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How to have a more productive team meeting (that staff and managers will love)

The team meeting. A necessary evil, an exercise in wasting time, or your organization’s secret weapon?

At it’s best, a team meeting is a way to ensure your staff and management teams are aligned, that no obstacles stand in the way of company progress, and to create an open forum for dialogue and discussion.

At their worst, team meetings can frustrate and cause more problems than they solve. Can you afford to have bad meetings that could lose clients or cause friction with internal stakeholders? 

As organizations develop more dynamic ways to communicate, does the tried and tested team meeting need an upgrade? Are you wondering how to organize and plan a more effective staff meeting that will engage and enliven your team? Read on for tips on leading better, more effective meetings that will engage executives and junior staff alike.

What is the purpose of a team meeting?

At its core, the purpose of a team meeting is to share information efficiently and to provide scope for discussion around what is being shared. A good team meeting helps teams align on the topics of discussion, air any concerns or obstacles, and have clarity on future actions. 

The exact purpose of a team meeting is decided by the topics in the agenda and the business needs of the meeting and your organization. 

Your team meeting might be business-critical – a place where company developments or valuable information or training are shared. Team meetings can also be where your staff are able to spend time together informally and share what’s on their mind.

Conducting team meetings to improve wellness, for open discussion, or simply to try something new are all viable reasons to bring your team together.

Key to a successful team meeting is to always have a clear purpose. Define what it is that you are gathering people for – their time is as precious as anyone’s and if they think it’s time wasted, it will work against you and certainly won’t energise the team!

Jane Mitchell, Founder JL&M, Director at Karian and Box

The most productive and effective team meetings have a clear purpose in mind. As a manager be sure to identify the purpose of your meeting, whether it is to align your team, to have fun and get to know new members of staff, or to deliver business-critical information. Going into a team meeting with a clear purpose helps ensure you can stay on track and be more successful as a result. 

What are the different types of team meeting?

Not all team meetings are created equal. Here are some of the most common types of team meeting, with a rundown of what they might involve. 

Status update meetings

A status update meeting is one of the most common meetings you will lead, and one you will likely perform on a regular schedule.

The status update meeting might be a general catch-up, where staff and stakeholders can brief the team on their progress and give an overview of their status. This helps teams stay aligned and discuss any challenges or barriers

A status update meeting might also focus on a particular project or department, with an emphasis on not only aligning but ensuring that next steps can be taken without issue.

Regular meetings to discuss the status of a project or of a team more generally are hugely useful in ensuring everyone is moving forward in the right direction.

Information Sharing Meetings

All organizations will have information they need to share with their teams at some stage. An information sharing meeting might include presentations from stakeholders or sub-teams, keynote speeches, company updates or briefings for new staff.

Subtypes of this meeting might include the company all-hands, training sessions, external parties delivering presentations, product demonstrations and more.

While some items can be distributed via email, there is power and value in sharing information in a live, public setting where you can clarify any points of confusion and highlight your key points.

Remember that information sharing meetings do not need to be wholly passive and as a team leader, you should consider where you can make these more engaging and whether you are employing the best method of sharing information.

Decision making meetings

Team meetings that bring people together to focus on a common goal are great places to make decisions.

A decision making meeting can vary from information gathering and sharing, coming together to evaluate solutions, voting on a course of action, or aligning around the implementation of a chosen decision.

In this kind of meeting, clearly setting the purpose and desired outcome is integral to its success. If you want to come out of the meeting with a decision made, set this expectation prior to the meeting taking place.

It’s also important to ensure that everyone involved in the decision is considered and that their views are heard. Group decision making meetings with a clear leader are an effective way to pool resources but also ensure action is taken.

Problem solving meetings

All teams face problems both big and small. These might relate to business challenges, internal politics, external pressures or particular projects or team goals.

A problem solving meeting can be a great place to employ out of the box techniques and exercises, consider problems from new angles, and create change in an organization.

