Team meetings have a reputation as time wasters. It’s common for them to go on for too long and accomplish too little. Figuring out how to run an effective team meeting is one of the best things you can do to boost productivity and give employees a valuable experience.
With some planning and the use of this effective team meetings template for organization, it’s possible to gain all of the benefits of successful team meetings. These include meaningful progress on projects, greater team cohesion and morale, and a speedier and more effective resolution to problems.
How to Plan Effective Team Meetings
Meetings vary in purpose and format. Some may involve only onsite employees, while others are virtual meetings with remote employees. The following advice is flexible and can be adapted to any meeting objective and length of time.
Be Clear About Your Purpose
How do you structure an agenda for a team meeting? Unless you understand the purpose of the meeting, you won't be able to draw up a plan for it.
Bad meetings are typically unfocused or unnecessary. In contrast, successful meetings have realistic and clear objectives. Examples include:
- Brainstorming creative ideas.
- Running a project retrospective.
- Introducing new employees.
- Reviewing a budget.
- Resolving problems with an ongoing project.
- Arriving at an important decision.
If the purpose of the meeting is clear, you’ll be able to determine what topics to cover and how long each part of the meeting should take. Using a template will help you map out your agenda and keep it focused.
Furthermore, knowing the purpose of your meeting means that you'll create a more appropriate attendee list. You'll have a clearer sense of who really needs to be at the meeting, and employees who don't need to be there won't be asked to waste their time.
Make Sure Meeting Participants Know What They Need Ahead of Time
After crafting an agenda for your meeting, share it with your team in advance. Depending on the meeting objective, you can ask them to prepare questions, come up with ideas, or get ready to talk about a problem that's undermining their work. Maybe one or more employees will need to summarize a report or prepare a longer presentation.
Because they'll know what to expect, the meeting participants won't miss their chance to contribute something meaningful, and they won't start a last-minute search for files they didn't realize they would need. You'll spare them a great deal of wasted time.
Give the Meeting a Strong Start
When considering what makes a successful team meeting, you can’t overlook the power of a clear and compelling introduction.
Bad meetings often squander energy and attention at the start. They open with overly long speeches or meandering conversations. Meeting participants quickly lose interest and settle in unhappily for what they consider another interruption to their work day.
The best way to open a meeting depends on multiple factors, including your objective, how much time you have, the number of employees sitting in, and how well you all know each other. The following are a few possibilities, and you can use them in combination:
A Quick Reiteration of Purpose
Remind your team about why you’re meeting and why it’s important. Maybe you want to come up with a workable collection of ideas by the end of a brainstorming session, because you need to meet an important deadline to stay ahead of your competitors. Or maybe there’s a pressing problem you need to solve, such as bringing a project budget below a certain limit.
When talking about the goals of the meeting, you may want to mention relevant company values and objectives. However, make sure that you stay focused and that your message remains succinct.
Encouragement and Recognition
Employees enjoy recognition for their work and its positive impact. Take a few moments to highlight a recent team success. Point out great results delivered by specific employees, and mention an important milestone reached on a project. Show your team members that you see what they’re doing and that it’s meaningful to you and to the company.
Even if your team is currently struggling, you can still mention what they’re doing well. It’s encouraging, and it motivates them. It reaffirms your belief in their capabilities and sets a tone of optimism that gives more energy and good will to the meeting. It also communicates your expectations for continued strong work.
You don’t need to start every meeting with an icebreaker question, but it can be helpful in some situations.
If the meeting participants don’t know each other well, icebreakers can help them become more comfortable with each other. If the meeting is a creative session, icebreakers can stimulate out-of-the-box thinking and encourage employees to start opening up and sharing ideas more freely. Another use for icebreakers is to introduce some fun to a meeting, which is especially helpful if employee morale has been low.
Keep the Meeting Interactive
Effective team meetings encourage employee engagement. You want to keep participants from zoning out, especially during remote meetings, where their attention is more likely to drift to their phones, web surfing, and other distractions.
One of the best ways to keep meetings interactive is by asking questions. By giving team members a chance to share their expertise and creative ideas, you’re reminding them that their input is valued. Also, if you've shared the meeting agenda in advance, your team will be more likely to think about the relevant topics ahead of time and give you useful responses.
Questions can keep a group focused on a particular topic, deepen a discussion, and encourage contributions from multiple people. If one participant makes a suggestion, you can prompt them to explain their reasoning further, and you can ask other meeting attendees to build on it. If someone is dominating the discussion too much, you can use questions to elicit input from other participants, making the meeting more balanced.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to figure out what to focus on in a meeting. For example, what should a weekly team meeting include? There may be multiple topics or problems demanding your attention.
Prioritization is essential, and it’s typically guided by urgency. Consider the most pressing and significant issue you need to cover during the meeting. After that, make time for a second topic that’s not as urgent but still needs to be addressed.
If your team covers these first two issues more quickly than expected, and you reach a favorable resolution, what should you do next? You can prepare more topics that you want to bring up if there's time, or you can open the floor to your team and have them choose what they want to discuss.
An additional way to prioritize is to consider who needs to speak. For example, if your weekly team meeting often involves presentations, think about whether there’s anyone on your team who hasn’t shared anything for a while or acted as a discussion leader.
Another way to prioritize certain issues is to ask the right questions. For example, if you run daily standup meetings, your core standup questions should focus on the work that needs to be completed most urgently. Ask team members about specific tasks they finished the day before and which tasks they plan to complete by the end of the day. Questions are a multipurpose communication tool, and one way they can help you is to signal your priorities to your team.
Give Your Team Clear Action Items
Because effective team meetings serve a purpose, they need to wrap up with clear takeaway points and an action plan for follow-up steps. Meeting participants should part ways knowing exactly what they each need to do. After the meeting ends, you can share the meeting notes and action items with your team in written form as well.
Use a Template for Planning Meetings
A template is a powerful tool for structuring an effective team meeting. Within the limits of your meeting time, you can divide the agenda into different blocks. For example, you may want to allocate five minutes for the introduction and five minutes more for progress updates and praise for strong work. After that, you may designate blocks of time for a presentation, a brainstorming session, or a discussion of critical topics.
Templates are flexible and can be easily modified. For routine meetings, such as a weekly team meeting or daily standup meeting, you can tweak the template until you find the right formula for your group, the most effective structure for what you need to accomplish.
Be sure to check out our template for planning meetings. Your team meetings will become more focused and more effective, becoming an integral part of your employees’ workflow.