time for them to do so when possible
  • If attendees need to send you materials to use in the meeting, make sure you have enough time to read and incorporate before the meeting

1.5 Avoid Overlapping Bookings

  • If your needed participants are already booked and it is a time-sensitive meeting, acknowledge that in the invite and ask for special consideration
  • If not time-sensitive, be realistic in your scheduling

1.6 Verify Attendance Before Meeting

  • If key stakeholders are not able to attend, cancel/reschedule



Tip #2: Importance of an Agenda

I have been in many agenda-less meetings, and at the end of those meetings, there was a definite question of “What was that all about?” An agenda not only gives you direction, it also gives you an anchor. It’s something you can always go back to, ensuring that you are guiding the meeting discussions to where they need to go.

2.1 Include an Agenda in Meeting Invite

If you do not have an agenda beforehand, let your audience know in the invite that it will be addressed at the start of the meeting.

  • Itemized list of topics/issues to be covered
    • Depending on timeframe and subject matter, estimate how many topics can be covered in the meeting (i.e., one-hour meeting with complex subject matter = no more than three topics)
    • Do number your main agenda items
  • Identify any active participants/presenters
    • Inform them beforehand when possible that they will be called upon
      • I have been in many meetings where someone had no idea that they needed to be prepared to speak on a topic. It’s not a good feeling.
    • Instructions/guidelines for meeting – meeting owner sets the tone
      • This can include instructions on holding questions until the end, breaks if it’s a long meeting, etc.
    • Outcome of meeting (if known in advance. If not, then to be done at meeting’s end/wrap-up)
    • Deliverables
      • Decisions that will be made in meeting, documents completed, steps finalized

The more prepared you are for a meeting, the better the meeting goes and the more effective you are in leading it.

In the next post, we will address leading/running the meeting.

With a background of ten years living in Japan and almost 20 years of experience working with remote teams worldwide, Yvonne Burton, president of Burton Consulting International, provides services including Technology Consulting, Business Communications courses, and Cross-Cultural Training to Japanese firms operating internationally and companies operating in the Japanese market. To learn more about Yvonne and her work, please visit

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