“I love meetings!”
Said no one ever.
Why are meetings still a thing?
When done right, meetings boost productivity and performance beyond any other communication channel. They can make or break your business. The key is knowing what makes them work.
In this guide, we will cover the ten best practices for effective team meetings. You will learn:
- The different types of meetings
- How to hold engaging team meetings
- How to get your point across without taking too much time
… and many more valuable tips. Let’s begin.
Different Types of Team Meetings
There are different types of meetings, and they all have different objectives. Knowing the ins and outs of each meeting type lets you deliver your message more effectively.
The five most essential meetings to know are:
- Status update meetings
- Kickoff meetings
- Brainstorming sessions
- Onboarding meetings
Here is a graphic overview of team meetings categories.
An overview of different meeting types (Source)
Status updates are short meetings for team members to discuss their work progress. Daily standups in Agile teams is an example of a status update meeting.
Kickoffs help teams understand a project’s objectives and game plan beforehand. Employees perform better when they are clear on what to do before they start working.
Retrospectives are here to gather feedback at the end of a project where teams discuss what went right (or wrong) during work and use the observations to do better in upcoming projects.
Creativity is one of the biggest contributors to business success, and brainstorming sessions enable creative and out of the box thinking to solve problems.
Good onboarding meetings allow new hires to integrate quickly with the team. You’ll see a faster uptick in productivity and spend fewer resources to get new employees work-ready.
These meetings are relevant to every business. Knowing each one goes a long way in helping you decide which meeting to hold for optimal results.
10 Best Practices for Effective Team Meetings
It’s easier to run an effective meeting than you’d think.
We have prepared some best practices that will help you become an expert in holding interesting, engaging team meetings where people actually remember the things you have said.
Here is how to achieve that.
1. Have an Agenda With Clear Goals
Meetings must have a reason behind them, or they become nothing more than glorified time sinks. So before you book your calendar, determine whether a meeting is truly necessary.
Think of your agenda for the meeting.
- Are you sharing project updates?
- Did something important come up during the weekend?
- Is there an urgent client request to resolve?
Going in with a clear purpose offsets a lot of the negatives associated with meetings. Try not to overcomplicate your agenda—two to three brief points are good enough to get your message across.
Break down your agenda into smaller parts if you struggle to come up with clear goals, as shown in the image below.
Let’s say you want to talk about your team’s decreasing performance. First, understand why it’s essential to address the drop in performance. Next, identify the cause of the problem. Finally, discuss potential solutions with the team to fix the issue.
Ta-da! You now have three topics to cover.
This technique works best for complex scenarios that you can’t explain easily. The 5 Ws (and 1 H) questions also come in handy here. Use the framework as a tool to create convincing agendas for your meetings.
Sort your goals from the highest to the lowest priority. This lets you cover the most critical points early in the meeting when participants better absorb information.
If they remember what you said, they are more likely to recall that at work, thus boosting meeting effectiveness.
2. Set a Time Limit for Meetings and Stick to It
Long meetings are no-goes. They are tedious, wasteful, and do little to help participants understand what’s going on. They are expensive too. U.S. companies spent $399 billion on pointless meetings in 2019.
We’re not designed to take in mass information over long periods. Elise Keith of Lucid Meetings found that participants focus most in the first 5 minutes of a meeting. A study by the American Chemical Society echoed the same statement.
Participants showed lapses in attention every minute in their tests.
This explains why most productive meetings take 15 to 45 minutes. Keep them any longer, and you risk losing your team’s attention and interest. If you need to hold hour-long meetings, allow employees to take breaks.
It’s equally important to have an endpoint of your meetings and to stick to it.
If you scheduled a 30-minute kickoff at 10 in the morning, conclude it by 10.30 a.m. Your team members will appreciate you for being punctual, and they won’t dread future meetings either since they already know you won’t waste their time.
Another way to hold shorter meetings is to streamline your agenda. Go through every point with a microscope. Cut down lengthy discussions to focus only on key points. Reserve non-essential topics for future meetings if you have too much to cover.
Share extra information via email or team chats, not in the meeting itself.
Knowing when to cut off a meeting will also prevent your team from working overtime. A time tracking software like Buddy Punch will help you manage employee work hours and keep you accountable.
3. Recognize Employee Efforts
Recognition increases employee engagement and retention, and it should be leveraged in meetings. You want to make your team members feel valued and seen. The best way to do so is to acknowledge their efforts.
If your team smashed expectations, mention it briefly even if it’s not a highlight of the discussion. Thank your team members for working day and night to make the project a success.
