7 steps to go beyond virtual meetings and get work done

by The Smartsheet Team

In the new dynamic work reality, teams are coming together virtually more than ever before. Video conferencing and virtual meetings have become a key way to connect with your team and your organization.

But too often, the real work gets done outside of meetings, making for longer, less productive days. And with everyone working remotely, it’s easy to lose the thread when you’re getting the latest information from a mix of virtual meetings, emails, documents, information, and chats from different applications. 

When you’re looking to get things done, you need a structure and a plan. Here are seven steps to help you make the most of your virtual meetings by using Smartsheet along with video conferencing to empower your teams to work together in a new, altogether more productive way.

1. Get laser focused 

Get laser focused on the purpose of your meeting

First things first: Do you need the meeting? Is a virtual meeting the best way to move work forward and accomplish what you need to get done? 

If the answer is yes, what exactly do you want to get out of it? Long gone are the days when we met hoping something good would come of it — now we need to ensure that we make the best use of everyone’s time and energy.

When you’re moving fast and things are changing on the fly, it’s easy to skip the step of creating a meeting agenda. Yet an agenda is even more critical when you’re trying to make the most of your time. It keeps everyone on track and serves as an important reminder for what you want to accomplish in your meeting. 

With virtual meetings, it’s more critical than ever before to observe meeting best practices: Make sure you invite the right people, share an agenda with them ahead of time, and let them know what’s expected of them in the meeting. For more complex or recurring meeting agendas, create a sheet in Smartsheet to track, sequence, and prioritize agenda items in an agenda tracking sheet, or use your project sheet to surface agenda items.

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2. Set an action plan — for everyone

Set an action plan for everyone in your meeting

Once you’ve set your agenda and defined your objectives, communicate expectations for action. Capture next steps, assign tasks and deliverables, and set deadlines in real time in your meeting. 

Working in a project sheet during your meeting is an easy way to capture all of the information you need from your meeting: details about specific action items, who’s responsible for getting them done, when they need to be done, status, any dependencies, etc.

Make sure everything discussed in your meeting gets captured in one place, so anyone - even those who miss a meeting - can easily stay up to speed. When things are moving fast, tasks and deliverables can change hands multiple times, and you want to make sure everyone has a clear reference point for staying on track and on task.

3. Eliminate unnecessary status updates

Structure and minimize status and progress updates

Use your meetings to work toward solutions, rather than merely as a forum for discussing project status, progress against metrics, or other data that can be easily surfaced with everyone via email or shared sheets and dashboards outside of the meeting.

Using a project sheet in Smartsheet provides the team with a shared source of truth to reference for the work that still needs to be accomplished and the status of their initiatives. Team members can easily update the status of their deliverables directly in the sheet so you can quickly streamline updates on your virtual meetings. 

Then, your team can use the remaining meeting time to discuss any blockers or next steps to drive your work forward, brainstorm new ideas and initiatives, and quickly respond to rapidly changing business needs.

4. Get work moving

Get work moving across your teams

All too often, the meetings and conversations that take up our working hours aren’t actionable, making it difficult to execute against your goals, objectives, and organizational strategies.

Use Smartsheet in your meetings to make sure that your conversations are something everyone can take action on. Refer to your project sheet or a high-level rollup dashboard to complement a meeting or standup, so everyone can see the information right in front of them. This connects everyone to the workstream, and helps provide the additional information that meeting stakeholders might need to make informed decisions. 

Make sure you record any decisions made in your meeting, so everyone remembers what was decided and what the plan is to take action. This includes getting clear on who will be responsible for those actions, and when the action items are due. You can also set up automated alerts to notify people when an action item is assigned to them, or if deliverable dates slip — or become more urgent.

5. Collaborate with relentless efficiency

Collaborate with relentless efficiency

When everyone’s working remotely or in different offices, it’s challenging to pick up on the context around our work that we might have gotten from informal conversations with our team members at the office in passing or in a quick desk drive-by. Reduce the need for yet another meeting or constant pinging for the latest information by using your project sheet to create context around your work and keep everyone on the same page. 

Bring conversations, documents, information, emails, and ideas into one single source of truth to provide a reference point for everyone involved in your project or initiative. Creating this context also makes it easier for people who miss a meeting (or weren’t invited in the first place) to easily pick up on the direction work is taking and bring it across the finish line.

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6. Spark action

Spark action

Your meetings, combined with Smartsheet, should spark action for your team and collaborators within and outside of your organization. Everyone leaves the video call with an understanding of what they need to do to work toward and achieve your objectives.

Then, as everyone goes off and does the work, they can keep track of their work and deliverables in the project sheet. Whether they’re updating the status of their assigned work, attaching documents to a row for stakeholder review, getting feedback on creative proofs directly in Smartsheet, or attaching final deliverables to the project sheet, you’ll have everything you need in one place as tasks get completed.

With the Project Tracking and Rollup template set you can quickly and easily get any project up and running, and report on risks and milestones to stakeholders along the way.

7. Define, and then redefine, success

Define, then redefine, success for your team as things change

In this new work/life reality, the work dynamic is always changing. It’s important to be realistic and clear about what success looks like for you, your team, and your organization. If the goal posts move, move with them. If the way you need to resource your initiatives changes, stay organized and ready for quick handoffs. Expectations may need to be reset at any time — sometimes even multiple times a day.

Smartsheet enables you to keep your team on the same page when things are changing quickly. Easily change start or end dates, the names in your Assigned To column, or status — and send your team automated update requests to get the latest on an action item. 

You can also set up a rollup dashboard to surface key information to your leadership and other stakeholders, including at-risk tasks and whether the project overall is on track.

Once you’ve completed a key milestone or wrapped up your project, don’t forget to celebrate your achievements with your team! If everyone’s working remotely or in different offices, schedule a virtual get-together to acknowledge your success.

Ready to transform your virtual meetings and get more done? Get the Project Tracking and Rollup template set and try Smartsheet with your team for free.