How to use Trello for more effective Virtual Meetings
Every month, the average employee attends 62 meetings – half of which they consider unproductive. 91% of meeting participants admit to daydreaming during meetings, while 73% regularly multitask and simply do other work. Only 10% of decisions made during meetings end in action.
So, what’s the problem and how can we make our meetings more engaging? Many meetings lack clarity and purpose. With no obvious structure, time is wasted talking about off topic issues, decisions are made and quickly forgotten, and updates are presented that simply could have been an email. Many meeting participants find themselves in meetings they shouldn’t need to attend – this, of course, leads to disengagement, multitasking and frustration.
How can Trello help with Virtual Meetings?
For our meetings to be more productive, we need to be more intentional in four key areas:
Purpose – does this need to be a meeting?
Clarity – what do I expect? What do participants expect?
Participants – who needs to be there?
Actions – what action steps do we need to take as a result of this meeting?
In the rest of this article, we will now consider how we can use Trello, a popular project management tool, to achieve this. If you don’t already use Trello, we highly encourage you to check it out. However, the principles and processes we are about to explore can be used with a variety of different tools, including (probably) your existing project management tool.
Using Trello before the Virtual Meeting
Google Co-Founder Larry Page has rightfully pointed out that “Small groups of people can have a really huge impact.” – unfortunately, our meetings often have large numbers of people attending. Often, not all participants need to be in these meetings. This is where interactive Trello agendas come in.
By not only sending out meeting agendas before the meeting, but also inviting participants to add to the agenda, we can ensure maximum clarity when it comes to the content of the meeting. Here at the VTT Design Studio, we have experimented with quite a few different ways of doing this, from whiteboards to simple shared Word documents. As we are already using Trello for our project management, it remains one of our favourite meeting tools.
Creating a meeting board
Before any formal meeting, create a new meeting board. Clearly state the outcomes of the meeting and add any discussion points (agenda items). Then, send a link to your board when you send out the meeting invites. Participants will be able to understand the purpose of the meeting and can make an informed decision on whether they should be attending it. They now also have opportunity to add any discussion points to the agenda that you might have missed. This is a great opportunity for you to ensure that you have allocated enough time and invited the right people. It also gives everyone an opportunity to prepare for optimal collaboration.
You might find that participants add items that don’t really fit the outcomes of your meeting – in this case, simply move them over to the parking lot (with reference to the meeting outcomes), so you can find a better opportunity to discuss said points.
The combination of starting on time and following a detailed meeting agenda can decrease meeting times by up to 80% (Source: High Five). By being able to predict the expectations and issues of participants more accurately, we can ensure that the right amount of time is allocated for a meeting, therefore reducing the risk of running over time (and making the next meeting start late).
Using Trello during the Virtual Meeting
During the meeting, work your way through the discussion points. As cards get discussed, move them over to a “Done” list. Add any decisions or action points as cards to the appropriate lists – don't forget to assign them to the right person and add a deadline when possible. Should off-topic discussions start, create a card for this topic in the parking lot and refer participants back to the agenda. You might want to add other lists according to your needs.
We recommend allocating clear roles before the meeting. This means that one person is moving and creating cards, preferably while sharing their screen for the rest of the team. This way everyone sees what is written down and what we have agreed on.
Using Trello after the Virtual Meeting
Remember those 90% of meeting decisions that don’t result in action? Let Trello come to the rescue! If you are using Trello as part of your project management toolkit, simply move or copy those action items you created during the meeting to your team’s main Trello board.
In the Design Studio, we use one central MasterBoard. So, any action step cards created on a meeting board simply get sent over there – depending on deadlines they might end up in our “This week” list or in our general backlog. You could even use Trello’s butler to automate this step for you!
Facilitating virtual and hybrid meetings is a skill that can be learnt. Considering the amount of time we spend in meetings, we should be willing to invest in this skill for the sake of our team’s productivity and wellbeing. If you feel like you need more practical tips and action steps for your team, why not consider our Facilitating Virtual and Hybrid Meetings workshop?