February 15, 2024

Benefits of Silent Meetings for Software Development Teams

Jess Cooper

Jess Cooper

Learn what silent meetings are and the benefits of silent meetings for software development teams.

Benefits of Silent Meetings for Software Development Teams

Benefits of Silent Meetings for Software Development Teams

The words silent and meeting probably don’t seem like they belong in the same sentence. But with tech-giants like Amazon and Google bringing silent meetings mainstream, there’s definitely grounds to consider them for your own software development team.

Silent meetings are a modern take on collaboration-focused meetings, taking the emphasis off formal presentations and slideshows, and placing it on shared thinking, problem solving, and rich discussion.

Something I think we can all agree our meetings could use a little more of.

Before we dive into the benefits of silent meetings for team collaboration, let’s dig a bit deeper into what silent meetings are.

What are silent meetings?

Now, despite their name, silent meetings aren’t 100% silent. Most silent meetings aim to be about 30-60% silent, depending on the purpose of the meeting.

A silent meeting is broken into 2 main parts:

  1. The silent portion: Everyone reviews the document (e.g. Figma File, project brief, strategic planning document, etc.) silently on their own, asking questions or leaving comments on a platform, like Slack, Google Docs or Stashpad.
  2. The discussion portion: The facilitator groups the questions and comments into common threads for the team to discuss live after everyone has reviewed the document and the other comments their teammates have left on it. The discussion only begins after everyone has reviewed the document and read the comments/questions left by their peers.

Now you may be asking, why not just assign pre-reading and have more time to discuss?

Let’s be real– how many times have you assigned pre-reading and no one got around to review in advance? Or, it’s clear it wasn’t prioritized and was skimmed over at best. I’ll venture to guess it’s happened more than once. I know it sure has in my career.

Having everyone dedicate 30-60% of the meeting to reviewing the document together quietly, synchronously leaving comments and asking questions in-real time brings a much-needed focus to the room. It’s not wasted time. It’s just a new, creative way to facilitate collaboration.

For an in-depth guide on silent meetings, be sure to check out The Silent Meeting Manifesto.

What are the benefits of silent meetings?

Considering silent meetings for your software team? Let’s dive into three key benefits of silent meetings.

1. Silent meetings are great for hybrid teams

Let’s face it, traditional meetings can sometimes unfairly disadvantage remote employees over in-office employees. It’s easier for team members who are attending in person to interject with questions and take the conversation down a rabbit hole.

In silent meetings, remote and in-person team members must review the document silently and have the equal opportunity to ask questions and leave comments right on the doc. The facilitator will then be responsible for finding themes in questions and comments and raising these to the group, making it much more likely a remote team member’s voice will be heard and brought to the surface for discussion.

2. Silent meetings are inclusive

Traditional meetings can be a pretty intense situations for introverts, people with disabilities, people who aren’t neuro-typical, or even non-native language speakers. Having to adapt to the way the speaker is presenting information and being forced to interject with questions doesn’t come easily to everyone.

By giving all team members the opportunity to read and process information at their own pace, and leave questions and comments in a way that works best for them, you’re ensuring your entire team can succeed no matter their working style.

For example, if someone on your team prefers to have their thoughts in order before sharing,, a silent meeting would give them the time and space to consume and add feedback on the document in a way that works for them. Where the alternative would be to miss out on their thoughtful ideas.

Choosing silent meetings can go a long way towards making your team more inclusive.

3. Silent meetings make meetings more actionable

Oftentimes when a meeting is concluded, valuable information discussed in the meetings falls through cracks. It’s commonplace that someone wasn’t taking down the meeting notes in an organized way, a comment was forgotten about, or the notes aren’t accessible to the team afterwards and are rendered useless. Unfortunately, traditional meetings often result in disjointed and disseminated notes that just aren’t helpful, and would require hours of work to clean up.

By centering the silent meeting around one information source and keeping the comments and questions on that, feedback is centralized automatically. This creates transparency for the entire team. It also makes it easy to absorb those questions and comments into the doc, with up-to-date action items.

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