Meetings are a necesity no matter the size of your organization. From our experience, meetings are even more crucial in a virtual environment.
Master the techniques and resources in this episode and you’ll discover your virtual meetings are even more effective than your co-located meetings.
Deacon Bradley 0:06
Hello, and welcome to the Virtual Business podcast. I'm your host Deacon Bradley and joined today as usual by Angela Pons, furred and Ralph burns. And today we want to transform your meetings from aimless to effectives. So we have a ton of meetings here, our team is upwards of, I guess, approaching 40 people all over the world. And we have a lot of meetings, I mean, almost say, more meetings than if we were co located in one location. That's, I guess, kind of the experience or that's kind of what it feels like. It's like, virtual you feel like you're gonna have no meetings, but really, you you almost have more meetings and these can be it's kind of like the blessing and the curse of virtual work because you can work when you need to. You've got that time flexibility. All that stuff is incredible. But it's also way too easy to steal time from your personal life and poorly run meetings. I think are One of the biggest thieves of of that, in my opinion. So that's what we want to talk about today about how we run meetings, what's been really effective for us in our team, and also share some personal tips at the end about what kind of like a little personal workflows and hacks that we like. Yeah. Yeah, you guys ready?
Angela Ponsford 1:22
Yeah. We love meetings.
Ralph Burns 1:25
This what a year of like, sixth or seventh of the day, probably Angela.
Angela Ponsford 1:29
Actually, this is only my second today. Oh, you know, started at 3am. And it was only my second of the day.
Ralph Burns 1:36
Oh, that's right. That's right. Yeah. Yeah, today's like this is only my third or fourth. So anyway.
Deacon Bradley 1:45
But that's what we do. Yep. Personally, I think that virtual meetings can be a even bigger waste of time than physical meetings. And here's what I kind of like I was thinking about this earlier, like, Why do these meetings have a tendency to just drain you I was talking to a CEO Recently who was really apprehensive about going virtual? And his biggest thing was he's like a deacon. The meetings there. It's, it's nonstop messaging about can you meet now? No, but I can meet then No, but I can meet then. And then you get on the call. And it's like, it doesn't work. And so it was just this long thing. And this is like a CEO who's like, resistant to going remote. Because he feels all of these pains about about that he is experienced. And I think one of the biggest ones for me is just that temptation to squeeze in more meetings, because your virtual, it's like, oh, I'm outside with my kids doing whatever, but but I get a message from and it's like, Hey, can you chat about such and such and like, I guess I can, because we're virtual. So that's been one of the big challenges for me. I don't know if you guys kind of find the same ways that virtual meetings almost if not done effectively, can actually waste your time.
Angela Ponsford 2:56
Yeah, for sure. And I think it ties in as well with notifications. I think that's a big thing. Like, if you have notifications on just that you said, if you're doing family time and dependent, you know, where you're getting notified, then once you know about something, it's like I, you know, I kind of should jump on that meeting, even though I've carved out this other time for me to do whatever ends you want to do. So I think that, you know, the the meetings go hand in hand with managing notifications as well.
Ralph Burns 3:26
Yeah, I couldn't agree more. I mean, I think that's actually that CEO brings up a really good point is that in the virtual world, sometimes scheduling the meetings, if you don't have the tools for that, take longer, actually the meaning sometimes, just to get three or four or five, or, you know, in some cases, like I was on a call this morning, we had eight people on it, you know, all in different locations all around the world, time zones, you name it, like it's hard, sometimes just to do that, like, forget about the meeting part, which is obviously we're going to talk about here, but it's like the whole idea. Do times getting sucked up by scheduling and the meeting itself. It can eat you alive if you're going virtual. And I think, you know, we can offer some, some valuable lessons here on today's show about avoiding that as much as possible.
Deacon Bradley 4:15
You know, I think one of the things that kind of makes them I hate to say use the word waste of time, I guess I should say, take more time than they should. But one of those things, especially when I'm talking to you guys are often Angela is we don't get to hang out a ton, once a quarter twice if we're lucky. Zero lately, because of the travel restrictions. But what happens to us a lot is we'll get on a call and be like, Hey, Angela, do you have five minutes to talk about such and such like, we need to make a decision, and we'll get on in 15 minutes later, we haven't gotten to the thing that we wanted to make the decision about because we're like, oh, how's this going? how's this going? Oh, let's catch up about such and such. And so I think especially in a remote team, that's, it's like A line that we'll talk about a little bit more on, like running the meeting and some of the stuff like that, but it's like balancing that, hey, we actually need a chance to connect here. And like the taskmaster driving the agenda, I only talk about agenda topics, like motivation, as well.
Angela Ponsford 5:20
Yeah, goes into like, and what we're going to talk about is, you know, the the prep and and setting the tone for the call and setting you know, all those things are super important and a virtual team, which will go into more detail.
