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12 tips on how to lead effective team meetings

READ TIME: 11 MINUTES

Calendly, March 11, 2022

Team meetings serve many purposes: decision making, brainstorming, sharing information, or even coaching. They build camaraderie, connection, and direction for your team. But, sometimes, meetings — and the teams in them — lose track of their purpose. 

If disorganized and poorly run, the entire meeting can lose focus and become a time-sink or an event employees dread. The last thing you want is for your team to feel like team meetings are wasting their time and keeping them away from more important work. 

12 ways to run a great meeting with your team

Life is too short for bad meetings. Instead, be an effective meeting leader and get more value out of your team meetings using these tips.

1. Prioritize teamwork, not reporting

Sometimes a lot of the information you might share in a weekly meeting can easily be shared through another, more convenient medium such as email or a messaging app like Slack. When you send this information out to meeting participants, they can read it on their own. Keeping less critical information in email saves people’s time in the meeting. That means more time for discussing, strategizing, team-building, and collaborating, rather than reporting. 

This is especially true for meetings where your team needs to make decisions based on source material such as statistics, reports, or other information. Instead of giving them the packet of information during the meeting, send it to them a week prior. Tell them to look it over and to come prepared to the meeting with their research-backed conclusions or opinions. 

Fruitful conversation will ensue. Your team can spend more meeting time bouncing informed ideas off each other and less time just listening to a grocery list of stats and announcements.

2. Assign meeting roles

There’s often a lot to do to run a productive meeting: take notes, stay on agenda, make sure everyone is heard. Team meeting roles are a great way to delegate these responsibilities to different team members, making the meeting run smoothly while also teaching your team how to lead. The four most important roles are leader, recorder, timekeeper, and devil's advocate. 

If you have weekly team meetings or stand-ups, consider switching the roles to force team members to think differently and take on new tasks.

  • Leader: In charge of creating the agenda and picking a place and time for the meeting. They should also find when everyone on the team is available and send the meeting invitations — a process made much easier with Calendly’s Meeting Polls functionality. During the meeting, the leader guides the group through the agenda and maintains a positive environment. At the end, they state the next steps and assign action items. 

  • Recorder: In charge of collaborating on and sharing the agenda before the meeting. During the meeting, they jot down action items, conclusions, and decisions. After, they write, organize, and distribute the notes. 

  • Timekeeper: In charge of ensuring the meeting stays on schedule. They assign certain timeframes to each part of the agenda. During the meeting, they alert the group if time is running out for each part. They also manage visual aids (slideshows, screen-share, etc.). 

  • Devil's advocate: In charge of challenging the team's assumptions or ideas. Even if they agree with a decision, they still ask questions that provoke thought among the group about its validity. Think of this role as quality testing the components of the meeting. (It's also the most fun.)

When your team members have a responsibility during the meeting, they’re more involved. Like investors in a startup, they have a stake in its success. Therefore, engagement and efficiency also rise when you institute team meeting roles with a clear purpose.

3. Ask your team for input

Before you create the meeting agenda, ask your entire team for input. Maybe they have ideas they want to flesh out or brainstorms they want to conduct. Or maybe they want to spend time learning about something that can help them develop in their role. 

For instance, maybe you manage sales reps who really want to learn basic copywriting, but haven't voiced it because they know you are busy. When you ask how they want to spend some of the meeting, they might just tell you. Best of all, your team members feel respected when you ask for their input.

4. Create a meeting agenda 

Your meeting agenda should outline what your team will do throughout the meeting, and what objectives they aim to achieve. It should be distributed to each team member a day before the meeting takes place. If you need help creating a team meeting agenda, check out this meeting agenda template from Asana.

To create a solid meeting agenda, include the following: 

  • Meeting schedule: Besides just stating the end and start time of the meeting, try breaking the meeting down into timed subsections. For instance, maybe you share news for the first 10 minutes, then spend the next 30 solving a problem, leaving 10 minutes at the end for questions or overflow. 

  • Location: If you’re meeting via a video conferencing platform, make sure everyone has access to the link. (If you book the meeting using Calendly, you can add Webex, Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, or another platform to the invitation automatically.)

  • Attendee list: Let everyone know who's coming. Also, it pays to be selective. If someone will neither gain nor contribute value by coming to the meeting, leave them off the list and let them work on their current projects. 

  • Purpose of the meeting: Define why you are actually holding the meeting. If you can’t think of a good reason for hosting one, consider skipping it. No one wants to sit around twiddling their thumbs for an hour when they could be working to finish the day early. 

  • Clear agenda items and objectives: Label any decisions that need to be made, problems that must be solved, or information that must be understood. At the end of the meeting, you should have completed this objective. 

