Hosting Productive Team Meetings - 5 Tips to Keep in Mind
If you had to make a list of some of the things that most employees dread, those "all hands on deck" meetings would undoubtedly be right at the top.
Why Team Meetings Fail
Sometimes meetings are valuable in that they help convey important ideas or make sure that everyone is on the same page regarding that upcoming project. But in a lot of cases, they're seen as a burden because they likely didn't have to be a meeting at all. Maybe you could have accomplished the same thing in an email, or by sending around an office memo. Regardless, not only are these types of meetings a waste of time - they can harm the productivity and performance of your team while also negatively impacting their motivation.
Hosting More Productive Team Meetings: An Overview
But thankfully, all hope is not lost. Holding more productive team meetings is a lot more straightforward of a process than you may think. It requires you to keep a few key things in mind before, during and after the event.
Holding more productive team meetings is about making "one big change" and has more to do with a series of smaller ones. They may not seem like much on their own, but together they add up to an experience that is more than worth everyone's time.
Learning How to Improve Online Meetings
One of the biggest challenges in terms of productive team meetings these days has to do with the COVID-19 pandemic. It was hard enough to keep everyone on track when you were all sharing the same office space. Now that most people are going to be working remotely for the foreseeable future, the process is exponentially more difficult... if you allow it to be.
Remote meeting software will soon become an invaluable part of your process, as these types of tools are designed to help you manage remote employees more effectively by design. Many of these tools have features that allow teams to organize information, track changes that are being made to documents in progress and better manage their remote work in general. By making sure that all employees have access to the same tools, they'll have everything they need to play a more active role in the meetings themselves.
Just a few of the tools you can explore include:
- Zoom, which offers real-time collaboration tools like messaging, a team chat, content sharing, breakout rooms and more.
- Google Meet, which comes with Google's G Suite service. The benefit here is the deep integration with other Google products. You can join a meeting directly from a calendar event, for example.
- GoToMeeting, which includes great features like personalized meeting rooms (perfect for repeat use), unlimited recording, compatibility with Siri voice commands and others.
- Zoho Meetings, which is a tool aimed at helping you hold both meetings and webinars. Zoho Meetings lets users dial in using toll free numbers if they're trying to connect in an area with poor Internet connectivity.
- Cisco Webex, which was one of the first video conferencing tools to pledge support for struggling businesses during COVID-19. Webex lets you start a whiteboard for brainstorming with a group during a meeting. You can also launch video meetings from other tools you're using like Slack, Salesforce and even Microsoft Teams.
These types of tools can help significantly in terms of the co-creation and planning of documents, for example, as each member of your team can assign tasks for themselves and also gets visibility into what everyone else is responsible for. They also improve communication between team members by offering a structured overview of all projects that are currently in process. Another benefit is that they offer comprehensive message histories, meaning that people can easily browse through old discussions to find information when they need it, wherever they need it, absolutely no exceptions.
Remote meeting tools are great for daily standups, virtual team lunches or morning meeting share ideas.
Coming Up With Better Staff Meeting Agenda Topics
If you've ever been in a meeting that quickly devolved into a series of off-topic discussions, you likely have the agenda (or lack thereof) to blame. Every meeting needs structure to keep things flowing. But note that you shouldn't create this yourself in a vacuum. Be willing to collaborate with all the other participants and ask them for their input on the topics that need to be discussed. Set a realistic time frame for each agenda item to make sure that you have enough time to get through it all.
Then, be sure to make sure that everyone has the agenda well in advance of the meeting - that way, they'll have more than enough time to adequately prepare.
At a bare minimum, your meeting agenda should cover things like the projected meeting start and end time, all attendees and the overall purpose of the meeting itself.
Management Meeting Topics: Shifting Your Perspective
Management meetings will always have a bit of a different point of view than more general staff meetings. Whereas a staff meeting is probably used to get updates on work that is being done for specific clients, management meetings are about taking a larger and more holistic approach at the company as a whole.
Try to start with a sense of good news that can either be something work-related or even personal if you'd prefer. Doing this helps set the best possible tone for the meeting and can really help things get off on the right foot. Then, segue into your company Key Performance Indicators - those metrics that really give people a sense of where the company currently stands and, more importantly, where it might be headed.
Then, you'll want to contextualize the progress being made by individual teams against the backdrop of your company's larger priorities. This can be whatever is most important to you at the moment - from increasing revenue to improving efficiency to gaining ground over new competitors that have recently entered your market.
But by taking the individual progress and accomplishments of teams and discussing them through this particular lens, it gives you a sense of how close you are to accomplishing those important goals. If things are moving along exactly as they should be, terrific. If they're not, or if progress is slow, you now have an avenue to figure out why so that you can then determine what, if anything, can be done about it.
Cutting Down on Attendees
Very rarely is EVERYONE required to be at a meeting. For the best results you'll really want to cut down on your attendees as much as possible.
Go back over the agenda you created and think about the people who are very relevant to each item. This probably won't include your entire team - and that's okay. You can always share the meeting minutes with other people later on. Keeping your attendees to just a handful of people will not only avoid the discussion drifting off into unpredictable areas, but it can also help the entire process stay more focused and relevant.
Note, however, that you should always invite someone to the meeting with the specific assignment of being a note taker. Someone should be tasked with taking down accurate meeting minutes, if nothing else so that they can be distributed later. But really, this person will be helpful in terms of making sure that the meeting itself sticks to the agenda you've created.
Creating a Sense of Accountability
Finally, you'll want to work to create as much accountability in your meeting as possible. For each action item you define, there should be a clear owner who is accountable for that topic. People should be able to get a sense of not only why the meeting is important, but why the role they're being asked to play is important.
Remember that productive team meetings are supposed to be about getting work done. They don't exist exclusively for reporting and using them that way is how you end up with an event that only wastes precious time. So before you schedule that next meeting, ask yourself whether it justifies its own existence. Do you just need to share information? Because you can easily do that in an email or by paying a visit to one or two people. Are any of your action items things that could be resolved in other ways, like via messaging software? If so, you should go that route.
But if you truly need a collaborative work experience to help tackle a particular item, meetings are the way to go - provided that you keep all the advice above in mind.
In the end, making an effort to create more productive staff meetings brings with it a host of different benefits. The meetings are naturally more engaging because they're shorter, more compact and offer more value to your employees. They're still an opportunity to keep everyone on the same page and keep an organized overview of the important work that you and your employees are doing.