Ralph Burns 5:32
Yeah, I think that's a total challenge because especially like on our Tuesday calls for agency like the first 10 minutes,
Deacon Bradley 5:39
we're all just
Ralph Burns 5:41
shooting the shit, you know, or Yeah, shooting the crap, I guess for not explicit rating here and iTunes, but but it's important, that part is important too. So I always sort of struggle with it. It's like, it's why it's good to have like a meeting. organizer, who is the one who's conducting the orchestra, so to speak. And but that chit chat you almost like need to factor it in, like you need to factor it in. It's like you're gonna have a half hour. You can't get right into business every single time. It's like, if I haven't talked to Angela in 24 hours, I'm probably gonna ask her about how she was doing. And I mean,
Unknown Speaker 6:15
Ralph Burns 6:17
not sure. Let's, let's just start, you know, it's like, that's not how you do it. And so like, yeah, business is personal. And like we talked about a couple of shows ago. So I think that is important, but it can be a time waster.
Deacon Bradley 6:29
Well, well, let's get into it here. We have several tips here to help your meetings be more effective. And then we'll wrap up at the end with some personal just meeting hacks that we like individually. But the things we're kind of sharing our are things that we do amongst our entire team amongst the leadership amongst people running meetings, and we found them to be really important and effective. And the first one here, Angela, I'm gonna ask you, first one on the list because I know you are invited to so many meetings. So where do you What's the first thing here for better meetings?
Angela Ponsford 7:03
Yep. So is it is a meeting really necessary? You know, does doesn't need to happen? Or it can it? Can the communication happen somewhere else in slack generally? So that's always the biggest question. And I know you've been super, super tight on that. And Deacon, you know, you've really been clamping down on, on making people get clear about why a meeting is being called.
Deacon Bradley 7:27
Absolutely. That is one of my, it was one of those things. When I first kind of got into management, I had maybe nine or 10 direct reports at the time. And at the end of the week, it'd be like, wow, like, I literally just attended meetings, like nothing happened and, and just from kind of learning about better ways to approach things and do things like this was the number one filter and you hear it out of the meeting context all the time successful people talk about, well, you know, like learning to say no, is actually how you make more progress. Like you have a narrow filter on things you do. And it's really the same thing. meetings. And so that's absolutely the first question I asked every time when someone's like, Hey, can we meet about such and such? It's like, let's go over what we're going to accomplish here. Like, let me know, let me know, some more details. And then I'll tell you if we can meet or not.
Ralph Burns 8:16
Yeah, I mean, I think the flip side to that is that we're all managers. So I once read or heard that a leaders job is to go to is to attend meetings. It's like, that's what you do, because you're getting results through other people. You're not as much the actual producer of the results. So I think from our perspective, the three people that are here, you guys are the VP level and you're on the leadership team. So you're going to have more meetings with the people that report to you because you have a lot of responsibility. And then those people that report to you have meetings with their people and their people and it kind of goes on down the line. So I do think, you know, if I look at my schedule during the week, it is just jam packed with meetings, but it's part of the job and it's part of like how we run things. Hear otherwise it would be in a conference room somewhere, you know, in a building. But meetings are kind of what you do when you're a manager. But saying no, I think is really is really important knowing where that line is. And then using other means in which to communicate that eliminate the need for a meeting. Like, for example, I see this all the time inside Asana, and, you know, we have a new intern who just so happens to be somebody who lives in my house at 1011. And he's like, Why are these guys sending me these loom things? Well, it's like they're sending loom videos, which is a great tool, but that will eliminate like, he had a two minute loom from his boss is to explain how he changes the thing that he was supposed to do, and that eliminated a meeting. So I
Deacon Bradley 9:47
look at that that tool is like a a meeting efficiency multiplier in a lot of ways. But you do have to learn how to say no as well. Absolutely. When so saying like, is Meeting necessary, that doesn't mean communication isn't necessary or an objective to achieve isn't necessary, it just means is getting everybody in the room at the same time spending their time and focus on that. Is that the means to achieve that objective and there's a lot of tools like Ralph was just mentioning a loom that's one that we use all the time, especially since we have team all around the world. Like some of us can't really meet, it's, it's nighttime for somebody. And while we do do it sometimes, like we really couldn't make a lot of progress without a tool like loom.
Angela Ponsford 10:37
Yeah, yeah, totally. Just what you're saying there that, you know, for anybody that is working across different countries, different time zones, sometimes yet it's incredibly challenging to get meeting time with certain people. You know, I one of my direct reports is in Israel. And I think Israel and Australia are like the worst times to try and align up. You know, I think if I get In a car start at three in the morning, it's already 8pm his time. And you know, if I've got other meetings on, so that becomes a challenge. And that's where loom can come in, you know, we can communicate really effectively, by, you know, recording our screens and sharing with each other. And then when we do get on a call, we're already fully prepped and know what we need to talk about.
