You’d think that after a year of remote work, many students and workers would have figured out virtual meetings. But “Zoom fatigue,” unclear communication, and poorly run meetings seem to have proved to make some remote teamwork just as inefficient as in-person meetings––and more exhausting.
In reality, the pandemic simply accelerated an already rising trend. One study pointed out that virtual teams already had increased by 25% between 2010 and 2018. Another recent study found that almost two-thirds of companies believe their virtual collaboration will be permanent after 2020. This offers managers and team members a chance to improve their virtual meeting game!
When used well, tools like Workflowy can prevent a lot of difficulties with virtual meetings—and working remotely in general. In addition to making remote meetings more engaging, fun, and creative, having a ready-to-go meeting template can make your next meeting a gamechanger.
Workflowy lets you easily create templates with an experimental feature creatively called ‘Templates’. There are also several community created meeting templates you can browse for inspiration or just to copy and start using.
To create your own template:
- Activate the ‘template’ feature in the settings panel.
- Then simply put your template under a single bullet.
- Finally add the hashtag “#template” to the bullet that contains your template.
- Now simply click the template button to create a new empty template.
There’s no single perfect meeting template for everyone so what I recommend you do is read on where I suggest some common sections you might want to consider adding to your template. You can also create more than one meeting template if you have several different types of meetings you regularly attend.
Pre-meeting: Creating an agenda on Workflowy.
Every meeting should have an agenda that helps guide the meeting efficiently and purposefully. Your team will thank you for having expectations for the meeting, an efficient flow, and notes to refer to when following up from the meeting. Each new bullet is an item for the meeting, with an optional subhead for the purpose of the item, with room for notes underneath the bullet during the meeting to refer to afterward.
Purpose of the meeting
First, identify the purpose of your meeting. Who is going to be there, what is the hope for the participants, how do you want to engage everyone, and what are the takeaways you want your team members to take with them? Basically, this should answer why you’re having the meeting at all. You can use this as the north start of the meeting when time it ticking down – ask yourself, did we actually achieve the purpose or the goal of this meeting, if not, you still have some time to get everyone back on track.
Agenda / Topics to discuss
Second, determine how to achieve the purpose of your meeting. List a few main goals and the discussion topics that you need to get you there. One meeting template that does this well is Levi Fry’s meeting template. The template includes an introduction––with a template for listing participants or recording new names and contact information––a discussion topic, closing questions, and flex time/concluding questions. Each bullet in the template described above includes an assigned length of time and a subhead to describe what the purpose of that section should be.
Action points / Takeaways
Third, figure out action points and takeaways. At the end of your agenda, create a section for action points that are to be discussed or that don’t have a clear owner. These are the action items that will move the project or activity forward so make sure they’re good ones.
During the meeting: Taking minutes and notes on Workflowy.
Offering to take notes or minutes is always an easy win to look responsible and stand out on a team. In Workflowy, it is easy to create a rough list of notes through the bullets with any notes or comments under each topic.
Having categories helps keep your notes organized and prevents them from becoming a blob that no-one will want to sift through. Michael’s meeting template lists several common categories that generally come out of meetings like observations, decisions, and ideas. You can use this template as inspiration about what categories you might want to include in your notes section.
An alternative to separating the notes section into categories is to simply tag your notes with those categories. The benefit here is that it makes searching for all #ideas or #observations across all your meeting easier.
There are a few ways to handle action steps after a meeting. If you only took rough notes and didn’t organize them, you can drag and drop the notes into the various categories we mentioned in the previous section. This is why taking the time to think about what sorts of things generally come out of your meetings is important. Once the meeting is over, you can just move your notes into the correct categories or tag them.
If you noted the action steps, you can then easily share the agenda or meeting minutes with the team by inviting members to view that specific meeting bullet. Having a single source of truth for what happened during a meeting and what everyone committed to do makes accountability easier.
So there you have it. There’s no longer an excuse to have an inefficient or unorganized meeting. And for those who feel overwhelmed by the process, you can always browse the meeting templates section, pick one that looks good and modify it to suit your needs. Taking 5 minutes to create a template now can save you from stress and chaos down the road.
Is there a way to change where newly-generated nodes appears relative to the template node/button, i.e. above vs below the template node?
Right now, when I click the gray “( + New <template name> )” template node, a new node is created, based on the template, and placed below the template node. This effectively means that nodes will be organized in reversed chronological order (newest nodes at the top, oldest at the bottom), with the template node appearing at the very top. This seems a little counter-intuitive compared to how nodes are normally added (new nodes added at the bottom of a list), and is also opposite of how I’ve organized/ordered meeting notes (and journals, etc.) in Workflowy so far.
If there was a settings option to make newly-created nodes appear just above the template node they were generated from, instead of below, that would automatically make the nodes appear in chronological order (oldest-to-newest from top-to-bottom).
From a visual perspective, I also prefer having the template node as the last node on a list. If the template node is the last node on a list, the template node “button” will appear next to the “+” symbol (which is always present to the left of the last node on a list). I think this is a visually-pleasing symmetry, and also nicely confers the meaning “to create a new node on this list, click this template“.
[…] my team say about this topic?). While this is ideal to do in person (and Workflowy makes it easy to keep minutes for such meetings), Workflowy maximizes the possibilities for virtual team […]
Kara, are you a part of the WorkFlowy User Group Slack? If not, please come join us! I’ve enjoyed your blog posts!
I’m not! I’ll look into it!
email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll send you an invite.
Yo…tell me more about those colors from the first screenshot…
I’m pretty sure the colors are CSS that Kara has installed. Colors are not yet native to WorkFlowy.
These screengrabs are from the YouTube demos of various templates. I didn’t create the first image though. You’ll have to ask Rodolfo!
Curious about the first screenshot, have we got colors onboard already?