Your problem solving meeting might even be focused on first clearly identifying and defining a problem with data, or creating a strategy to deal with problems that you expect may arise. Proactive problem solving is a great way to engage your team and delight your customers.

Innovation Meetings

The design and innovation meeting is where your team can be creative, bringing new ideas to the table that can help drive innovation in your organization.

Here, your team might conduct workshops, design sprints, and ideation games to generate innovation before moving onto finessing and honing those ideas into something more concrete.

Though they might be looser in nature, innovation meetings should always have goals and outcomes in mind, and be focused on creating actionable items you might iterate on in the future.

Team Building Meetings

Every meeting you run with your team should be an opportunity for collaboration, discussion, and conversation: all items that contribute to building a strong and effective team.

That being said, dedicated team building meetings are vital to building a vibrant company culture, bringing a team together, and to help keep everyone happy and productive.

You might go on a company away day, facilitate conversation between previously siloed teams, celebrate your team’s successes, engage in activities and exercises, and unify your staff. You might even have fun! 

It’s really important that meeting participants have clarity on the ’type’ of meeting they are attending. Too often people think they are there to make decisions when it’s not even a decision making meeting! Be explicit before and during, especially at the start to the meeting, whether it’s an info share, problem solving or decision making meeting and if it IS a decision making meeting what decision making strategy and tool/method will be used to decide!”


Gary Austin, Co-Founder & Director, circleindigo
IAF Global Director of Communications

What is the importance of a team meeting?

Team meetings are incredibly important to a productive team and organisation. Ensuring that all the members of a team are given what they need to perform well, remain aligned and be happy and effective in their work is vital, and meetings remain one of the most efficient ways to facilitate teaching, conversation and change

In large organizations with many teams, there comes the danger of siloing teams or individuals away from the rest of the company. Communication between teams is integral to helping everyone understand business goals and company direction, all with the goal of promoting better collaboration and to prevent friction or frustration.

In a Fierce, Inc survey on team collaboration, they found that 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures.”

Well constructed team meetings promote collaboration and communication and can ensure that any difficulties that might lead to the above failure can be addressed before it occurs.

Consider whether members of your product team have regular contact with your support or success teams. Meetings that reach across teams and pull people who might not work closely together is a great way of sharing ideas and knowledge and ensuring that work done will be valuable and not repeated.

Product teams can develop better features with the input of customer-facing teams; executive teams can only address staff concerns if they are productively raised and discussed. Team meetings allow this exchange of knowledge and expertise to occur. 

Asynchronous tools to help improve communication, log tasks and collect feedback are great and should be used, though there’s always value in discussing business-critical decisions in person or in remote team meetings. When a group of people get together in a room on virtually, you are able to iterate quickly, develop ideas and be agile. There is always value in putting your team in a safe, non-hierarchical space to discuss ideas.

The best teams communicate often and reappraise their goals, methods, and outcomes regularly. A good team meeting can be the most effective way to accomplish this, though a bad team can set your team back and even ruin morale.

So how can you improve your team meeting and avoid time-wasting? Read on to see how planning, agendas and good practice can make your team meeting more effective. 

How to plan a team meeting

Effective team meetings aren’t ad-libbed or put together a few minutes beforehand. Planning the structure, purpose and scope of your meeting not only helps you understand the value it can provide but also helps you keep everything on track. Here are some tips on how to plan an effective team meeting.

Ask whether this needs to be a meeting

Before you begin, ask yourself whether what you aim to achieve or discuss needs to be done in a meeting. Can the aims of the meeting be better accomplished with collaborative online tools or via other methods? Meetings without value or purpose can frustrate your staff or divert attention from business-critical items.

Every meeting should have a clear purpose and outcome in mind, whether that’s to generate ideas, teach the use of a new tool, or to eat birthday cake. If you do not have a purpose or outcome for your meeting, reassess whether it is a good use of your team’s time.

Remember that giving your staff an open forum to air concerns or to take some downtime and get to know one another does have value.

