Like it or not, meetings are an important part of our working life. They are the cornerstone of collaboration, and in themselves, meetings are not inherently bad.
So what gives meetings such a bad rep? Well, for one, most of them are not run effectively. They go longer than they should, without a clear aim, frustrate team members and decrease their motivation.
In fact, some studies suggest that as much as 91% of professionals admit to day dreaming during meetings, and more than one third have admitted to dozing off.
Other professionals choose to be more productive: 73% say they have brought other work with them during meetings.
It’s a vicious circle. Boring, inefficient meetings will become even more boring and unproductive because team members have no desire to participate.
Given that there are about 11 million business meetings in the U.S. every day, there has to be a way to make meetings a little bit more exciting than watching paint dry.
So let’s review some of the things that will help you run an effective team meeting.
Know that meetings take preparation. Respect your and your team’s time and prepare for the meeting.
Whoever leads the meeting should have an agenda of what should be accomplished during the meeting. Even though this might not be printed out and shared with the rest of the team, it will inform how the meeting leader guides the discussion.
If your meetings are lead by different team members every time, make it clear that preparation is a must. Go with them over what the expectations are and give them pointers on how to prepare ahead of the meeting.
What is the purpose of the meeting? Is it an exchange of information? A status update? Are you discussing an issue? Coming up with a solution?
Set a clear objective for each meeting, and focus on achieving only that one purpose during the meeting.
If other issues come up that must be discussed as a team, take note of them but set them aside. Don’t allow them to derail the meeting. Then find the best way to follow up on them.
Find the best meeting time
Don’t attempt a meeting when you know your team members are not alert and receptive.
Every team has its own rhythm and so the best times for meetings will depend on that. But there are some things that generally hold true for most meetings.
For example, Mondays and Fridays are usually considered to be less optimal meeting days. On Monday, people are still settling in after the weekend, and on Friday they are anticipating the weekend.
Early morning meetings are also a bit tricky, because not everyone functions at their most productive in the morning. On the other hand, late afternoon meetings might leave you with a room of people who are clock watching for the end of the day.
Usually, most people feel sluggish right after lunch, and need a bit of time to come back to their pre-lunch energy levels.
So when is the best time to hold a meeting? A study by online scheduling service WhenIsGood suggests Tuesday at 3 p.m. works best for most teams.
Try out different meeting times and see when your team is most responsive. Each team has its own dynamics, so what works for some might not work for others.
Make it interactive
The point of a meeting is to have an exchange - of information, of ideas, of opinions. If you’re just talking at your team members, you’re missing the point. You might as well just send out an email telling them what you have to say.
Engage your team members with thought provoking questions. Get everybody to participate in the meeting and pitch in their expertise. Make your meetings a true collaborative feast.
Wrapping up the meeting
Every meeting should have a beginning, a middle and an end.
Finishing up your meeting on the right note is just as important as starting it right. First, don’t let the meeting go on more than needed. Short and sweet can be very productive, if all the end result of the meeting is crystal clear.
As much as possible, tie all loose ends. If there are any issues that can’t be resolved right away, make it clear what the next steps should be. And if you’re discussing specific tasks, make sure that everyone leaves the meeting clear on what they need to do.
However you choose to wrap up your meeting, it’s important to come to a conclusion, so that your team members are clear on the next steps.
Reinforce the meeting with a written summary
Unless you’re super human, your memory will fail you.
While you don’t need to take detailed minutes of every singe team meeting, it’s good to reinforce the meeting with a written summary.
You can write down the main points on your whiteboard, or even better, type them up the notes section of your task manager.
Don’t forget that the purpose of a meeting is to motivate people, develop ideas and then move team members to take positive action toward achieving those ideas. Don't get stuck on rules and bureaucracy - the most effective meeting will simply leave people inspired and motivated, instead of making them feel they just wasted their time.
Do you have any tips on how you run an effective team meeting? Share them with us and other readers in the comment section below!