Ralph Burns 11:20
Yeah, and looms can also help with that sort of chit chat angle of it. And you can actually talk and sort of relay, like the company culture kind of thing, which we haven't really talked about here yet, but we will. But it's like how you actually do that through a loom, like Rita sent that loom to Alex and it was six o'clock her time or whatever, it was 6am her time and Alex was sleeping, but like, they didn't have to have a meeting because of it. And that's, you know, try and use tools like that as as much as you possibly can. Especially when it's something that's very visual, like in our case, it is so but yeah, challenging for all kinds of timezones like most of the people that are probably listening To this probably aren't through as many time zones as we are. So, you know, so that is a challenge that we face. But still there's I'm sure there's plenty of companies that are evolving into this world where time zones are a big challenge in meetings, then scheduling them, who man becomes an issue.
Deacon Bradley 12:18
One of my favorite memes that I keep laughing about, since we've started the social distancing, and everyone's working from home, and it was a tweet that was going around or somebody just says, Well, I guess we're all about to find out which of those meetings really could have been emails. And I love that because it's like one of the one of the things that people always talk about is like, do we really need to have a meeting for this, and there's a lot of meetings that are just kind of sharing info or could be a loom video, we talked in our in our slack episode about the importance of the announcements channel. We use that all the time. We don't need to have a meeting to announce a new policy change. All we need is a video or some text and we put it in announcements everybody indicates it. they've read and consumed that. And we all did and on our own time, and it's awesome.
Unknown Speaker 13:04
Yeah, for sure.
Deacon Bradley 13:06
Next thing I want to get into here is scheduling, setup, meeting preparation, kind of all of the things that actually make a meeting come together in real life. So we talked about that CEO friend of mine that I mentioned, who's like a, you know, gotta gotta figure out when to everyone can meet, and everyone's like, I can do this time, but not this time, or I can do this time and like, Man, what a pain, right? So when we're scheduling internal meetings are one way that we handle this is really just through Google Apps to Google Calendar thing. And this has really improved a lot over the last few years. But when I'm scheduling a meeting, and I go, there's a couple ways to do this. If I type the people that I want to go to the meeting in, it'll actually show me their schedules and when they're available and when they're not. And you can also just, there's like a sidebar, it almost looks like a search box. I had to point this out to a lot of people because it's kind of hidden there, too. Over where you would select calendars like which calendars you want to view, there's one where you can type in people's names. And so often do that. This is also a pro tip, if somebody hasn't shown up to your meeting yet. I'll type Ralph burns, just picking someone at random here not picking on anyone, I'll type Ralph burns into the search box in his calendar will come up like be like, Oh, he's on a customer call. It's like, supposed to end it might be gone a few minutes late. No big deal. But that's my go to place for scheduling internal calls and figuring out calendars.
Ralph Burns 14:32
It's a pretty good pro tip. I didn't I didn't know that one. But if you share calendars, too. I mean, sharing calendars, is that sort of a separate thing? I don't even know exactly how it's set up. Because it's so it says, oh, like, well, I don't know which part of it. It's like it's because it's such second nature. So this is more of like an area where you've been able to really increase the efficiency of your 11 Deacon. It's like you Got it, you know, in advance,
Deacon Bradley 15:02
right? Our Google Apps set up is on the privacy level of calendars. This is something you can set for your entire organization as a if you're an admin for Google Apps, I have our set to show everybody's calendar by default, that eliminates that step of Angela, can you share your calendar with me, Ralph, can you share your calendar with me? I'll share mine with you. And then it enables you to just look up anybody's calendar, but not have it always on your calendar. So I can go in and so I meet with Steve a lot. Steve is on a ton of sales calls. And very often like alright, when should I try to meet with Steve, I'll just type Steve in the little search box, his calendar overlays on mine. And then when I messaged Steve to ask for a meeting, I already have a really good idea of like a couple times that that work.
Angela Ponsford 15:48
Yeah, totally. This Google Calendar makes it super easy for the meetings to schedule them to see when people are available. And yeah, make sure that yeah, if someone doesn't turn out Yeah, like, Oh, yeah, they're here, they'll come.
Deacon Bradley 16:05
Another tool that we use a lot for external scheduling. And this one gets pretty complicated. So I'm not going to get into all the ins and outs. I know you guys have seen these around. We love schedule once. It's it's got the right level of flexibility for the things that we're doing, especially for our sales team. I also use this for example, when me and Angela are interviewing candidates will have like an interview calendar link, and we can send that out. It's got some designated times just for interviewees to schedule meetings with us. And it's made it really easy to, to navigate, like different types of meetings and how you want those different types to fit into your schedule differently. And so that's a tool that we've used effectively. I've seen a lot of people use calendly. I mean, there's almost countless others right now, acuity gets really good reviews. So those are some tools that we use for external scheduling as well.
