How AI can help you get the most out of meetings


If your workdays are filled with meetings, you’re not alone. But AI might be able to help.

The amount of time people spend in meetings has increased 3x since 2020, according to a Microsoft Work Trend Index report.

The data also shows that inefficient meetings are the number one productivity disrupter and typically, people will attend a 60-minute meeting for 2 minutes of insight with at least a quarter of participants never coming off mute.

The problem isn’t meetings themselves, after all they’re how we often collaborate. The issue is meeting overload and how many of us are struggling to keep up, which impacts overall organisational productivity.

Generative AI (Gen AI) is changing this and helping us rethink the nature of meetings. When I talk about Gen AI, for me that means Copilot for Microsoft 365 – the Generative AI tool that sits across Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Teams (where all my meetings are done).

My team and I have been using Copilot now for more than six months and it’s fundamentally changing how we run meetings and collaborate.

We’ve learnt a lot in this time and there are five areas where we’ve seen Copilot have the biggest impact in transforming meetings:

1. AI helps you catch up quickly because you’re late or you work across time zones

We’ve all been there. Back-to-back meetings, spanning in-person and virtual – all while trying to find time for a coffee or bathroom break.

Meeting overload hinders creativity and motivation. People can quickly feel drained jumping from one meeting to another, making it difficult to bring the best version of themselves to each engagement.

If you’re struggling to get to meetings on time, generative AI tools like Copilot can help you summarise key points and interrogate meeting content so you can catch up on what’s happened so far and jump in without missing a beat.

Similarly, working across time zones can mean it’s impossible to attend all meetings, and can take time away from personal or family time to attend an early or late call.

For me, working across the Asia time zone can mean getting up early for a call in New Zealand, or taking a late-night call to connect with colleagues in India. But do I need to attend every call for its entire duration?

Not always, and generative AI is now enabling me to decide and catch up in a way that works for me.

This is where the Recap function in Copilot comes in. Data from early Copilot customers shows that meeting recaps enable users to catch up on meetings four times faster than without Copilot.

But the opportunity goes way beyond meeting summaries. Gen AI allows users to ask questions in natural language to Copilot in the same way you would ask a colleague.

It could be questions like, “what have I missed?”; “have we talked about project B yet?”; “has there been an update from John?”.

It has enabled the meeting to stay focused and efficient, with everyone able to catch up either during the meeting or when they are tuning in at a time – and in a time zone – that makes sense for them.

2. AI can be a coach and confidence builder

AI-powered tools also help participants find a voice in meetings where they aren’t feeling knowledgeable about the topic, or are simply a bit nervous to chime in.

Because Gen AI can understand the context of the conversation, when prompted by a user, it can suggest questions or comments for you to be more active in the conversation.

For example, you could ask Copilot, “what are some questions I could ask?” or “rephrase that question, I didn’t understand it.”

It can respond with potential questions or insight that is relevant to the conversation, and most likely, give you the confidence to come off mute and be more active in the meeting.

3. AI can help people managers keep teams on track and drive greater inclusivity

Similarly, as a leader, I love to ask Copilot who has or hasn’t participated in the conversation yet, so I can invite them to add their thoughts.

This has been incredibly powerful for ensuring everyone feels they have a voice and to foster more inclusivity, which ultimately drives greater diversity of thought and ideas.

I’m sure most of us have also attended meetings where there is a lack of progress or digressions. AI-powered tools can assist you in regaining focus and momentum.

You can ask things like “what can I ask to move the meeting forward?” or “what issues are still unresolved?” with answers visible only to you.

It can also analyse and report on mood and sentiment which can be hugely valuable in identifying where I might need to follow up with team members to check in. Prompts could be, “was that an easy decision?” or “how did the group feel about it?”.

4. AI frees the mind to be more strategic

When facilitating meetings, AI-powered tools can also take the weight of coordination off your shoulders and enable you to become a master of meetings. Afterall, meeting effectiveness relies on people facilitating engaging conversations to deliver productive outcomes.

I am responsible for leading quarterly business reviews, for example.

As the facilitator I would previously have to navigate a large agenda, listen to and coach all presenters who vary in level and experience, ask questions, guide the direction and relevance of the meeting, and then summarise outtakes and actions for my leadership team.

Since using Copilot, I’ve enjoyed these meetings so much more as it manages several of these tasks throughout the meeting for me, allowing me to be more present and deeply engaged with my team.

5. AI does the meeting follow up for you

Following a meeting it’s typical to spend time creating content to capture the information discussed, perhaps in a table or list of actions to share back with the attendees. This can now be done completely by AI in a format that makes sense for you.

For example, you could prompt Copilot to “create a table of all ideas discussed, the pros and cons and who in the team took the action for each item.” It would synthesise the information and present it in a way that is either ready to go or gives you a base to work from.

Feedback from my team is they can swiftly move onto the more thoughtful and strategic work instead of spending 30 minutes capturing the information.

Copilot can also suggest actions like scheduling a follow-up call, where it can automatically open a meeting form, add a title and suggest participants and available times.

It will also include an agenda (or at least a suggestion for you to start with and edit), relevant files and a summary of the email or Teams meeting thread.

The new threshold for meetings

AI is changing how we approach meetings. It used to be that a meeting happened, engagement varied, the meeting ended, and attendees took sketchy notes and manually shared actions back.

With Gen AI, a meeting is no longer a one-off event. It’s become an ‘enduring digital artefact’ that you can refer to, interrogate in powerful ways, and use AI to quickly synthesise the meeting content in a meaningful way.

The new threshold for meetings is now grounded in the unique human contribution we bring to these moments of connection and collaboration; humans contextualise key points for fruitful discussions.

Attend the meetings where you can bring your own perspective and voice, and where you have a deliberate plan to participate and drive impact.

Catch up on other meetings in a different way to remain informed and connected, freeing up uninterrupted focus time for high impact, strategic work. This not only boosts productivity, but it also enhances wellbeing by allowing people to focus on impact versus task overload.

It’s a step change from the work style that many of us have become so familiar with, but it helps us show up in purposeful ways for meetings that really matter.

Rethinking our approach in this way unlocks greater opportunities for value creation and ensures the future of work is brighter, and more enriching for every individual.

Lucy Debono is the Modern Work Business Group Leader at Microsoft ANZ.

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