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Working from Home During COVID-19: Quick Tips for Meeting Effectiveness


For the past several posts, we have focused on online meetings. Below is a summary, giving some quick tips for you to follow as you go about running your meetings.

For the Leader/Organizer/Chair

1. Start on time and finish on time

If you don’t start on time, you almost certainly will not finish on time.

2. Lead your meeting

Speak up and speak out. Actively manage the meeting. Push/pull when needed. Do not be afraid to disagree respectfully, suggest other options, focus and drive discussions. Keep in mind always that it is your meeting. You are in charge and accountable.

3. Communication is key

Always let people know what is happening, especially when things go wrong. Clarify and confirm.

4. Check your TECH

Technology is a wonderful thing, but something always goes wrong. Know ahead of time what to do if XYZ happens: Connectivity issues come up, so have help desk number at the ready.

I have been leading meetings when the following happened to me: My building fire alarm goes off, my apartment flooded, excessive noise due to landscaping work near my window, power outage, online meeting tool is glitchy/cannot be accessed, computer system goes down, WiFi down, I knocked over my desk plant onto my keyboard, or something that worked fine five minutes ago stops working.

5. Share your visuals

Share your screen, application, or document immediately and often.

6. Speak clearly, slowly, and firmly

English is not the first language of many members of global teams. I used to teach English in Japan, and I learned from then, speaking clearly and at a reduced pace helped my students a lot to not only hear me, but to be able to process what I was saying. Even if all your speakers are native speakers, this helps to minimize the distracting impact of background noises and poor audio quality and makes it easier for people to follow what you are saying.

7. Check in for clarity and understanding

Do this often—especially with global teams with different first languages and if discussions points are lengthy

8. Do what you can to keep people engaged 

Meetings can be long and boring: Summarize at the end of a long discussion point, vary tone, do check-ins for clarity and questions, acknowledge if discussion on one point is stuck or taking too long or going in circles, take a break it necessary.

9. Speak in ‘bullet points’ for lengthy statements

This makes it easier for people to follow winding road discussions.

10. Be conscious of what is going on in your background…

…and in the attendees’ background. Be proactive with the mute button; mute others if needed or ask them to mute themselves when not speaking.

11. Control what you can

It’s challenging to run a meeting, listen to all speakers, write notes, and advance the discussion at the same time. Ask for confirmation, validation, and clarification throughout. Ask questions and get answers you need.

12. Keep interruptions to a minimum

Sometimes it is best to let someone complete their point and then disagree. Cutting them off midway can lead to missing things. This is different from stopping highjacking of unrelated discussions.

13. Put people at ease

Most people are nervous when presenting or speaking in a group. Putting them at ease will help them get more comfortable more quickly and contribute to robust discussions.

14. Write clear and concise meeting minutes/notes

This is a record of what happened and any decisions that were made.

15. Make the way forward clear

Next steps and follow-up items and timeframes, continuation of discussion via another forum such as e-mail, etc. 

Keep these tips and refer to them often to make sure your meetings are more effective.


Upcoming posts will focus on overall working-from-home tips and some ideas to manage this new way of working for maximum productivity and selfcare.


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 burtonconsulting.biz.

Share this article with friends who may be struggling with establishing a consistent work-from-home routine, especially if they are Japanese or work for a Japanese company. We’d love to know what challenges you’ve been facing as you work from home. Please submit any questions you may have or any topics you would like Yvonne to address by sending an email to susan@japanculture-nyc.com. Yvonne will post here three times a week, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn from her.


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