Ralph Burns 16:59
And that eliminates So much back and forth. And you know, I hate to say it, but I mean, I had an admin for a while. And her primary job was scheduling meetings, and then didn't quite work out. And now I just go back to schedule once and Google Calendar and being able to schedule a meeting. So people who want to meet with me whether it's outside tier 11, or inside tier 11, it's just so easy. I'm like, I really don't actually need that resource because these tools are so good. And they're set up sort of transparently, I didn't even realize that was all stuff that was setups or Deacon, which makes it kind of funny because it's like, it's so easy. If it's done the right way. You can make this actually more efficient. And potentially, you know, in my case, eliminating like a full time employee, not that we want to lay people off here but like it just made that job. Not really even worth it. Just because of these tools, and because they are so effective. One of the tools I do use a lot just to give me an idea is world time, buddy. It's an it's an app I use on my phone. And then also I have it installed on Chrome just to kind of see like, I'm always kind of like what time is in the Philippines right now? Or you know, where what time is it in Brisbane or Austin or locally, it was different locations. That kind of helps like giving you an idea as to when roughly you want to set up a time. Like I was setting up a meeting last week with a customer in Perth, Australia, Mike, what timezone is that? So that gave me an idea. And then it allowed me to open up my schedule once and we schedule it literally with one email, because of those two tools. So
Deacon Bradley 18:36
so we've got the meeting scheduled, everything's on the books, we still don't want to waste time when we're there. And Angela, I know this is a personal strength of yours, one that you've exercised a lot and really trained our team a lot on, talk about how we make sure that the we talked about the right stuff when we actually get to
Angela Ponsford 18:52
the meeting. Yeah, so it's super important to have an agenda for every meeting that you get on Then the big thing is making easy to find. And so that usually involves putting it in the meeting invite. And having a recurring agenda that's been moving over to the recurring agenda. And having it linked in the meeting invite has been a huge game changer across our across tier 11. Because people aren't going, Oh, you know, where's the agenda for this week? And you know, they maybe think last week's agenda, and then they're trying to see who said, What, last week, and it's all over the place. So yeah, recurring meeting agenda, or always have an agenda, make sure that it's recurring for if it's a recurring meeting, and have it in the meeting. And
Deacon Bradley 19:37
so the actual format of that recurring agenda, it sounds fancy when you say it, it's a Google Doc, right?
Angela Ponsford 19:43
It's like totally basic.
Deacon Bradley 19:46
Any document that people can edit at the same time, we use Google Docs, there's a few other tools depending on your organization, but the key is just, it's always there. It's at that same link, and you can see your while you're building this weekend, Last week says right below it, and the week before that is right below that. Everything you talked about all your decisions, anything you needed to follow up on, it makes it so much faster to build those agendas for recurring meetings like that.
Angela Ponsford 20:13
Yep, totally. And yeah, absolutely, super, super simple agenda doesn't have to be you know, we usually don't even put attendees or anything like that in there because you can see all the attendees on the meeting envy, you know, who's you know, you know, he's been invaded, you know, who's going to be there. It's just keep it as simple as possible so that people will use it.
Deacon Bradley 20:32
That is one thing. I would also mention, Angela, as you're saying, like, keep it simple. Yes, please keep it simple. I've seen before. direct reports when they're wanting to set up a meeting with me or something. I'm like, awesome, you know, put together an agenda and their eyes get real big like, like, they have to create some sort of project or a business plan or something like, right, it's like, No, we just need an objective to achieve and some things to keep us in line and a lot of times if it's a small meeting That can be a slack message. So it doesn't have to be a big formal thing. It's just the point here is to be intentional with your time and be intentional with your meetings. And the exercise of actually creating an agenda. Whatever tool you use to do it, even if you just wrote it on paper and took a picture of it. That intentionality will pay off big time in terms of how you spend your time.
Ralph Burns 21:24
Yeah, I think that's definitely the simplest way to do it is just through a simple Google Doc link inside the description of Google Calendar. And we're so skewed towards Google Calendar here. So we don't want to discount anyone who's not on Google Calendar, just because switching to Google Calendar because you just had to change everything to virtual. I don't necessarily recommend wholesale changes like that, but use this as maybe a model for if you are Microsoft based or outlook based. How can you kind of apply the same principles, but we do different agendas in different places. Like for example, for our leadership call, we have an agenda that's in Asana, which is our problem management software. So and I really like it over there. And that's cool too. But the key is is like keep it simple, keep it recurring. Keep it rolling, so you can see what happened prior, and always have one. Otherwise, you're just gonna be meandering off course and all kinds of tangents. And yeah, just interrupting your whole schedule, making your whole day a big disaster. So really important to have one.
