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When should a meeting be a Slack chat instead?

Caitlin Brett, June 14, 2021

Over the past year, businesses have been scrambling to adapt to the needs of a newly redistributed workforce. One major challenge has been finding ways for team members to collaborate and exchange ideas, even when they’re physically distant. 

Video conferencing tools and chat rooms can’t always replicate the experience of in-person communication. Many offices have turned to tools like Slack to try and build up the kind of camaraderie they need to keep their teams strong.

Of course, Slack is not a cure-all. While the product is great at helping people communicate in certain areas, it has some definite drawbacks. This article will take a close look at Slack meetings to show you what works and what does not. It will also suggest some alternatives so that your business can overcome the challenges of remote work.

Every meeting has a time—and a place

‌Before deciding what kinds of communication tool to use, you need to determine the goals of each meeting. In-person communication is endlessly flexible and adaptable. You might take this simple fact for granted. 

In an office setting, you’re used to a whole range of different kinds of conversations, from formal meetings in a conference room to casual chats in the break room. You intuitively understand that different meeting spaces have different purposes.

Meeting one-on-one behind closed doors has a vastly different feel to it than meeting at a coffee shop. A meeting around a conference table has a different tone than an impromptu gathering at someone’s cubicle.

In setting up remote communication, it’s important to decide what kind of tone you want. Is this going to be a casual, brainstorming setting or a more formal meeting to present a project? Once you figure this out, it’s easier to decide on the right tools. Slack is useful in some of these cases, but not in all.

The medium matters

‌A text message filled with emojis conveys a different mood than an email. A Slack notification prompts a different response than a ringing phone. Use all the different channels available to you. Look for solutions like Calendly that can revolutionize your scheduling process.

Consider what you’ll need for the most productive conversation. Do you need to refer to your documents while you talk? Can this conversation be done while you walk and talk over the phone? Do you want to be able to see each other? Will this particular collaboration work better through a file-sharing program?

Once you’ve figured out what works best, formalize some guidelines for communication. For example, a chat function might be great for exchanging quick, preliminary ideas, but it’s probably not the best way to send out documents or key dates. Too many details can be lost during a long chat. 

Email is probably the best medium for sending information. Google Docs is great for collaboration, especially when the project requires sustained reflection on both ends. The telephone is good for privacy or an intense two-way brainstorming session.

Setting these guidelines informs your employees what kind of interaction to expect when their phone rings or an app pings. Clear expectations reduce stress and make for more effective, smoother communication. It’s the digital version of inviting someone to take a walk with you versus a meeting in your private office.

Communication that works well over Slack

‌Some meetings are best handled over video chat, phone or in person. But certain kinds of meetings can be effectively replaced by Slack interactions.

The daily status meeting

‌The daily status meeting is a great example of this. You know how this meeting goes. Everyone crowds into a conference room or video chat and then each member of the team takes a few minutes to discuss their progress. Each person relates the recent obstacles they’re facing, as well as any breakthroughs or discoveries they’ve made.

Of course, it’s important for everyone on your team to be on the same page. The daily status meeting is an attempt to keep teams connected and informed. It’s also an opportunity for your team members to brainstorm and swap ideas about how to overcome any new or ongoing difficulties.

At the same time, status meetings often run longer than they should. By the time everyone is done making small talk and settling in for the meeting, your team has already wasted valuable time. Once you factor in the time wasted on discussion creep, the meeting begins to seem endless. Depending on how many people are on your team, you could easily be looking at a half-hour meeting every day.

That’s why some teams find it more effective to exchange notes over Slack instead of convening for a formal status meeting. A few quick text updates often cover the same ground that a conventional status meeting would yet take far less time.

It’s still a good idea to assign a start time for this kind of meeting so that every member of your team submits a timely update. This can easily be achieved by scheduling your meeting with Calendly.

Regular brainstorming meetings

‌In-person brainstorming sessions can be intimidating, in part because of their typical rough-and-tumble atmosphere. Introverts may be afraid of speaking up. New team members may hesitate to voice their opinions. This is true of video meetings too.

The result is that brainstorming meetings are typically dominated by a few outspoken team members. One way to get around this is by shifting the whole procedure to Slack.

Set aside a half-hour for your brainstorming session. Again, you’ll need to formally schedule this. Once it’s time to get started, everyone on the team can then start offering ideas over text. 

