Poorly-run meetings can be the bane of employees’ existence at work—and particularly so if they’re on the technical side of things, as time spent in meetings means less time building new products. Whether you’re managing a team or just responsible for leading a meeting here and there, these tips can help to get everyone more excited about your meeting—and increase how effective you are when you sit down as a team.
The first sin of meetings is calling them just for the sake of it, but without a real need or agenda. Periodic check-ins often start out productive but quickly turn into rote obligations that bring little value to participants—so if you have something recurring on the calendar, be extra cautious and make sure there’s a clear agenda as well as expected outcomes from each meeting. If you’re not sure what you want meeting attendees to walk away from a with, chances are you don’t need it in the first place.
Even if it’s a one-off meeting, it’s still worth considering whether it’s really worth everyone’s time to not only show up, but also to prepare in advance. When managers are judicious about scheduling meetings, their teams tend to be more excited about them, because they know that things will actually get done in the time allocated.
It can be tempting to invite people to meetings so that they feel included—even if the meeting content isn’t really relevant to them—but you then run the risk of having disengaged attendees, which can not only waste their time, but also detract from everyone’s experience in the meeting.
Instead, create a culture of shared ownership over meetings. While one person should be responsible for leading, there are many other roles that the rest of the team can play—and you can rotate duties if it’s a recurring event. For example, one person might take note of action items and email them out after the meeting, while another can facilitate the questions portion. In addition, implement ways of engaging every attendee, such as ending with a few sentences from each attendee about what they’ve taken away from the session—or even something more playful like a short icebreaker game at the beginning.
We talk a lot about how people learn in different ways (visually, tactilely, etc.) in school, but this often goes out the window once we get into the workplace, with most meetings taking the format of either simply talking or going through slides and other documentation.
In order to better engage your team during the meeting, consider how you can adapt the content to the various formats people might resonate more with. If you’re presenting slides, for example, include plenty of content for more visual learners, but make sure you’re voicing over the key points to account for the aural learners on your team. You might periodically ask attendees to repeat important points back to you (verbal learners), or to write down their key takeaways (tactile learners). If you do this enough, you might even begin to understand how each team member functions—and thus be better able to tailor your messaging and engagement strategy.
Lastly, consider changing the meeting location to keep your team on their toes—and eager for the next one. This likely wouldn’t make sense for a weekly check-in, but strategy sessions or even monthly team meetings can be significantly more effective in a new environment, even if it’s more of a logistical hassle to coordinate.
And you’re not necessarily limited to the office when considering alternate locations. A local restaurant or cafe, for example, might have a back room you can book for lunch and a meeting. Some coworking spaces will rent out meeting rooms to members of the public. Your options are many—and it’s often worth the legwork to find new and different venues.