Deacon Bradley 22:24
I'm glad you brought that up, Ralph. We have used Asana, we have a couple meetings, recurring meetings that we actually use Asana for the agenda. And we before that it was Trello. And with Trello, we just kind of had like a list for each week. And you can see again, what we talked about previous weeks. The place that I have seen those work well versus Google Docs is these bigger team meetings. It allows everybody to see the agenda, all at the same time. And the part that I've really enjoyed is it allows lots of people to add things to the agenda or add things like to the parking lot that you'll choose to what good And the agenda later. So people can put things on there. And then whoever the meeting host is can just go kind of curate, alright, what do we need to talk about this week? Let's bump this to next week. And at the end, you just have a checklist because those are both kind of checklist based productivity tools, you just have a checklist that you work through for the meeting. So those have also been two really effective tools. I'm glad you brought up.
Ralph Burns 23:21
Yeah, and it's rolling. If you have those rolling standing meetings, like we'll say, maybe on a Monday meeting, which is our voc meeting that all right, add that to the leadership call on Friday. And then Deacon will go in and add that agenda item to the call for Friday. So we don't forget about it, and you can do it in real time. It's like it's just so efficient. I'm really old way of doing that back when I was working in the corporate world, which is like there's papers everywhere. Like post it notes, and like How the hell did we actually run a business It was so disorganized. But you know, it was a physical location business and, you know, it had to be because it was that type of business, but the point It is that you can make these meetings far more efficient so many ways by running them virtual using these tools.
Deacon Bradley 24:07
So as we're moving down the line here, we've got the meeting set up here, we've decided that we actually needed to have a meeting and kind of the whole point of this step of what scheduling and prep for it was. Everybody coming into this meeting that we're about to talk about, they all have the same level of expectations for what's going to happen at the meeting, what we're going to achieve, and who's responsible for bringing or delivering information here. So now we're in the meeting, it's time to run the meeting.
Angela Ponsford 24:33
I want to interject something just there. And this is good. Some people are just gonna go watch to this. But sometimes we have a pre meeting before the meeting.
Deacon Bradley 24:43
That's, that's true. It sounds so corporate, but it's so effective.
Angela Ponsford 24:48
It's it really is and And usually, when we have those pre meetings, it makes the actual meeting shorter. I've got you know, we've one of our customers, it was normally been an hour long meeting and Since we started the pre meetings, those meetings are usually now only 30 minutes. So we have a 15 minute pre meeting, which knocks 30 minutes off the main meeting. Crazy. I know
Unknown Speaker 25:11
that that you save yourself
Deacon Bradley 25:13
15 minutes. What are you doing in the pre meeting?
Angela Ponsford 25:16
we're establishing exactly, exactly who's going to talk about what, and making sure that there's no fluff. Now, yeah, so the the people that are on that meeting, yet, there's two people that work on that account. And so it's not just one person. It's not just one of our media buyers working on that account. It there's two media buyers on that account. So we're just getting super clear on who's talking about which topic and making sure that everything is concise. And those pre meetings, they're only 15 minutes, but they've been so incredibly useful. And even just for the development of those two media buyers, how they work together and how they run meetings. They've just been game changers. So I know it sounds crazy to have a pre meeting before The meeting but they can have just like exponential gains for just across the board for lots of things.
Deacon Bradley 26:08
That is really cool. It's like a it's like everybody else is playing backyard football. And, and you guys are the New England Patriots or I don't know who it's gonna be next sorry Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a Ralph's. All right, your pass blocking Angela run a post route. And here we go. That's really cool. Yep. All right. So we're getting into the meeting now. And one of the things that Angela, we always often ask people, especially other team members who are scheduling things who aren't kind of used to making this a habit is will say, all right, who's running this meeting? Why is that important?
Angela Ponsford 26:46
Because there's nothing worse than getting on a meeting and there's silence and everybody's waiting for someone else to speak. And I think the tendency for people is certainly if someone say like either one of us three On a call, there's often a tendency for someone to defer to us just because we're like, you know, the more senior person on the call at that's, that's not that's not a good place to be when we're like, Who's in charge of this? Who's taking the notes? who's running this? Yeah, bit meeting death zone.
Ralph Burns 27:20
It happens so often. I mean, I think, you know, you really do have to establish the leader, the conductor, the person who sets up the meeting, even if they're not the person that's going to be delivering most of the content. They're the one that keeps it on schedule. And, you know, we've, we've transitioned a lot of meetings, just in the last couple of weeks inside here, tier 11, just because we've sort of changed some of our reporting structure. And I was like, Well, you know, a lot of those meetings, I'll just be the one that runs and I'm like, well, actually deacons really good at running meetings. So it's like, why would I do that? I don't need to have control over a meeting like he runs an efficient meeting. So but what There was about a week or like, are you running it? Or I run it? I was like, I'm kind of unclear on that. And then this past week, I'm like, well, you're running it, although you weren't on Tuesday's meeting. But I think Angela, and I kind of ran it, but we actually ran in a situation like who is running it? We didn't establish it beforehand, we kind of defaulted to each other. But it is important. I mean, we can do it on the fly, because you do so many of them but always have somebody who is I tell Mike, who's our customer success manager, you are the conductor of the orchestra. You know, you're the one up there. So might not be playing the instruments but the other guy with the wild hair waving his hands around, you know, the baton thingy. That's you.
