Screen-sharing is to productivity like kryptonite is to Superman. Here’s how to beat it.
Word Count: 693
Reading Time: 1.6 minutes
It’s my first meeting with screen-sharing and I don’t know what to expect.
I’m watching someone mouse around a powerpoint deck as a colleague talks me through the day-long training we will soon be leading. My colleague interrupts himself frequently to redirect the person handling the mouse. My attention switches from watching the torturous progress of the cursor across the screen, listening to my colleague talk, and my own internal dialog, which sounds like this: “There must be very few slides if he’s going into this much detail now. This is just a prelude to the meeting, right? Just some tiny adjustments before we get into what we said we’d do.”
Nope. By the time I see there are 96 slides, the meeting is almost over and we haven’t accomplished any of our stated outcomes.
Meanwhile, the meeting slows to the speed of one person editing while another types. I am being driven mad by the movements of mouse and cursor. I can feel my brain begin to stutter; hear my sentences becoming fragmented. My interest in the meeting has turned into a fierce need to do something, anything else. My mind runs for cover.
“What do you think, Liz, are there any slides we should eliminate?”
I try to answer, but my brain cannot come up with a sentence. My mouth opens and no sound comes out. Part of me thinks this is funny. Part of me is worried about disappointing my colleague. Another part of me wonders if this is what it’s like to have a stroke. Which snaps me out of my torpor.
“My brain just locked up and I can’t answer that question.
“Oh. Er…” Silence.
“Jimbob, I can’t form an opinion about goes or stays without seeing an agenda with times. And I’ll need to be able to page through the deck myself so I can match it to the times in the agenda. Then I can answer your question.”
There is an ocean of silence on the phone. When it ends, I’ve been promised both documents. We schedule another screen-sharing session which scares me, because screen-sharing seems to affect my brain the way kryptonite affects Superman.
The screen-sharing meeting minus the kryptonite effect
This next meeting starts like the last one. The horrible melting sensation in my brain kicks in the minute the mouse begins to meander across the screen, but this time I’m ready. I announce that I’ll be using my own copy of the deck; could everyone please call out page numbers so we can stay in synch?
Which brings me to the first law of screen-sharing: Get all documents ahead of time.
There is silence, which I interrupt by confirming our meeting outcomes and starting to drive through the agenda, eliciting feedback and getting agreement as we go. I am going at the speed of thought, which is light-years faster than the speed of watching someone type. With only 3 days before I am to deliver this material, I do not have time for the speed of typing.
The second law of screen-sharing is this: Move at the speed of agreement, not the speed of typing.
That’s when Jimbo says to his assistant: “Maybe you should take notes and correct the slides later.”
The third law of screen-sharing is: Do not write in groups. Ever.
Group writing is not improved by technology. It will always be a travesty to waste expensive, high-leverage group time that way. Instead, capture group feedback and assign someone to wordsmith the document later.
Back at the screen-sharing meeting, we accomplish our meeting outcomes and I close the meeting early.
The fourth rule of screen-sharing undergirds all the others: Commit to meeting outcomes rather than meeting activities.
When you’ve gotten the result you were after, stop. Most meetings drag on because groups get bogged down in finishing an activity long after the flavor has gone out of the gum. I’ve been in meetings where everyone was so focused on finishing the activity, they didn’t notice they’d already achieved their outcome! Define the end point and drive to it.
Have a different experience of screen-sharing? Tell me about it in the comments.