How do you help your team to have structured conversations?

I’ve seen many people say that since going fully remote, they feel like there are a lot of poor communication practices coming into play. Add to that the increased video call fatigue and adding some structure and time boxing to conversations can really help (I think).

How do you help your team to have structured conversations?

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@heather_reid - Which problems prompted you to ask this question? I guess one problem could be long meetings without any clear agenda. For planned meetings, especially ones which require a lot of time, I encourage people to include a clear agenda consisting of topics as bullet points.

I believe that a clear agenda forces meeting organizers to think why they are having a meeting, manage the meeting time better and know if they missed a crucial topic. The meeting invitees know the topics in advance, can request for topics to be added or removed or the amount of time to be changed. For example, I get a meeting to learn APIs for System abc. But, I don’t even know what is System abc! Should I learn “basics” of abc before the meeting or could you give an overview in the meeting itself? Btw, what do the “basics” consist of and how much time do we need to learn them?

PS -
I wish we could just reject vague meetings i.e. ones without an agenda, especially if we know that the organizer has significant work experience or continues to create vague meetings despite prior reminders. Unfortunately, many companies or managers focus too much on code and engineering (which is the most important), but neglect basic communication skills and etiquette.

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@raghu this was a question that popped up in the chat panel specifically on our recent AMA. It’s also a conversation I see happening a lot with folks on Twitter, Slack and in the testers hangout :slight_smile:

For the meetings I organize, I focus a lot of moderation.
It is not only about having an agenda and keeping the time, but being creative on how you can get all the meaningful input from the participants and keep people engaged.
I use a variety of methods, like brainstorming, brainwriting, small focus groups to define and discuss topics and then share.
I have the impression that, in this moment, we have a lot of meetings on alignment and not enough on content. I believe it is important to acknowledge that some meetings can be substituted by an e-mail or a chat, so that people can deal with that at their own pace.
Another thing that might help (or at least, it helps me) is to start meeting 5 or 10 minutes late (eg. schedule them for 10.10, instead of 10.00) to allow for breaks (and getting a coffee).
Any other idea?


There’s a bunch of things that can help, I think:

Clear facilitation/ownership
Empowerment to turn down meetings if you’re not needed there
Post meeting notes/sharing notes etc. If a meeting is recorded, share that afterwards so people can catch up in their own time
Don’t default to 30min/1hr meetings, to give people time to get a break between meetings. Go 20/25, or 45/50min
Cameras can be off as needed
Being aware that zoom fatigue is real and making sure people are coping okay with the number of meetings/number of time spent in meetings