Angela Ponsford 28:42
And his hair is wild, right. Can't get it.
Deacon Bradley 28:46
I think we all have a little bit of wild hair right now.
Unknown Speaker 28:49
Deacon Bradley 28:53
That's a good point you brought up Ralph. I used to be a little uncomfortable or I guess I had this false belief that To run the meeting, you had to have the information or be the presenter, but a lot of times it's, it's almost the opposite. Where, for example, Mike runs a lot of art of our meetings with our customers. He knows all the info, he knows what's going on. But he's not super deep in the weeds. But he knows like, who to bring into the play, who to get on the field who to do this. And he's kind of like directing things like Angela talked about this. Ralph talked about this. All right, let's talk about that another week. Let's move the meeting forward. And that's really like the job of the person who's running this not to actually have all the answers.
Ralph Burns 29:37
Yeah, or they don't have to, you know, they can have the subject matter experts there. But those subject matter experts can't take over the agenda and the control of the meeting. And we have some subject matter experts, which 10 who tend to talk, you know, so it's very important to have a mic. You know, a deacon or whoever is running the meeting, kind of keep everything on track. And on schedule and keeping an eye on time.
Deacon Bradley 30:04
The thing I'd mentioned here, as somebody, I think all three of us do this a lot, since we run a lot of meetings is the importance of that back channel. So we're often if it's a small group meeting, we will before we get on the meeting, or we'll say something like, Alright, we're gonna be chatting in this Slack channel during the meeting. And everyone who's in the meeting, is like, we can throw links in there, we can throw other things or say, Hey, I think we should talk about this, or something came up, I have to get off five minutes early, just so you guys know. And that has been really effective. And I know in our bigger team meetings, rather than doing that in like a giant group chat, or often doing it one on one. And I know I do this all the time on our Tuesday meetings, me and Angela like, Alright, who's coming up next on this call? Okay, Tom is going to present about such and such and I'll message Tom say, hey, as soon as we're wrapping this up soon, are you prepared for whatever he's like? Yep. Okay, great. He's ready. So we're using that back channel also to just make sure Almost like a stage manager, like, make sure people are ready to go on make sure they're in costume. Everybody's, uh, everybody's in the right place. And that's kind of one of the things that's going on while we're running these meetings, which honestly takes some practice. Yeah,
Angela Ponsford 31:16
seeing that, you know, the back channels in slack. You know, I woke up this morning, and terrible habit of, you know, quickly scanning through slack before I even get out of bed. But there had been a meeting with a customer and Ralph had been on it and a few other people was like a strategy call for the customer. And you guys had the slack back channel. I know exactly what went on in that meeting. It took me like five minutes to scan your chat, which was probably I don't know, an hour meeting or something or whatever hours, like goodness. So you know, but but I know that just I knew the main gist of that meeting just by looking at the conversation in slack. And there's no need to go and set it to sit and watch a two hour meeting.
Ralph Burns 32:00
It's interesting, because as I was I established that chat, so I wasn't running the meeting, but Mike was running the meeting. And after he ran, I'm like, Oh, where are we talking? And I added him inside slack and he got it. And he's really good. So he doesn't get distracted by like a message or it's almost like it's just fluid. He's just one of those people. And you're the same way you can do the same way. Some people aren't like that though. So like, oh, wait a second. Oh, I just got a message from somebody and they're in the middle of talking and totally lose their train of thought. So establishing the your back channel before the call is recommended. But as I was putting all that stuff in there, I was writing it not only for the people that are on the call, but also for you and Danielle, Danielle is our media buyer. So that Danielle, when you guys go in there, you can kind of see like instead Oh, why did he say that? instead of like he said, this be a little bit more descriptive. But it's a way for you to communicate sort of create summary notes, but also, you can't do that in a live meeting. It's Amazing,
Angela Ponsford 33:01
you know, you miss it.