So long as the meeting is the most efficient way of reaching a particular outcome, even if that outcome is an open conversation or simply having fun, it deserves to be run.

Clarify the purpose and expected outcomes of the meeting

Team meetings can be fluid in nature: certain topics may generate large amounts of discussion while others may be straightforward.

The key to a successful team meeting is to be clear on the purpose of the meeting and what outcomes you and the team should expect as a result.

Clarify this early on in the planning process so that you can ensure your meeting is on point and so that everything you design for the meeting is relevant.

Create a team meeting agenda and prioritize your topics

Start by creating an agenda for your meeting, including all the topics you want to cover. Have a clear idea of what items in your agenda are most important so you can adjust accordingly, keep things on track, and allow for further discussion if necessary.

Prioritize your topics so you can ensure that what needs to be covered is done so without issue, and so that any time in the meeting is well spent.

Being in control does not mean being inflexible: as a team leader, you should have a feel for what is most valuable to your team and this means ensuring that happens, but that you are able to adapt to what comes up in the meeting.

Collaborate with other stakeholders

90% of employees in the Fierce Inc survey believed decision-makers should seek other opinions before making a final decision.

97% of people also believed that a lack of alignment within a team directly impacted the outcome of a project. This is true for meetings as much as any other organizational process.

Seeking the opinions and input of others and aligning ahead of meetings through collaboration is vital to making your meetings more effective.

Ensure stakeholders from other departments have a channel to raise items for discussion. Use the expertise and insight of your team to deliver better meetings. If you’re briefing your executive team on product developments, get input from your product team and, if possible, get them in the room to lead the relevant sections.

Team meetings are places to build bridges, whether that be between gaps in knowledge or between team members – help build those bridges by putting the right people in the room together.

Be certain to judge how much collaboration is necessary for your meeting. A large scale meeting about the direction of a company should have feedback and input from many divisions; a small group meeting about how to use a specialized piece of equipment, possibly not.

It’s worth noting that facilitating collaboration with the right tools and processes is vital to make this work. Using emails to collect meeting ideas, collaborate on sessions and develop plans is likely to be inefficient and lead to things being lost in the cracks.

Tailor the agenda and format to suit the purpose of the meeting

A team meeting intended to finalize a decision-making process will need a mix of methods and techniques very different to a daily stand-up meeting. One size does not fit all and your meeting should be explicitly constructed with the purpose in mind. This might mean including icebreaker games if the purpose of the meeting is team building, or including design and innovation techniques for an ideation workshop.

Your agenda may need amending if the meeting is for senior stakeholders versus the whole team. An open forum might benefit an informal discussion but you may need to employ a different model when leading a business-critical meeting that needs to be delivered quickly.

Design your meeting to suit its purpose, the allocated time and participants, and it will be much more productive as a result.

Be wary of fatigue

Some meetings are longer than others by necessity, though you should always consider the effect this will have on your participants. Allocate breaks preferably at least every 90 minutes, if not sooner. 

If you have particularly dense items to go through, consider how you might make them more engaging or easy to understand. Multiple formats for presenting information can help – mixing collaborative exercises and more discursive teaching can be a good way of keeping people engaged and avoiding fatigue.

Design your meeting with the attendees in mind

A small team meeting with your HR department will require a different approach to a company all-hands with dozens of attendees. You may need to adjust timings, put in additional items or construct your meeting differently. If you’re discussing development roadmaps with a team with varying levels of technical knowledge, consider the language used and whether you might want to circulate FAQs or explainers ahead of the meeting.

When including facilitation methods, exercises or games, bear in mind the number of attendees and whether you might need breakout groups. A team-building exercise with dozens of attendees could take the entire meeting if not handled correctly.

Remember: this will likely not be the first or last meeting people will have attended. If you are leading a meeting for design professionals, many techniques or methods will already be known to them and you should plan accordingly. Different skill and experience levels require different approaches and as such, you should know who will be attending ahead of the meeting. Design your sessions so that they are engaging and useful for everyone.

