Meetings are necessary, and yet one can argue just how productive they actually are. But, productive or not, you can’t avoid them. You can, however, make them better.
Here are five easy and smart ways to do just that.
1. Do you really need to meet?
It may sound obvious, but the number-one step to better team meetings is to only hold them if they’re necessary. You’d be surprised at how many are held just because the boss wanted to meet, or the weekly catch-up is a tradition, or some other unreasonable excuse.
Productive meetings have a specific purpose and a desired outcome. This could be brainstorming ideas for a new project, deciding which vendor to hire, or whatever else needs to be accomplished.
Keep in mind that a meeting needs to be the best alternative, meaning that face-to-face is the best way to solve the problem—you may be able to resolve your issue via email or a phone call instead.
2. Involve the right people
For a meeting to be successful, you need to involve the right people. Meeting attendees can be broadly categorised into four main types:
- Influencers—people who, while not the ultimate decision-makers, can persuade others to support a decision or get on board with a new initiative.
- People whose expertise, knowledge, or skills can help inform the debate that leads to a decision.
- Those who’ll execute a decision or follow through on the agreed-upon action points.
Who you choose to invite will depend on the meeting’s objectives and on the kind of input you require.
3. Promote active listening
Active listening involves showing the speaker that you’re giving your full attention. It puts speakers more at ease which, in turn, gives them the confidence to open up and participate more, which ultimately benefits the meeting.
Here are three techniques you can use to promote active listening:
- Kick off the discussion with a round robin. For every item on the agenda, start by giving everyone in the room a few minutes to speak. Each attendee gets to take a turn, which means everyone has an opportunity to speak without interruption.
- Split attendees into smaller groups. This works especially well in larger meetings by minimising the opportunity for repeated interruptions and for the discussion to be monopolised by one or two people.
- Use the talking-stick technique. The idea behind this is that only the person who holds the talking stick can speak. This makes your attendees more aware that they’re interrupting, which helps them break the habit.
4. Consider banning personal devices
Disinterested colleagues tapping away on their smartphones can discourage others from participating, and it can negatively affect interpersonal relationships.
So, it’s good to set the ground rules before the meeting. Asking your attendees to switch their devices off at the meeting’s start usually goes over better than telling them to stop while the meeting’s going on.
5. Sort your AV out ahead of time
Audio-visual issues can kill your attendees’ concentration, and they can put you way behind schedule. They are also especially embarrassing if you have external guests sitting in on the meeting.
Depending on the length and complexity of the meeting, it’s good to book your room at least a few hours before the scheduled meeting time.
And don’t forget to make sure you have enough microphones for meetings large enough to need a sound boost.
In general, you should aim to have at least one microphone for every two attendees. Alternatively, avoid all the fumbling and waiting for the microphone to reach the next speaker by throwing a Catchbox—a throwable microphone—around the room. The throwable mic works with most types of sound systems.
Finally, it’s worth ending your meeting with a quick recap to confirm decisions and action items. This ties everything together and ensures everyone is on the same page.
The quality of team meetings will improve if they are actually needed, involve the right people, when attendees practice active listening, when personal devices are limited or banned, and AV equipment is checked beforehand.