5 ways to improve team meetings
Let’s get real: no one perks up at a meeting invitation, nor does anyone enjoy planning meetings. There are few things worse than sitting through an hour-long meeting, only to leave knowing you could have spent valuable time doing something else.
Effective meetings always start and end with a purpose and a plan. Keep this in mind and you’ll always run useful meetings and workshops (whether you’re in-person or remote) without encumbering your desktop with extra tools.
Just remember: carefully selected attendees + specific goal + open forum = one productive meeting. Here are our tips for improving team meetings to make the most of the time they have:
- Limit your participants and assign roles to them.
- Plan for the brain's best thinking time.
- Set goals, create an agenda, and make sure everyone knows.
- Make your meetings shorter to relieve the time pressure.
- Build a post-meeting action plan and make everyone's role clear.
Cycle through these five steps each time you plan and run your meeting to watch your team's productivity skyrocket.
Before the meeting or workshop
Limit your meeting participants and assign their roles
Rule of thumb: smaller meetings are typically more effective and productive than larger ones. Only invite the colleagues that are genuinely of use to the project or objective and make sure they all know your expectations before the meeting.
Think back to your school days when only a few people dominated the conversation alongside your teacher. If you weren’t the one talking, you might remember how you felt: not at all engaged or obliged to contribute. That’s how a big, directionless meeting feels.
Harvard Business Review notes that it’sharder to spot subtle body languageor social cues in larger groups that determine the direction of a conversation. (This is obviously even more difficult when running remote sessions over video calls!)
If possible, limit your meetings to 8 or fewer participants so you create an intimate setting for discussion. You'll manage the social pressure some introverts feel and take in more of what's happening around you.
Let everyone know their role and responsibility in advance. Is someone keeping track of time and taking notes? Who's in charge of thinking through how the client/customer will feel about your decisions? You may also need someone to keep track of tasks and action items you uncover during the meeting.
When each person gets a role, you give them a reason to engage. They'll also look at the meeting through their own unique perspective. Keep your meeting small and the participants themselves will make it productive and effective.
Plan your meeting during the best creative thinking times
If you need to meet, schedule it during the peak brainstorming and problem-solving times of the day. You want your meeting to take place when your team is most engaged. That said, avoid:
- Lunch hours (especially if you’re collaborating in between timezones)
- Towards the end of the working day
- First thing in the morning
You can always talk to the inconvenienced participants to get their input before you make a schedule. They’ll appreciate the heads up and know that you value their time.
In a study that shows how the brain reacts differently at different times, Atlassian highlights how the time of day affects your creativity. Based on the study, your creative thinking skills are better after you’ve rested, while problem-solving skills improve much later in the day when your mind is tired.
Pro-tip: Plan ideation sessions for the morning and problem-solving teamwork meetings for later in the afternoon. You'll start to see how your team views different opportunities and makes connections depending on the time of day.
Set goals and share your agenda beforehand
Meetings can be a huge pain if there’s no clear focus or objective to hand - meaning the reason for meeting never gets revolved. Establish specific goals for your time together, prepare an agenda, and share it with all your team members before the scheduled time.
Ask yourself the following questions before you send a meeting invitation:
- Can I get this done by email or text chat?
- What’s the main goal of this meeting?
- What sub-goals do we need to tackle?
- How will I create an open space to accomplish these goals?
- What steps do we need to take to achieve the big goal?
When you ask yourself these 5 questions, you eliminate the biggest problem with meetings: a lack of purpose. Plan out the meeting goals and the steps to achieve them, and then create a detailed agenda so everyone stays on track.
Once this has been set, don’t be afraid to occasionally interject when the meeting has drifted off course. Share your agenda ahead of time to give people a chance to digest it.
During the meeting or workshop
Run shorter meetings
It's a well known fact Google employees (allegedly) rarely run a meeting over 10 minutes. That may not be feasible for everyone, but avoid running your meeting over an hour and let your information breathe.
People tend to stay focused when faced with a time constraint, but as the clock runs out on a long meeting, you know what happens? Your participants get quiet. Their eyes glaze over and you lose their engagement. On the flip side, cramming information, conversation, and action plans into a small amount of time, overwhelms your attendees.
Find the happy medium to relieve time pressure in your meetings. Set up a time window that provides enough space for opinions, discussion, and other important resolutions you need to handle with your team.
It may help to have a timer running somewhere in the meeting that everyone can see, such as the Axis timer feature, so that no one person becomes responsible for keeping time.
After the meeting or workshop
Share the action plan
It’s crucial to agree upon next steps and action owners during the meeting, otherwise everyone leaves with big ideas and nothing to do. As the facilitator, you need to steady the conversation towards a resolution and always end meetings with an action plan.. During the last few minutes of your meeting, you should make sure that everyone knows their role moving forward.
The proof of a good meeting is a measurable action plan. You want to sum up your plan nicely so you can share it with both attendees and non-attendees who need buy-in on the action.
Plans can be as simple as a majority vote or a list of action items leading to the completion of a main goal. Regardless, don’t let your team go without letting them know what comes next.
Over to you!
Meetings and workshops have garnered quite a bad name over time, but you can change your team’s outlook on rationalizing, problem-solving, and decision-making sessions.
Remember our formula for productive and effective meetings: thoughtful selection of attendees + specific purpose + welcoming space for open discussion. Follow these steps every time, and your meetings and workshops will run smoothly without any extra software, tools, or hassle.
If you’re looking for additional resources to plan better meetings, try Axis for free! You can start scheduling more efficient team-building sessions through our reinvented workshops.
How about you? Is there a trick you use before, during, or after your meetings and workshops? Tell us below!
Looking for a structured support system to help you plan and run better sessions? Click here to try Axis for free and fall in love with meetings again.