Know your audience and be humble in recognising that a burning subject for you may not be uppermost in the minds of the team! Once you balance that in your preparation – approach the meeting accordingly to get the best out of everyone and to meet your own needs.

Jane Mitchell, Founder JL&M, Director at Karian and Box

Carefully select who needs to attend

If your meeting is for stakeholders in a particular topic or is focusing on a particular product area, it may not be pertinent for everyone in your company to attend. Think about who will find it valuable, who it affects and who has something to contribute. Always go back to your purpose and outcomes and if some people aren’t going to find value in attending, rethink whether they should attend. Frustration can arise if people are in meetings they have no reason to be in or where they have nothing to learn or add.

Consider the location and plan ahead

Are you using powerpoint or conducting a software demo? Do you want people to be able to break out into smaller teams? Ensuring you have the right location, room setup and resources for your meeting will keep your meeting on time and effective.

Think about accessibility and the needs of all the members of your team
when choosing a location and design your meeting accordingly.

Circulate your agenda ahead of the meeting

Giving your team time to prepare and arrive at the meeting with an idea of what they’d like to bring is imperative in ensuring a productive meeting. Some topics are complex and benefit from forethought – by circulating the team meeting agenda in advance, participants can get a headstart and feel prepared.

Give your participants clear expectations of the meeting

When circulating your agenda, ensure you give your staff an outline of what is expected of them. If they need to prepare material, be clear about what they need to prepare and exactly what you want from them. Are they bringing an idea they can present in thirty seconds or something more robust? Do they need to bring any equipment or materials? Do you need them to review a document or product prior to attending?

At the planning stage, itemize everything your participants will need to bring to the meeting or tasks they will need to do before. With this clarity, both you and your participants can thoroughly prepare and the meeting can run more efficiently.

At this stage, it can also be useful to set the ground rules for the team meeting. This might include delineating leaders, expected etiquette, attendance and more. This is likely to be reiterated in the meeting, but giving your participants an expectation of behavior and how the meeting will be conducted at this stage can help prevent future issues from arising.

Create room in your meeting for discussion

Realistically allot time to tasks and, depending on the meeting format, allow time for questions and feedback.

It’s sometimes tempting to cram topics and exercises into a meeting and try and rush through everything. Ensure your workload and agenda is sensibly timed, and that you have some wiggle room if a task generates additional discussion or needs further explanation. If the subject of the meeting is likely to create a discussion among your team, it can be incredibly frustrating to cut that short.

Set a schedule and stick to it where possible

Having a consistent time and schedule for your team meetings is tremendously useful. Setting a routine great at ensuring your staff will remember to attend and get into a habit of checking the agenda and doing preparatory work. 

People like to know what’s coming and scheduling your meetings on the hoof can lead to frustration. Set a schedule so your staff can plan around their work around the meeting and be at their most productive.

Expect equipment to fail and plan ahead

Technical solutions and audio-visual equipment can enrich any meeting, though what happens if something goes wrong? Can you afford to cancel a meeting because the sound refuses to come out of the speakers or your magic pointer is out of battery?

Plan for the event of a tech failure so you can deliver a productive, effective meeting whatever the circumstances. This might mean bringing printouts, having back-up materials or alternative ideation exercises. 

Extra considerations for remote team meetings

Does everyone have access to the meeting software or the team meeting link? Use google calendar or similar to ensure everyone can see the meeting and attend. Reminders in slack or calendar software are also useful to ensure everyone gets into the meeting on time. 

Remember to consider timezones when selecting a time for a remote meeting. Your US team might not appreciate a team meeting at midnight in their timezone!

Should the meeting be recorded for other members of staff who may not be online can gain benefits? If so, how will that be done? Doing things last minute or finding out how to record during the meeting isn’t the best use of time – plan ahead so that your meeting runs smoothly.

What to put in a team meeting agenda?