It's important to keep in mind there are many reasons for holding a meeting, and you need to make it clear to your team which type of meeting you’re holding, as well as their role in it.

Related reading: Meetings with PANTS: A simple framework for greater meeting success

5. Protect everyone's chance to speak 

As a team leader, you need to create a safe environment where your team members feel heard and respected. You need to safeguard their chances to speak up and check the interrupters on your team. Some people are more comfortable speaking up in public. Some aren't. It's mostly the latter for whom you need to facilitate opportunities to talk

To do this, you can first start by asking your team before the meeting if they have anything to share. Then, in the meeting agenda, you can make time slots for these individuals. Also, at the very end of the meeting, you can go around in a circle and give everyone a chance to say any thoughts. Rather than saying, "final thoughts?", actually call on them by name so they know it's their turn to speak. The last thing you want is for genius ideas to be hiding within the minds of the more introverted members of your team.

6. Vary your meeting agenda order

Your team meetings don't always have to follow the same schedule. That can get monotonous. Every once in a while, inspire and educate your team with something special. Some ideas to try include: 

  • Inviting a guest speaker

  • Watching a relevant Ted Talk

  • Going off-site to lunch (or gathering in-person if your team is remote)

  • Celebrating someone's performance or achievement

  • Teaching your team a new skill

Spicing it up is a great way to give your team members a fun break from routine work. Plus, they’ll look forward to your meetings.

7. Ask questions that encourage discussion

Communication and understanding between team members is a key ingredient to an effective team, especially when it's between a manager and a direct report. To get your team talking about their feelings, challenges, and wants, ask questions like these in your monthly team meetings: 

  • What was our biggest accomplishment this month? This is a great chance to celebrate and feel good about a job well done. Plus, it's an opportunity to reflect on your team or company values in a meaningful way. If what you accomplished aligns with a core value, mention it to the team so they further internalize it.

  • What was our biggest challenge this month? Every team is going to have some challenges that frustrate their progress toward their goals. Left unspoken, these challenges will continue to hamper productivity while also negatively contributing to the team’s morale. So, get challenges out in the open, and figure out ways to overcome them.

  • What resources would help you succeed? Many employees feel like they could do their job more efficiently if they had better access to technology and other efficiency-boosting resources. Figure out what your team wants. If it’s reasonable and within the budget, think about how you can acquire it for them.

  • What's something we can improve in the company? People might hold back negative feelings about the company and its culture, priorities, or strategy. If they don't voice their opinions, nothing will change, so you need to nudge them to speak their minds.

Of course, these questions only produce aboveboard and useful answers if you’ve created an environment in which team members feel safe about sharing their thoughts.

8. Highlight your meeting agenda progress as you go

As you move through the meeting, provide real-time updates on where you are in your agenda. For instance, when you finish topic one, make it very clear to attendees that you’re now moving on to topic number two. To close out the first portion, recap what conclusions or decisions your team made. This will help everyone internalize what was discussed and also re-ignite their engagement and attention as you move onto the next portion of the meeting.

9. Improve each week 

After each meeting, ask for feedback from your team members. Their answers will help you consistently improve the effectiveness of your team meetings going forward. To uncover ways to improve, ask questions such as: 

  • What worked and what didn't?

  • What could we do next time that would make it more productive?

  • Was [agenda item X] helpful?

  • Was there any information we could have shared in another way?

Let your team members know their opinions are valued. This is a team effort. And they need to be OK with telling you where your meetings need work.

10. Follow up on action items 

If no one takes action on the plans you made during the meeting, you just wasted an hour. It's not that people neglect their duties. It's more that something else comes up and they forget. 

So, consider setting a reminder to email your team members 48 hours after the meeting to check in and see if they’ve accomplished their action items. Better yet, assign team members’ action items with due dates in your project management platform. That way they’ll remember to do it, and your meetings actually produce tangible results for the next meeting.

11. Send the meeting notes recap

Someone needs to capture all of the meeting notes, summarize the takeaways, and then send the meeting minutes (all of the important information discussed). That way people can refresh themselves on what decisions were made, what changes they need to make to their work, and any other key details. This is especially useful for those prone to zoning out during meetings. Now they can look over what they missed in a tidy document.

12. Build a community

Your team is a micro-community. You all depend on one another. You all work together toward the same initiatives. You have each other's backs, whether defending them or lightly nudging them forward toward growth. Your meetings are great chances to build your team values and connect as individuals — to deepen your community. 

So, encourage discussion, make everyone feel comfortable sharing their opinions about the company and its trajectory, and enjoy watching your team crack jokes and pitch wild and crazy ideas that just might work. 

Related reading: Meeting automation platforms are the next big thing. Here's why.

It's also important to make sure everyone in your meeting is available to attend. Learn how Calendly makes this happen automatically by signing up for free today.

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