The numbers in the graph below show the math behind employee recognition and help you realize why you shouldn’t skip showing appreciation.
The importance of employee recognition (Source)
Try to make employee recognition a vital part of your meetings. You can start or end every meeting with a quick appreciation speech for your team’s efforts and give extra praise for team members who go the extra mile or achieve milestones.
You can also use this time to celebrate work anniversaries, birthdays, and promotions—they will all make your team members feel valued.
While employee recognition is highly beneficial for team morale, it only works if you don’t go overboard with it. Overdoing it may foster an unhealthy environment where team members cross each other just to receive praise. So save your praises for those that deserve it, and don’t give it out like candy.
Technology can ease your employee recognition efforts—such as project management and time tracking tools.
You can see the work hours of every team member with a time tracking tool and identify employees who deserve recognition based on their performance—no more guessing who did more or less work.
4. Criticize in Private
Don’t criticize team members in group meetings.
Not only are you shaming them in front of their peers, but you’re also setting a bad precedent for your company’s culture—not a good look for your brand reputation.
Of course, this does not mean that negative feedback is off-limits. Employees need feedback to grow, and some employees even thrive off feedback in their self-development. The key is to criticize in private, never in public.
Hold one-on-one meetings with underperforming team members. Be discreet about it, though, as you don’t want other people to gossip about the meeting and spread harmful rumors. Reiterate that whatever happens in the meeting stays in the meeting. The employee will feel relieved knowing their underperformance won’t be spread across the whole company.
Also, always try to make your negative feedback constructive.
First, mention what the employee did well and branch out from there and reframe the context of the criticism from “you did this wrong” to “you could have done better.” You want them to learn and grow from the experience, not feel awful.
Another tip for your one-on-one performance meetings is to give feedback as soon as possible. If a team member made a mistake, talk to him or her immediately after. Because if you wait too long, they will struggle to remember the issue, which will lead to disagreements and unwanted back-and-forths.
While you may take your performance reviews private, you should also discourage other team members from calling out each other in team meetings. It’s OK to provide constructive feedback but blaming and shaming should not be tolerated.
If you communicate that rule and provide a channel for employees to escalate their concerns to management (if they cannot resolve conflicts among each other), you will prevent them from roasting each other in group meetings.
Recommended reading: How to Improve Team Performance
5. Address Team Meeting Fatigue
Remember that first 5 minutes we mentioned earlier? What happens with meeting fatigue is that team members lose focus and cannot take in information effectively.
And that fatigue gets worse the longer you ignore it until it reaches the point where employees don’t remember a single thing from the meeting.
People get tired of meetings for several reasons. It happens when you schedule too many meetings or when they take too long to finish. Dull, uninspiring presentations also contribute to meeting fatigue.
Dilbert on meetings (Image Source)
The easiest way to reduce fatigue? Schedule fewer meetings. Revise your agenda before you decide on a meeting, and if you can cover everything in 15 minutes, opt for an email instead.
As mentioned earlier, team members need breaks to rest and recharge from taking in information if the meeting is long, so be generous with time outs. Don’t give just a 15-minute breather for a meeting that takes up the entire day.
The longer your meeting, the longer (and more frequent) your breaks should be.
Since monotony contributes to meeting fatigue, think about how you can make meetings more engaging. Here are some things to try:
- Use colorful slides and videos to deliver your message.
- Give participants something to munch on during meetings.
- Encourage participation through brainstorming sessions.
- Meet outside of the office for a change of scenery.
Overall, don’t be afraid to break meeting conventions to tackle meeting fatigue and do whatever works to achieve the end goal of your meeting.
6. Practice Live Q&As
Employees feel valued when they can contribute to discussions, and team meetings won’t feel like a one-way conversation where the speaker has the final say.
You can tackle your team’s fatigue, concerns, and gauge their understanding of your points with live Q&As—a win-win for everyone involved.
If you decide to include Q&A in your meetings, be careful not to leave a little room for questions at the end of a meeting. Your team members already have their minds set on getting out the door, so they will hesitate to ask anything.
And even if they do, their questions will likely be shallow and meaningless.
Besides, no one wants to be that guy who drags meetings with long-winded questions.
Overcome this challenge by allowing team members to ask questions anytime or put time for Q&A in the middle of the meeting. That way, team members don’t need to wait until the end of the meeting to ask things or give feedback.
To make your Q&A session efficient, you will need to establish a process or procedure. You don’t want team members to continually interrupt the person speaking and diminish the goal of this best practice.
Be ready for unexpected questions and don’t brush away uncomfortable ones. Being able to take on hard questions with confidence is a sign of strong leadership, and as a result, your employees will put more trust and faith in you.
