What are “micro meetings”?
Meetings get a lot of bad press. They can waste money, kill productivity, and more generally, employees don’t seem to like them. Cutting back on unnecessary meetings is a noble goal, but all too often our reluctance to hold meetings spirals into good, old-fashioned avoidance anxiety. And that avoidance comes with its own time-sucking, money-wasting perils.
Case in point: micro meetings. To put it briefly, I use “micro meetings” to describe the virtual spaces where we hash out ideas or resolve issues- but where digital noise makes these discussions less productive and more time consuming than simply hopping on a call or having a face-to-face discussion. For example, here are three places where you’re likely holding micro meetings without even knowing it, and how to avoid them.
Your Work Chat App
Whether your team uses Slack, Telegram or GChat, most organisations have a dedicated chat service. Whilst these spaces can be invaluable for getting instant answers to easily resoilvable questions (or boosting team morale with hilarious memes), there are many discussions they’re simply not appropriate for. As soon as a wider problem is introduced to the chat, and all of the stakeholders start pitching in, you’re in troubled waters. Suddenly, the chat interface is filled with conflicting opinions, and that dreaded “Several people are typing…” notification pops up. Congratulations, you’re in a micro meeting.
How to avoid: Stick with fun chat and rapid-fire questions in the app. Troubleshooting and creative problem solving should stay in the meeting room. Set up a meeting, and assign a designated stakeholder who will listen to different approaches and decide how to proceed.
Software such as Google Docs has made it easier than ever to give precise, line-by-line feedback on your company’s communications. Annotations often save a lot of time, allowing employees to quickly review and resolve queries and comments. There are three key areas where we get off track here: poorly-worded or overly vague feedback, open-ended questions, and identifying too many stakeholders. You’re only ever one note saying “What do we think image-wise for this copy? Open to suggestions!” or “@George @Susan, can one of you take a look at this?” away from opening up a whole dialogue. Now, that annotation has five comments. Ta-dah: micro meeting!
How to avoid: Make your feedback as clear and as actionable as possible, and identify who’s responsible for actioning it whenever it’s unclear. If your annotation thread gets longer than one or two comments, clarify with a quick conversation.
Email micro meetings are perhaps the trickiest to spot, because there are instances where problems can be solved and general feedback can be given in a short email chain. Problems tend to arise when emails are sent without a clear objective, and when they’re sent to too many people. Many of us (particularly in the content marketing field!) have opened emails asking for feedback on a document or presentation addressed to our entire team. We ask for some clarification about the brief or the target audience. We get a response. We carve out some time, give the feedback, only for one of our other team members to chime in with their feedback 2 minutes later. We agree on a lot of general points, but we’ve given conflicting advice in one or two instances. This then needs to be hashed out and resolved. An hour later, and the subject line of the email starts with “RE: RE: RE: RE: FWD: RE:”. You guessed it: micro meeting!
How to avoid: We tend to think these email chains take up less time, as whoever has a spare moment can jump on them, but too many stakeholders make these chains more time-consuming (not to mention, everyone in CC still gets the new emails, even if they don’t jump on the task). Instead: ask one person if they have time. If not, ask someone else. Keep the participants to a minimum, and make sure they’re armed with key information (deadlines, briefs) in the first email. Give one person the right amount of information rather than being vague with the whole team.
By Jessica Miller
Jessica Miller is an Australian writer currently based in Berlin