Allow me to begin with a story that happened to me an hour ago. An old friend WhatsApped me a few weeks ago, asking me to meet him and the CEO of his company. I was of course happy to oblige. In our WhatsApp conversation, he made it very clear that he meant an in-person meeting. Comes along the meeting time and my calendar reminds me that I'm meeting him and his CEO, and it includes a Google Meet link. I naturally assumed the meeting was a virtual one.
I went into the Google Meet link and waited. They didn't show up. He then texts me and asks, "Are you coming in?" To which I replied "I am already in."
It took us a few minutes to figure out that he meant to ask if I'm coming into the office and I meant to ask whether they're coming into the virtual meeting.
I, of course apologized and we had the virtual meeting while agreeing that we'd follow up on another day with a face to face meeting.
This potentially awkward situation taught me four things we should all do when setting up meetings during a pandemic.
Make sure the calendar invite specifies if the meeting is online or offline.
As our world moves more and more toward remote work, it's become the default assumption that a meeting is virtual and not offline. There are of course exceptions to every rule and sometimes, the meeting is indeed offline.
If that's the case, include that information in the calendar invite. In fact, that information is so crucial, I'd even add it to the actual title of the event.
The event on the calendar should read "Hillel Meets David Offline".
Of course, if the meeting is indeed offline, include the address where the meeting is supposed to take place.
Include the context of the meeting in the invite.
This point is not specific to a pandemic, but it's importance is magnified during a pandemic.
Most professionals don't remember the details of every meeting on their calendar. That is why it is imperative to include the context in the calendar invite.
I know that every morning I look at my calendar to see what meetings I have that day. Rarely do I remember the context of a meeting without looking through my inbox for the back story that led to this meeting.
This becomes very problematic when the correspondence that led to the meeting was on LinkedIn or WhatsApp. Then I have to go on a wild goose chase to figure out what the meeting is about.
In order to avoid this unnecessary annoyance, simply add the context of the meeting to the invite.
"The meeting is about the most effective strategy to market my company."
Add information in the invite about the person who connected you.
This might sound trivial, but I assure you, it is not. If someone introduced you to another person, that is crucial information that you should have, when going into a meeting.
At the risk of sounding rude, if a friend or business colleague for whom I have tremendous respect is the one who introduced us, the meeting automatically starts from a certain angle. If, alternatively, the one who introduced us is my son's classmate's father, well, that's information that I'd like to know before the meeting as well.
I'm not implying that I won't take the latter seriously, but the meeting definitely starts with a different dynamic based on who connected us in the first place.
Take notes and follow up after the meeting.
This too is not specific to a pandemic but is much more crucial when you are in a pandemic.
During the meeting, take notes of specific things that are supposed to happen as a result of the meeting, like specific introductions for example. Once your meeting is done, make sure to send a summary of all the action items that were brought up in the meeting.
This helps you ensure that what was said in the meeting doesn't remain just words, but rather, they turn into actual tasks.
In summary, we all have many tens of meetings every month and you can't expect people to remember how you were introduced, what the context is, where the meeting is taking place, or what is supposed to happen after the meeting. Make the person's life easy and include that information in the calendar invite.