The Etiquette of AI Meeting Assistants

At Chameleon Collective, as a totally virtual group of fractional and interim digital leaders, we live and die by video calls. Bi-weekly, a group of Chameleons get together in our AI Lounge, a discussion and ideas generation group, to discuss the best way to apply AI and machine learning to our clients. During this particular conversation, a spirited discussion – almost an argument – broke out about one question:

“Is it rude to send your AI note-taker and not attend the meeting yourself?”

 

Here’s how three individual Chameleons responded to the question:

Adam Rich, Growth and Brand through Content in the AI Age

“Your AI is your +1 to the wedding of the meeting you are attending. Problems arise when Otter shows up, but you don’t.

At its core, you send the message that the meeting isn’t worth your actual time. You are officializing the idea that you won’t contribute to the discourse. You have dispensed with the politeness of showing up to listen quietly. You are there to take, and you aren’t really even there. Everyone has dialed in to lend their brains to the matter at hand, and they are expending their resource of time and reflection. Perhaps you think yours are more valuable than theirs?

Not all meetings are created equal, and neither are all attendees. If your lanyard always reads “Fly on the Wall”, then your AI notetaker simply spares us the uncanny valley of your Bora Bora virtual background. But god forbid it pipes up in the chat, even with solicitations of shared transcripts and collaboration.

As with any new social technology, these virtual stenographers will require fresh etiquette. Did Al Gore type “moving you to bcc” when he first invented email? The quickest way to avoid hurt feelings is to manage expectations. Until our calendar’s settings offer “yes, no, sending a bot” this may mean we manually let people know we can’t make it but our AI will. Onerous? Perhaps, but isn’t this all about communication in the first place? Surely we won’t have to wait long before there’s an AI for that.”

Stephane Gringer, Interim & Fractional Chief Marketing Officer and Tech Evangelist

“AI note takers services in meetings? A game-changer, for sure. They’re a boon for us multi-taskers, capturing every word while we’re spinning plates and allowing for insights synthesis after. 

But, let’s not forget the human side. Dropping an AI note-taker into a meeting without a heads-up? That sends a bad message. If the meeting weren’t important enough for you to attend, you wouldn’t send your human assistant to a meeting without the rest of the group knowing in advance. Common courtesy and etiquette always apply.

Some transcription services have an auto-join by default, so make sure you flip it off and invite your ai note taker when you need it and are attending a meeting.”

Andrew Solmssen, Agency Leader, Chameleon Advisor

“I take a somewhat different position, although maybe I’m biased because in full disclosure, I wasn’t actually on the call. I had another meeting at the same time, and I was bummed to miss it! The AI Lounge brings a ton of smart people together, and I always learn a lot. My OtterPilot was there, however. I had not declined the meeting because I wanted my Otter to be there, capturing all the good stuff for later, and about 2 hours later, I was reviewing the meeting (at 1.5x speed while stretching), listening to my colleagues call out my behavior and the behavior of others. It was a weird meta moment – I heard, “We’ve got a number of AI-based note-takers here. More AI note-takers than people.” This made me smile until I heard, “I hate when note takers join the meeting – something about it kind of bothers me” And I heard Adam say, “If you send a note taker but don’t show up yourself, it’s a little rude. It’s kind of like a new frontier of courtesy.”  My smile faded….

I love the freedom of entirely focusing on a call without having to think about taking notes. Still, I also value being in two places at once, particularly for meetings where I’m not expected to participate actively. I can’t say I review every meeting that my Otter records, but I definitely hear the ones I’m interested in. Obviously, it isn’t the same as being there, and I often find myself wishing I could ask follow up questions. Still, it beats missing the meeting entirely and is SO MUCH better than scrolling through a Zoom recording (assuming you were the one who recorded or someone sent you a link) because it is searchable, you can scan through, change the playback speed, and a lot more, but this conversation has got me thinking – am I being selfish? How often can I send my Otter and not show before I take more than I’m giving? 

One thing I’m clear on – at least with today’s technology – is that I have no interest in the software making spontaneous contributions to calls. I love where it’s going, but AI announcements and ideas in a meeting always fall flat (those features often have to be turned off by each user), and I’m usually disappointed by the “summary” and “takeaways” features. I appreciate the progress, and that it is trying, but for now, we should all strip out little helpers down to as much “seen but not heard” as possible. 

Gen AI is creating daily ethical quandaries and potential violations: plagiarism, image manipulation, copyright, misinformation, bias, abuse, and data privacy are some potential issues. But I will take every pitfall in exchange for powerful new technologies. 

Our job is to help clients figure out the right experiences for their customers and to decide on strategic implementation of new technologies. That means figuring out the messy aspects of any new way of working ourselves so that we can act as effective advisors. Across the industry, the value of AI to our clients is massive: we can improve marketing, upgrade the customer experience, and get recommendations about how to transform a business, all with little or no human power.  But like anything new, we need to establish what works, what should be avoided, what provides surprise and delight – and what is just plain annoying.”

Where do we go from here?

The emergence of AI meeting assistants brings efficiency and new etiquette considerations to our virtual gatherings. As we navigate this landscape, it’s essential to remember the human element amidst technological advancements. While AI note-takers undoubtedly aid in productivity and multitasking, their deployment should be accompanied by transparency and consideration for others in the meeting. Sending an AI representative without attending oneself may convey a message of disinterest or disrespect towards the meeting and its participants.

As we embrace these technological tools, let’s strive to balance leveraging their benefits and upholding traditional principles of courtesy and engagement. Managing expectations, communicating intentions, and respecting the nuances of human interaction remain paramount. Ultimately, as we explore the potential of AI in our meetings and beyond, let’s ensure that our actions contribute positively to collaboration, understanding, and mutual respect in the digital age.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

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A content strategist and AI expert, Adam founded lifestyle publication Thrillist and made it a monster. He knows audience and delivers results via content, brand, and product.

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