Best Practices for Effective Meetings
Note: These notes will be linked from meeting pages and be given out in printed form at future TPAC meetings. This document was created in response to asking W3C meeting attendees about how to make meetings more welcoming. We have given some special attention to meetings with non-native speakers or from non-Western countries).
Best practices for meetings with international participation:
Preparing for Meeting
Chairs and meeting Facilitators should:
- Send agenda and expectations in advance. (For a face-to-face meeting, send the agenda at least 1 week in advance, so people can receive it before they travel.)
- A good agenda:
- States the goal(s) of the meeting
- Lists the topics of discussion
- Gives a time frame for each topic
- States the anticipated outcome per topic (e.g., information transfer, discussion for understanding, seek consensus, problem resolution, brainstorming, ...)
- Seek feedback on the proposed agenda. Make adjustments as appropriate.
- Ensure that handouts, slides, and other material are in accessible formats.
- Follow these guidelines on slide preparation
- Supply supporting materials ahead of time to give the audience a chance to get familiar with the subject. (If people are traveling, provide materials at least 1 week in advance!)
- Read the agenda. Provide feedback as needed.
- Read the supporting materials.
- Come prepared with notes on your questions, ideas, reactions.
For large group presentations, see specific Best Practices for Speakers
Chairs and Facilitators should:
- Have a big screen (or blank wall) on which to project the IRC channel, so people can see the live discussions
- Establish agreement among attendees on which tool(s) will be used (IRC, Slack, etc) during the meeting to get input from participants. Ensure that all attendees can use the selected tool(s).
- For remote participants, be sure to share screens where possible and that the discussion is minuted in IRC.
Chairs and Facilitators should seek participation from all attendees, and understand why individual participants might be hesitant to speak. Techniques to mitigate this are:
- Start on time
- Review agenda and objectives at start of meeting.
- Stick to the allotted time frames per topic. If a discussion is particularly active, ask the group if they'd like to modify the remaining agenda to extend the time on that topic. (And hence, which subsequent topic should be shortened.)
- Repeat questions and comments, to ensure all have heard.
- Recognize commenters who have not been heard from, or who are most likely to move the conversation forward. Encourage their thoughts and participation.
- Be alert for those commenters who may (by their style, tone, or length of speech), derail or negatively escalate a discussion. Respectfully, but firmly, steer the discussion to a more neutral or courteous direction.
- Collect off-topic issues, topics, ideas in a "parking lot" (e.g, start a list on paper, or on whiteboard, that all can see). Keep this list for future reference, when the group schedules time to consider them.
- If the meeting is really long, schedule adequate breaks. It is often helpful to just stand up briefly between topics.
- At the end of each discussion, summarize what was said and decided. Ask for further questions and clarifications.
- Near the end of the meeting, give an brief summary of what occurred and what are the next steps.
- Near the end of the meeting, seek feedback regarding the organization and running of the meeting. (Adjust subsequent meetings accordingly.)
- End on time.
When presenting, Presenters and Chairs should:
- Make their objectives clear. Clarify whether the subject is for information, for discussion, or for decision.
- Present a brief outline or overview of the topic, before proceeding to the full discussion.
All Attendees should:
- Arrive early, in order to be ready when the meeting starts (set up computer, get water, prepare notes on points to discuss, etc.)
- Make quality (not quantity!) statements.
- Listen to others with an open attitude, especially if you disagree. Give others the benefit of doubt. Novel ideas often come from unexpected sources, or result from compromise.
- Maintain an atmosphere of respect. Help the Chair / Facilitator / Presenter smooth over rough spots.
- Observe the Code of Conduct below, including about differing technical opinions. You are not necessarily the only one who knows "the truth". Be "conservative in what you do and liberal in what you accept from others",
- Encourage quiet people to speak.
- Give feedback about the running of the meeting at the end. Help the Chair figure out how to run the best meeting.
After the Meeting
- The Chair or Scribe (or whomever is designated) should promptly prepare the minutes and send out a link
- All attendees should read the minutes and send corrections, if there are any
- All attendees should fulfill their assignments and agreed-upon tasks, as appropriate
Considerations for meetings with multinational participants
W3C benefits greatly from the many unique strengths, perspectives and ideas that can be gained from collaboration across cultures and nationalities. In the tech world, including at the W3C, meetings can often seem heavily biased with US-centric or Western communication styles and meeting habits. However, to function well as a global community, we must work to be aware of and sensitive to differences.
We strive to be inclusive of those with different work and communication styles. We encourage open collaboration in a professional and respectful manner.
All presenters should follow techniques that support these goals, such as:
- SPEAK SLOWLY! Speak at a rate that people can follow easily, especially those who are not native speakers of your language. Use pacing to give the audience time to process what you're saying.
- Speak clearly. Take particular care with names, words, and phrases that the audience may not know (e.g., use simple language; expand acronyms; minimize slang, jargon, colloquialisms and idioms).
- Be **very** careful using jokes and humor, as people's sense of humor can be very different. In addition, most jokes are very hard to understand for non-native speakers, and will distract them from your content.
- Succinctly describe pertinent parts of graphics, videos, and other visuals if some people cannot see your visuals (e.g., remote attendees, visual impairments).
- Be sure the screen and the spoken content reinforce each other. This reinforcement is particularly helpful for those having difficulty following the presentation.
All meeting participants should:
- Allow people to speak other languages in case some difficult words or concepts need clarification.
- Be gentle about any mistakes that people, especially non-native English speakers, make. Encourage people to express themselves. Be patient and supportive.
- Try to speak factually, succinctly, helpfully, and respectfully when presenting one's own ideas.
- Treat each other with respect, professionalism, fairness, and sensitivity to our many differences and strengths.
Code of Conduct
All W3C Meetings are run under the rules of the W3C Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.
Doing so means that our community:
- Forbids harassing or bullying anyone verbally, physically or sexually - and encourages respectful and appropriate communication.
- Avoids a dismissive attitude and behavior about others' technical opinions with which one does not agree. This can be a form of bullying which is unacceptable.
- Avoids demeaning or insulting behavior or language - and encourages communicating constructively.
- Seeks, accepts, and offers objective criticism, and acknowledges properly the work contributions of others.
- Forbids disrespectful, unprofessional, unfair, or unwelcome behavior or advances.
- Forbids discrimination on the basis of personal characteristics or group membership - and encourages courtesy, consideration and openness to difference.
- Is, in terms of respecting cultural differences, "conservative in what you do and liberal in what you accept from others".
- Accepts (especially those in a leadership position) their responsibility to take action whenever disrespectful or inappropriate behaviors are observed to bring a discussion back to a more civil level .