Meetings that work (and don’t) in Slack

How to spend more time working, less in meetings

slack meeting
Image Credit: Pete Ryan

Meetings are great. Or they’re terrible. Either way they are a vital part of every organization, in some way.

But meetings take time and coordination, and are famous for inefficiency. They require physical travel to a designated room, you have to remember call-in codes, and you have to navigate any necessary A/V equipment. Then there are meetings that lack an agenda, are poorly run, or use precious time just to schedule.

office hours

Some meetings almost always work best in person or over video — department- or organization-wide meetings, or manager/employee one-on-ones, for example — but we’ve found that some common meeting types can be eliminated entirely thanks to better team communication. Let’s look at some ways Slack can help you when it comes to meetings.

 

Meetings that go great in Slack

One of the best candidates to be replaced by activity in Slack is the daily status meeting.

Here’s a typical situation: team members go around the room to let everyone else know what they’re doing today, what they finished yesterday, and anything that’s blocking their progress. Even if you limit each update to 60–90 seconds, it can be hard for the facilitator to enforce and prevent discussion creep. If, for example, you have a dozen people on your team, that’s at least 15 minutes every morning spent in these standups, or three person-hours of time every day not spent working on projects.

 

status meeting on slack
Morning standup meeting at Slack

 

On my own team at Slack, we use the command /remind every weekday at 9:45am Hey @editorial-team What’s on today? This sends a push notification out to our user group, and every member responds within a few minutes saying what they’re doing from wherever they are in the world, then everyone goes back to work. It gives us visibility into each other’s work, and our manager can scan the channel quickly, asking questions when necessary. It’s still a real meeting, but only takes a few minutes out of anyone’s day from start to finish.

If you want to try out different approaches, there are about a dozen options on the Slack App Directory that formalize standup meetings even further.

Brainstorming meetings are another area where Slack comes in handy. Schedule a 30-minute slot and assign the brainstorm to a channel (create a new channel if your existing channels have lots of participants you’ll drown out). At the appointed time, have a facilitator prompt the group and let the ideas fly.

In a written meeting, people don’t have to be concerned with talking over each other, and it can level group dynamics for quieter people who tend to participate less during in-person brainstorms. If anyone misses the meeting, they can later read the channel, and even contribute new ideas long after the meeting is over.

The best part of conducting any meeting in Slack is when time is up, you’ll have an entire written record of the session that can be reviewed by others and pasted or organized into any other documents.

Reviews or approvals are another common way a Slack discussion can take the place of a meeting, saving everyone some time and trouble. It’s fairly trivial to upload mockups or artwork, ask for votes (try using emoji reactions), have a quick discussion, and move on.

 

How you might avoid meetings by working in Slack

Our customers tell us that using Slack helps them avoid meetings. This is partly because meetings can often be replaced by quicker conversations in Slack. But more importantly, consider how the work you’re already doing in Slack can eliminate the need for a meeting entirely.

When teams communicate in Slack, you can read a single project- or team-focused channel complete with regular status updates, feedback, and discussions of any delays. Anyone reading the channel can get a good handle on things, eliminating some common reasons to call a meeting.

 

executive meeting calendar
One week’s calendar for a typical executive (meetings are blue blocks)

 

The next time you review your schedule, ask yourself about all those meetings already listed in your own calendar: Is this meeting necessary? and if so, Would it be better held in Slack? or Could this instead be summarized after reading our team’s channel?

There are times larger meetings are good for morale. But there are other times when it’s not worth taking hundreds of people out of their offices and into a room. Many types of information can be easily shared in a company announcements channel that everyone is likely to see.

 

Are there other ways your team is using Slack to reduce meetings? Let us know on Twitter @SlackHQ.

 

Matt Haughey gets exhausted from the rare times he has three or more meetings in a single day.

Slack is the collaboration hub, where the right people are always in the loop and key information is always at their fingertips. Teamwork in Slack happens in channels — searchable conversations that keep work organized and teams better connected.