Holding a meeting like this by text permits even your shyest team members to offer ideas without fear of their louder counterparts shouting them down.

It also means that you can go back and reread ideas once the meeting is over, so there is no need to take notes. 

Project review meetings

‌Project review meetings are another example of a meeting that might be better handled over text. These meetings can lack a sense of purpose, transforming into long and unproductive events.

Instead of holding these meetings in person or over video chat, consider uploading the relevant images to Slack and then ask for feedback from all of the relevant decision-makers. Some people like to ask for emoji responses here, but that depends on the particular culture in your workplace.

You can also use Slack to exchange ideas about how to improve the current project or how a future project might be structured. Doing all of this over text allows participants to take their time in coming up with their responses. It keeps them from feeling as rushed as they might in a face-to-face meeting.

There’s another option, of course, in setting up a review meeting. You can also plan for the feedback to be asynchronous. What does this mean? It means that decision-makers will be able to respond to the project in their own time. 

You can set up deadlines for feedback to be delivered using Calendly’s user-friendly app.

Are all meetings better over Slack?

‌The short answer to this question is no.

Yes, many kinds of meetings do work better over text. Daily check-ins, brainstorming sessions and review meetings are all best handled over a text-based app like Slack. However, many other meetings work best when handled either in person, over the phone or by video chat.

Face-to-face meetings help your team build connections and deepen their rapport. Phone calls can make people feel connected even when they are thousands of miles apart. And connected teams are more effective.

So go ahead and plan to have those Friday evening drinks over video chat or those Wednesday afternoon quiz breaks. Schedule regular times for your team to hash out their difficulties face-to-face, too. Just be mindful not to over-schedule your team. 

Using Slack where relevant will save time and energy so that you can get the most out of your team’s scheduled meetings.

Slack apps that can improve your meetings

‌Even when you’re not holding a meeting, Slack’s built-in apps can make your meetings run better. Apps like MeetNotes, for example, make it easy to share your meeting’s agenda ahead of time so that participants are better prepared.

This ensures that all of the participants in your meeting will be on the same page. It also means that your team members will have the opportunity to suggest additional schedule items as needed.

Slack has a built-in call feature that facilitates both audio and video calls. This is great when you’re working with a distributed team and you want to catch up in real time. The calls feature also allows collaborative screen sharing. This means that all of the participants on the call will be able to interact with the screen at the same time.

The result is something that approaches the feel of in-person meetings, even when participants are scattered across the globe.

Using Slack to reduce meetings

Meetings can be important, useful and even a lot of fun. Team meetings can build morale, establish a shared set of values and help to create a company culture.

But most meetings accomplish none of those things. Using Slack can help teams cut down on the number of meetings they schedule, which means more efficiency for both you and your team members.

In part, that’s because some meetings can be held over Slack. It’s also because regular communication in Slack ends up replacing the kind of conversation that would normally be carried out in a meeting.

When your teams regularly communicate in Slack, then team members (or group leaders) can easily access information about any project just by reading through the relevant channels. This is a great way to stay up to date on progress and keep up with any delays in the project. It also tends to eliminate the need to schedule yet another meeting.

So instead of reflexively calling your department heads to organize a meeting, take a look at Slack. All of the information you need may already be there.

The fewer meetings you call, the better they will go. Save your energy for the meetings which really matter to you and your team.

Calendly and Slack, better together

‌No matter what format you hold meetings in, scheduling them can be difficult. It’s tricky to find a time when everyone on your team is free for a meeting. Things get even more complicated when you’re scheduling client meetings.

No one enjoys sifting through a long email thread to figure out everyone’s availability. Populating an invite list is also a thankless task that never seems to go perfectly. Throw in last-minute rescheduling, and it’s no wonder that most workplaces dread setting up even simple meetings.

Fortunately, there is a simpler way. Tools like Calendly and Slack make it easy to set up meetings, eliminating all the headaches that used to accompany these tasks. Now, the new Calendly Slack integration speeds up the process, so that you can schedule meetings faster and easier than ever before.

Connecting your Calendly account to Slack allows you to share your Calendly links right over Slack. You can keep both Slack and Calendly open at the same time for easy navigating and planning. Then simply share your Calendly links with your team. What could be easier?

Caitlin Brett biography
Caitlin Brett

Caitlin Brett is a senior copywriter at Calendly and works from Decatur, Georgia, usually with a cat on her lap.

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