“Hold on … let me start recording.”
In the past few weeks, I’ve heard this phrase even more than the dreaded: “You’re on mute.”
As someone who loves to work from the comfort of home and stretchy pants, I’m a huge fan of virtual meetings. As much as I’ve enjoyed the recent return to in-person gatherings, virtual work remains my day-to-day preference. I like to wander into my home office, power up Teams or Zoom, and get down to business with the faces that appear on screen.
Yes, faces. I’m a proponent of “on” as the default for virtual meeting cameras. Are there moments when it’s good to toggle that setting to “off”? Of course. But generally speaking, we do ourselves and one another a favor by literally showing up for conversations on the screen.
Beyond the basics of cameras and microphones, tech developers have enriched our e-meeting platforms with more and more features. Screen sharing. Chat. Emojis. Breakout rooms. Recordings and transcriptions.
These options make it easier for people to engage and collaborate, right?
If the purpose of your virtual meeting is to do real, collaborative, creative work, please think twice about hitting that record button.
Here are three reasons recording may be the enemy of creative collaboration.
1. Good ideas get sacrificed when people self-censor.
If innovation is the goal, your meeting environment needs to encourage free-flowing ideas, honest exchange, and full participation from everyone. None of this is easy in a virtual world—and recording can make it that much harder.
Some people feel free to speak their mind and share ideas in any setting. No filter. But for others, that red “recording in progress” dot is a beacon for self-editing. The mere notion that their comments will be captured feels like submitting evidence that can and will be held against them.
And for those who dread virtual meetings in the first place, recording adds to the anxiety. How do I look? Do I sound foolish? What if I make a mistake? No one wants their insecurities recorded—much less replayed by god-knows-who for god-knows-how-long.
If 100% of your participants are trusting, collaborative, no-holds-barred contributors, recording may not hinder their creative work. But for mixed or uncertain crowds, consider appointing a note-taker who can capture the essence and action, then share a recap after your session.
2. Who has time to consume those recordings?
Admit it: An invitation that promises “this session will be recorded” is an invitation to skip the meeting.
Once upon a time, being double-booked meant making a choice. “I can’t be in two places, so I’ll go here or there, or I’ll divide my time between the two meetings.”
Now, you can just watch or listen to the recording!
But when, pray tell, will you fit that into a schedule that’s already crammed with commitments? Nobody I know complains that they have t-t-t-too much time on their hands (you’re welcome). In fact, many of my clients and colleagues are playing Tetris with their calendars, stacking meetings, and filling every usable space. One false move, and the whole day falls apart.
And let’s be honest. Few of these recordings have the substance or production value to captivate a view-it-later audience. Those who do access the recording will most likely give it half an ear while multitasking or commuting.
Reserve recordings for the kind of content that matters so much to your audience, they will devote time and attention to the playback. And give them a recording worthy of their time—with good sound quality, engaging visuals, and an opportunity to ask questions and/or participate in follow-up conversations.
3. Sometimes you just have to be there.
Meetings with a targeted outcome (if only that were all meetings) should also have a targeted list of participants.
I’m not a fan of “optional participants” on a meeting notice, especially for working sessions with a creative mission. Whether you’re making a work product, a decision, or some other sort of progress, choose your contributors on purpose, and emphasize that their participation is essential. When everyone shows up and chips in, no one needs a recording to see what they missed.
Instead, your super-charged group might opt to hit that record button for a different purpose. With everyone’s permission, you might decide to record and/or transcribe the conversation as a resource. This is especially useful for content creators who want to recall choice phrases, key words, and other powerful language that become a goldmine for communications that practically write themselves.