Ralph Burns 33:04
You just completely missed like you can communicate with people, you got five other people and then you have to your customers three customers on the call. And we're strategizing in the back, like what should we say next? What should we focus on? If we were in a physical meeting that wouldn't be able to do it. And we've actually had a physical meeting with them. And I remember thinking, jeez, I wish this was virtual. So I could message these
Deacon Bradley 33:24
guys. The same thing happened to me. So me and Mike and Angela, or at a customer's office last year, and we were having this meeting, and we're all kind of looking at each other, like, where are we supposed to talk during the meeting? So as backwards, right. So remember the importance of those back channels, they're super effective, and once you get used to them, you're honestly you're really gonna hate physical in person meetings because it's just so awkward. After the meeting, we found to be another really important time. Talking about that back channel that was almost like meeting notes that created themselves, Angela was able to catch right up with how things had gone there. In the absence of that, one of the things that we do is we just say, hey, the organizer of the meeting, whoever was running it, or will designate this person in the meeting, post your notes, the appropriate Slack channel. This is so important. So if Ralph hadn't had that back channel, it could have easily been the same thing achieved with just Hey, post your notes after the meeting there so that people can, like that's what slack is for is to keep people in the loop.
Ralph Burns 34:34
Yeah, and in Mike's case, on that meeting, we were doing our back channel, which sort of created some meeting notes, but he actually had a shared document with the customer. And he was actually writing in follow ups there and summary items for everyone. And I think that's helpful too. So I mean, there's the back channel, and then there's the front channel and the front. I mean, you shouldn't be like talking about customers behind their back. But I mean, it's like, there is some stuff that you just need to keep internal But yeah, so there's sort of dual purposes to both. And they're both used in the right way to keep things really organized and on time. I really love the slack. I don't know if this is an official tagline. I saw it in their advertising recently. And I was like,
Deacon Bradley 35:13
Yes, this is it. This is how I'm going to start explaining it to people. slack says, if you're not in the room, you're not in the loop. And that used to be true. But now with Slack, Angela was not in the room for that meeting, she woke up and now she's in the loop. And that is the power of slack and the power of all this virtual stuff and why I think we all believe we can run a more effective business. And if we do an intentionally using less time.
Ralph Burns 35:39
Yeah, and if Angela really wanted to watch all two hours, God help you. If you do. feel pity, we actually recorded the meaning to Yes. So two hours of sorry about that taken that's, you know, two hours of space we used up on zoom, but if you really wanted to, you could. So like last week I did a training call was our sales guy. As a 15 minute meeting, he's like I'm recording this and he's watched it two or three times on how to do something specific on our sales process. That part right there is just clutch if you're using a good resource like zoom or you know this Call Recorder if you're doing Skype as well, but recording your calls I think is is priceless.
Deacon Bradley 36:18
Yeah, totally and, and watching them at two x speed is another skill you should develop that will save you some time.
Ralph Burns 36:25
There are five x speed and zoom maybe for that I'm working
Angela Ponsford 36:28
up to it. Yeah, I actually use it. There's a little two I use em serve video speed controller. It's a Chrome extension. And that allows you to go above the two x speed. You know, sometimes some people talk really slow. And you know, we're all busy.
Deacon Bradley 36:44
I'm not above two x yet. To x my audible books. I'm working to get a little faster. So I'm in training, I guess.
Ralph Burns 36:52
Yeah, about 1.2. Audible has new different grades of speed. By the way. Just FYI. All right.
Deacon Bradley 37:02
So when you're putting those slack meetings when you're putting those notes into slack after the meeting one of the kind of pro slap slack tip that I would add use emojis, they have numbered emojis one through nine, I guess they have a 02. And if you learn the shortcuts for those, it's so much easier. For example, if you type colon o in E colon, it'll put the emoji for one, it's the same for all the numbers. So you can just bullet out only instead of using bullets are actually numbered items. And that is super effective and facilitating any follow up stuff. Because later I could go back and say, I could say, Angela, hey, I've got a question on number three, did you mean this or that? And I just use the three emoji. And it's not like this weird things. Like they're all numbered right there. We kind of sync up and then everybody goes their separate ways. And we're all super clear.
Angela Ponsford 37:49
Yeah, that's a real big and a game changer when we started using the numbers rather than just, you know, a bullet point or I mean, bullets didn't even exist until fairly recently. So Yeah, using using a number and then people can super easily say no one done to following up or whatever. Yeah, Rick's it really clear
Unknown Speaker 38:08
Deacon Bradley 38:11
So let's wrap this up with some personal virtual meeting pro tips. So we talked about how to how we run things for the team. But I think each of us develop a little bit of our own workflows, things we like things we don't like. Angela, is there anything you would share on your list?
Angela Ponsford 38:27
And for me, it's checking your calendar every morning or being able to check in your calendar diligently. I think because of the virtual meeting aspect, often meetings will get changed more regularly maybe than they would if you were meeting in person simply you know, because you know, of all our circumstances, things change. So just make sure to you know, keep an eye on your calendar, check it first thing every morning and see if anything has changed and make sure you know the layout of your day.
Deacon Bradley 38:51
Nobody's gonna come by your desk and say, Angela, you're supposed to be in conference room be
Unknown Speaker 38:55
Angela Ponsford 38:58
You will get a slack message sometimes like I got from Ralph yesterday I'm here Where are you?