Setting a clear agenda can be one of the most effective ways of ensuring your meeting is a success. Creating a team meeting agenda that covers expectations, how everyone should prepare and include the complete rundown of the meeting should be your first port of call when putting your meeting together. 

In short, your team meeting agenda is a tool to outline what will be included in your team meeting, including topics, times and additional material. It is an overview that you and your staff can refer to ahead of and during the meeting. 

An example team meeting agenda might include:

Meeting details: time, location, and host

Make sure your team knows when and where the meeting is, and who will be leading it. Add contact details if necessary so participants can forward questions ahead of the meeting.

The details or introduction of your agenda should also include goals and expected outcomes, what the purpose of the meeting it, and what do you want your team to get out of it. Having a clear goal and letting your team know what you hope to achieve can really help make a meeting more productive.

News and announcements

Don’t assume that everyone on your team reads every email announcement. Here, you can highlight key bits of news, share announcements, and give kudos to team members who deserve extra recognition. Beginning a meeting in this manner helps staff settle in and warm up before the real work of the meeting kicks off.

Progress report or followup on a previous meeting

Was an item raised in the previous meeting that needs to be checked-in on? Was a business-critical action agreed on that requires a debrief or status update? 

If the subject of a series of team meetings is a particular project or initiative, you might discuss what progress has been made, what the next steps are and what obstacles exist. This portion of a meeting is intended to align and resolve any issues swiftly so that everyone can be productive once the meeting is over.

Key topics

This is often where the bulk of meeting time is spent. The team leader or other stakeholders will explore the topics of the meeting with the group and lead them towards the desired outcome. This might include the teaching of a new product feature by a lead developer, a discussion of employee benefits, or workshops or exercises designed with a specific goal in mind. 

The format of this section will be tailored to the needs of the meeting and should be focused on fulfilling the purpose and goals of the meeting. If your meeting is designed to generate new ideas, this will be where you create space for exercises and group work. If there is business-critical information your team needs to receive, the approach you take might be more discursive.

The important thing is that you go through the key items of your agenda in an efficient, productive manner. Outlining the key topics that will be covered in your agenda helps you do this in a cinch.

Discussion

Opening the floor to your team and allowing room for them to feedback on the contents of the meeting or to raise other concerns is an important element of most team meetings. As a manager, creating space to listen to your team and encourage open, honest discussion is one of the most empowering things you can do for your staff. 

It’s worth noting that there are many ways to facilitate discussion in a team meeting: you may have a plenary discussion, roundtables, town hall-style, note-and-vote, small group breakouts or an open forum. Tailor the form of discussion to your group size and the purpose of the meeting.

Many meetings will allow time and space for discussion throughout, but having dedicated time towards the end of a meeting can allow your staff the opportunity to plan ahead and bring concerns that will benefit from group discussion to the table. 

Future actions

Here is where you will wrap up the outcomes of the meeting and agree on actions to be taken as a result of what has been discussed. These might include followups with particular staff members, new tasks, or items to be actioned ahead of the next meeting. Just as you set clear expectations of what you wanted from your team prior to the meeting, this is a place to set the expectations you have of staff following the meeting.

This list is by no means exhaustive and will be tailored to your meeting. If the focus of your team meeting is to discuss a business-critical issue, you may not have need for other news and announcements. If you having a team-building meeting, you may want to avoid more formal topics in your agenda.

Remember: your agenda sets the stage for your meeting and affects what expectations people will have as a result. Your agenda will let your staff whether they are going into a meeting where they will be primarily taught, whether they need to prepare for group discussions, or if its a looser team development meeting.

Tips for managing your team meeting agenda

Writing and managing your team meeting agenda is an important facet of running a successful meeting. It’s a tool both you and your attendees will use and should be designed as such. Here are some tips for writing and managing your team meeting agenda.

Clearly outline what topics will be covered in the meeting

Nobody likes being put on the spot with something they haven’t prepared for. By letting everyone know what will be covered in the meeting, they can come with thoughts or material ready to go.

Clearly outlining the topics that will be covered also ensures that you can keep the meeting focused and on track – win win!