If you need time to think and come up with an answer, write it down and address it in the post-meeting follow up, which we will talk about later.
Also, know that your first Q&A may be silent. To get people speaking, direct questions back to them. For example, if you are presenting a kickoff session for a new client, you can ask something like, “What would you improve in this plan, Jane?”.
Your team will slowly learn to interact in Q&As as you engage with them over time.
Recommended reading: How to Lead a Team
7. Keep Team Meetings Flexible
Since creativity and innovation are building blocks of business success, you should do whatever you can to spark them in your organization. One way to do so is by allowing some flexibility in your team meetings.
Flexible meetings spark creativity, so don’t be afraid to think out of the box.
For example, you could ask participants how they want the meeting to look like and then experiment with different meeting formats and styles to keep things fresh. You can even put one of the team members in charge of the meeting.
When team members exercise their inventiveness and ping ideas off each other, it improves problem solving and collaboration, contributing massively to your company’s development.
It’s good to have an organized agenda but allow some room for spontaneity. For instance, you can allocate the last 10 to 15 minutes of meetings as buffer time.
Recommended reading: How To Improve Collaboration Among Employees
8. Follow-Up After Meetings
Remember your time in school. Were you able to remember everything from one class? Bits and pieces…maybe, but not the entire lecture.
Well, your team members go through the same experience in meetings, and it’s silly to expect them to remember every single detail of what you have said. However, you still need them to learn something from the discussion.
So how do you help team members to retain information effectively? By following up on the meeting agenda.
With a post-meeting email, you can address lengthy or complicated questions that were unaddressed.
This cuts down on meeting times without making your team members feel unappreciated, and it allows you to think of the best answer without pressure. Include your answers to these questions in meeting follow up.
However, don’t document every single interaction in a meeting in your follow-ups. Here is a good quote to go by:
Write down concrete actions and decisions that will happen and leave ideas, suggestions, and other tentative feedback on the sidelines for later. The three points mentioned below also serve as guidelines for what you need to write down.
A helpful follow-up technique is to send out notes to summarize the meeting’s key points. Good meeting notes cover these three points:
- The meeting’s purpose.
- The outcome.
- The next steps to take.
We will talk about meeting notes in the next section more in-depth. For now, just remember to keep your notes brief and straight to the point—you don’t want them to be scrap paper.
A sample meeting note (Image Source)
A quick follow up can even be covered at the beginning of the next meeting where you take a few minutes to address the team’s progress. This helps your team stay on the right track to achieve the objectives set in previous meetings.
9. Share Meeting Notes
Meeting notes are only effective if shared within the whole team, and it’s best to share them immediately after the meeting. That way, your team members can reinforce their understanding of the topic and gain more clarity on details they may have missed.
Keep your meeting notes somewhere accessible in digital format as physical notes get bulky and messy over time. It’s best to upload them on collaboration platforms such as Slack, Confluence, or others.
A common mistake with meeting notes is to make them too long or too vague, so be wary of that. Brief notes are an ideal format, but they also have to be practical—don’t insert ridiculous acronyms and cryptic sentences just to keep your notes short.
If you are not sure whether you’ve nailed meeting notes, test it by giving it to someone who wasn’t in the meeting. He or she should be able to describe the meeting just by looking at your notes. If they find the summary hard to read and understand, rework it from a simpler angle.
10. Ask for Feedback
Feedback lets you improve your meetings significantly and helps you eliminate mistakes and bad habits that diminish the meeting’s effect.
The best feedback to receive is from team members themselves: ask them what they love, hate, or wish for in meetings.
For example, if you find out your meetings are too boring based on employee feedback, you can use this knowledge to spice up your presentation with images and fun activities.
You make meetings enjoyable and make team members feel valued when you take their feedback seriously.
There are many ways to gather feedback. Some companies use surveys to collect opinions, observe team members’ actions, and body language to gauge their feelings or ask for feedback in one-on-one meetings if the teams are small enough.
Keep in mind that some employees hesitate to give feedback—especially negative comments—as they fear the consequences. You can combat this by allowing for anonymous feedback or by assuring them that it’s alright to be honest and that nothing bad will happen.
Run Better Team Meetings Today
Team meetings can become a medium for improvement and collaboration that everyone is looking forward to and these ten best practices will elevate your meetings to the next level.
Now that you know what are the common problems with meetings—such as meeting fatigue—you can analyze what you have been doing so far and improve on that foundation.
You don’t need to implement everything all at once. Just keep an open mind and test out one or two things within your company. Your team will thank you.