Unknown Speaker 39:05
That was a time change thing was
Angela Ponsford 39:07
a time change. It was a
Unknown Speaker 39:08
timezone changer. You're a pro user of calendar.
Deacon Bradley 39:11
Ralph any pro tips for virtual meetings that that you personally like?
Ralph Burns 39:16
Well we didn't mention it. I mean audio is really important. First off, I think we talked about that in previous shows but we use the ATR microphone which is an $80 microphone I'm using it right now. It's great audio you guys can hear me like good internet connection is really important. We try and avoid internet connections that make you sound like Mr. Roboto like that's a thing like your your Mr. Robot. Oh, hang on me like that's like all cut up. So audio is vital. Second to that video is and I've we've mentioned this before, I think it bears re mentioning is that it's so important for us to kind of cement that bond between our team as well as cement, the bond between customer calls, whatever it happens to be. So how Having video on or having a good video resource, we talked about that on the zoom episode and you gave a resource there, Deacon in those show notes. I think that's just absolutely key. And with that said, also set your config, I guess it's preferences is probably the word inside zoom is I have start all my meetings with video off just in case I'm doing something like that poor woman was like, exposed herself to her entire company from a couple of weeks back. So set up your preferences to the way that you want to enter the meeting. And it's always video off for me sometimes audio off as well. But I think those two things really do help a lot. You know, if they can't hear you, you're like you're really up the creek without a paddle. If they can't see you not quite as bad. That's why zoom has that dial in feature, but it's a requirement for For all tier 11 meetings unless you have a super bad connection or you have something going on or distraction, you gotta keep that camera on because it really does help with the virtual team building. You know, the virtual culture creation, and it's essential.
Deacon Bradley 41:16
Speaking of distractions, Ralph, my personal pro meeting tips revolve around those because I have a three year old out there, he actually tried to break into the office while we're recording this. And this is, I guess, my pro tip would be have a place where you can have the meeting that's like, I'm having the meeting here. This is a professional environment. I have a child lock on my door, so he didn't quite make it through that, luckily, but if I don't lock it, he comes in and I don't know if you guys have seen that BBC broadcast video, Ralph, I have to send this to you. It's hilarious. It's an old one where the guys on TV he's in a setting like us, you know, webcam, professional suit and tie, doing an interview on TV and the kid comes in and like one of those rolling Walker things that can we'll He's kind of trying to push him off with his hand while still trying to look professional. And then his wife comes scrambling into the room to grab the kid. And so, door locks is a big one for me, especially if I have to do something that's customer facing. But really, I just need to avoid that distraction. And along with that, I have had some sort of physical mute button on or near my desk that I can use for probably five years now. And it's one of my favorite tools. It's, I mean, zoom, any meeting tool will let you mute it. But I always prefer having that physical button, because I've always got other windows going on. I've got the back channel chat, and I love to just be able to reach over press the mute button, if something gets loud or something like that. And I think probably everyone on the meeting appreciates that as well. But they didn't know it.
Ralph Burns 42:48
Yeah, yeah, that's true. The mute button is key. And one other thing that's a distracting part of meetings is that a lot of people who are new users to like the virtual meeting thing might be be taking all the notes and they have a microphone on that. You hear they're thumping on there. Oh, yeah.
Deacon Bradley 43:08
So I that's really
Ralph Burns 43:10
distracting sometimes for us, it's like our customer is doing it, because they have it set up in such a way. So if at all possible if you can use a microphone like, you know, for a Mac, it's just like plug it in and use the regular headphones or like a Bluetooth. That's fine. In our case, it's this ATR microphone completely separate. So I could be, you know, slamming my keyboard no one would ever hear because it doesn't pick up any background noise. But just be careful of that because that is really distracting. It's a it's a kind of a pro tip is to use a different microphone and the one that's built in to the laptop if at all possible.
Deacon Bradley 43:47
That's a good one. I hate that thundering keyboard sound,
Ralph Burns 43:51
Deacon Bradley 43:57
Thanks for joining us today for lunch. links and resources from this show, head on over to the virtual business podcast.com. This is Episode Six we've been working through the foundational must have tools for a virtual team, get these things in place first. And now, as we kind of expand on that, we talked about meetings today we're going to be getting into a lot of other topics, coming up on operations, team management, all that good stuff that gets a little bit harder when you're not in an office. So, the Virtual Business podcast calm This is Episode Six. Send us your questions. Talk to you later.
Resources Mentioned In This Episode
- ScheduleOnce: for external scheduling (what we use)
- Acuity Scheduling: for external scheduling
- Caldnely: for external scheduling
- Google Calendar sharing settings (G-Suite)
- Wold Time Buddy
- Skype Call Recorder