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Meetings a mess? Try the sound of silence

We’ve all heard the complaints: meetings take too long, involve too many people, do not produce clear decisions, and take time away from completing “real” work.

That’s why we’re so excited to learn about Donnie Maclurcan and Janet Newbury’s ingenious use of Skype to overcome meeting overload. They outlined the approach – dubbed “silent meetings” — in a recent Fast Company article. They use Skype’s group chat feature to host meetings consisting of typed, real-time exchanges between participants, instead of conducting “talking” meetings (either in-person or via audio or video calls).

Some of the benefits they found from silent meetings:

  • Quick, efficient and thoughtful swapping of information, ideas and updates
  • More democratized participation from senior, junior, introspective and extroverted team members
  • More accommodation for international participants, who might prefer quiet for odd-hour meetings, and who may not have lots of Internet bandwidth available
  • The transparency that comes from having a permanent, accurate meeting transcript

If you’re interested in organizing silent meetings on Skype, here are a few best practices to help get you started:

  • Create a group for the meeting, and give it a title that makes it easy to identify (such as “Staff Meeting”). Do this by clicking on the Create A Group link on your Skype client.
  • Share the meeting agenda in advance, and ask participants to draft relevant updates prior. During the meeting, members can simply drop those updates into the chat.
  • Clearly indicate decisions and to-dos by including specific phrases like ‘Action Item’ or ‘Next Steps’
  • Encourage participants to take some discussions into “sidebar” one-on-one chats during the meeting, if those items don’t require full team participation
  • Require that participants unable to attend the meeting alert the group in advance. Ask absent participants to provide updates to a colleague who can share them in the meeting, and have them review the transcript after the meeting.

Have you given silent meetings a try? Tell us your experiences in the comments below, or join the discussion in our Skype for Business group on LinkedIn or Facebook.

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