In this ride, we forget that time is zero-sum and push out the time dedicated for solo work that's equally essential for creativity and efficiency.

As a product owner, this becomes an even important aspect of my day-to-day activities. Sure, there is no riddance of meetings. But can we atleast try to optimise them? These are some little things which I do to make the best of meetings. If we play our cards right with respect to meetings, it can even serve as an important junction for me to bring alignment across multiple stakeholders and steer things forward.

Before jumping into 10xing our meeting, I would like to first question what it means to have a good meeting? Some of the mental models which have guided me in this direction is to view meeting as a story to be looked at in terms of narrative arcs. I also started viewing a Meeting as a Flight with it's own takeoff and landing.

The third vantage point I have been recently investigating is that of looking at a meeting as a service. The benefit of a service-design lens is that you tend to break down any activity into such relevant phases with touchpoints and backstage actors. This would come in handy while understanding the experience of a meeting and trying to find out ways to optimise them.

Now that we have set some premise with some mental models, I will get into the meat of it. How do we not just passively attend these meetings, but 10x them? How do we communicate our ideas effectively within the scope of a meeting? How do we really get what we want out of such meetings?

Ingredients of a 10x Meeting

It's very easy to imagine what an okay-ish meeting would look like. You just come in impromptu, everyone talks about what they individually feel is important. There is no sequence of events being followed. There is no agenda and all that. Let's forget that for a moment, as it's definitely easy to understand why this meeting failed.

Let's look at some of the components which make the 1x meeting a 10x meeting.

In a 10x meeting, there is a sequence of events being followed like clockwork.

10x the Logistics

There is an initial logistics front where the meeting is coordinated, set up with slots on the calendar along with a detailed description of the agenda on the calendar itself.

10x the Intro

The meeting then starts with a neat little ice-breaker. How did your weekend look like? What was the most exciting thing you did this week? As we set the pace and tone for the meeting, we proceed to outlining the objectives for the meeting to bring everyone together. Then the actual meeting starts.

If we look at the sequence of events, you have the initial logistics of setting up the meeting, followed by the meeting. You might start with some nice friendly banter in the very beginning, an explanation of the desired objective and the sequence of events outlining this meeting. I also keep a convenient elevator pitch about myself handy, just in case there are any external folks on board.

10x the Paraphrasing

And then there is a wrap up. The meeting organizer wraps up the conversation, paraphrases the key points, translates them to actionable steps for each of the team members and then moves forward. The meeting is done.

The paraphrasing becomes important as you are effectively converting these neat little bullet points into actionable stories. A story which they could take it with themselves and seek meaning out of it. People are not organized by action points. They organize and take action through stories. This step, might look not-so-important at first, but provide the vehicle for others to take effective action.

The action items are shared post-meeting, but a little extra-step which I have been doing lately particularly for important meetings is to paraphrase in third person narrative and share that as a one-pager. This approach is a bit different from the Minutes of the Meeting format normally shared by folks. Here, people can internalise themselves in the form of a story.

10x the Comms

Let's face it. Most of our video setups are sup-optimal. When the pandemic began, i had a prisoner-in-the-basement look and it was far from decent. After reading a brilliant thread on storytelling by Viki Pavlic, I re-evaluated my interior lighting choices and started fresh. One might argue that these aspects aren't that important. Who cares as long as the message is communicated and people agree to it in the meeting. It is just that adding these pieces, make the messaging more charismatic. It's not about people just listening, but taking action to what's being discussed. By being clear in your communications and getting others onboard needs charisma to pull it off.

To put ourselves out there and make our charisma visible, there are three elements especially in video communications:

Posturing

Most of us look unconsciously down on the person online just by the way the camera is positioned. Because of the awkward positioning, it could even subtly indicate that you are looking down on the person. Instead, we could diffuse the dynamic by making the elevation of the camera a bit different. Adjust the height of the laptop, you could even use a laptop stand or any other fixtures. Worst case, use a pile of books, and bring the elevation to the optimal height.

Standing Desks have been the greatest productivity/energy boost for me ever since the pandemic happened. Sitting is the new smoking. And with a standing desk, you improve your posture more than anything. For an ideal position, ensure that the computer monitor is directly in front of you, your arms are at 90 degree angle, and that you can shift your weight occasionally from leg to leg.

Audio

If you have shitty video, and good audio, it seems to be much better than having shitty audio and good video. We just cant tolerate it (from an experience point of view). I found out that the simplest solution for this problem is to just get an iPhone. You have superior audio and video quality. You don't even have to get a fancy DSLR and lights to start with. Just get an iPhone.

And when you're ready to upgrade, you could get a good mic first. Here's something which Ali Abdaal, the Youtuber uses.

Concluding Notes

I realise that more than any tool/equipment/philosophy/strategy, a meeting would be successful if we ensure that we listen and acknowledge everyone participating.

Because, ultimately it doesn't matter what you say, or what you do in the meeting, it's about how you make others feel and ensuring that we do actionable reflection later on.