Try listing the topics in your agenda as questions your team needs to answer

Encourage participation by asking your team to consider the answers to those questions ahead of time. A good team meeting allows for dialogue – it shouldn’t be an hour of one-way conversation. 

Ensure your team meeting agenda is distributed early

Your team meeting agenda should be easy to access and all necessary staff should receive it well in advance of the meeting. Distribute it via email, link to it in your calendar or slack room and ensure it’s easy to discover. 

Use the right tools

Use smarter tools so that additional materials, resources or links are available in the team meeting agenda. If you want your team to do some preparatory reading, provide what they need in one place and include the relevant links and items in the meeting agenda document.

Use templates – save time

Use a template or standing agenda if your team meetings are regular and follow a similar pattern. By reusing assets and saving time in creating and distributing your meeting agenda, you can spend less time planning and more time leading.

How to run better team meetings

So you’ve created an awesome team meeting agenda, planned everything down to the finest detail, and gotten everyone into the right place. What next?

Conducting a team meeting effectively is an important skillset and is an often neglected area of managerial duty. The best meeting agenda can fall apart if a meeting is allowed to go off the rails. Here are some tips on what to do before the meeting, during the meeting, and afterward.

What to do before your team meeting

Preparation and planning is key to a successful team meeting. Here are some tips on what you can do before your meeting that will help it be more productive.

Be familiar with the equipment and meeting location

Are you using a projector to display materials or running a product demo? Check your equipment and set-up beforehand so that the meeting can run smoothly. Acts of gods can happen, but prepare for eventualities where equipment may fail.

If you’re booking an unfamiliar meeting room, arrive early or scope it out beforehand. Are there enough chairs? Allow yourself time to set-up the room before it begins. Time spent arranging a room during a meeting will cut into your agenda time.

Allow sufficient time for prep

Giving your team the time to properly prepare for the meeting is integral to ensuring it is a success. If they have materials to prepare or read through, ensure that everyone has time to go through them. Sending a document last minute and expecting everyone to receive and digest it is likely to cause issues.

On the flip side, ensure you have time to prep yourself. Getting to a staff meeting late and having to set-up in a hurry can mean your meeting sets off on the wrong foot. Giving yourself time to mentally prepare, particularly if the subject of a meeting is business critical or emotive is also important. Have time to take a breath, set-up the room and go over your agenda before you start.

Keep it lean

A team meeting is just one small part of the working day and productive teams will have other tasks they need to attend to. Keep your meetings lean and cut out extraneous items so they can be all killer, no filler. Tight, well-designed meetings are more engaging and will save time too!

Remember that time for questions and discussion is vital and should not be the first thing on the chopping block. You are the expert in what your team needs and what is of greatest value to them. Design with that in mind and your meetings will be more effective as a result. 

Be clear about the purpose and scope of the meeting

Not being clear can allow a meeting to be derailed or to focus on non-vital areas for too long. Always bear in mind the purpose of the meeting and adjust when something goes off track if it is not of value.

There is a fine line to tread between being rigid and flexible but any tension can be mitigated by being clear both before and during a meeting. Being clear about the scope of the meeting is also important: no single meeting can cover everything happening in a company and it’s important to know what can be accomplished in the time you have allocated. 

What to do during your team meeting

Once the meeting has begun, there are a number of things you will want to keep an eye on so that it is valuable and engaging for all involved. Here are a few things you can do to make your staff meeting a success.

Set the ground rules

This can make the difference between a productive meeting where everyone feels heard, and a meeting where people become angry and lose interest.

The ground rules for a meeting might take the form of a quick word on how people can raise items, how they should interact with other members and what is expected of them or can become as exhaustive as a contract that attendees agree to.

You should be clear about what is expected of your participants and also, what is unacceptable behavior. Becoming aggressive, shouting over other attendees or not engaging with the group are all things you might want to guard against by setting out the rules before you begin. 

Effective team meetings are based on respect, trust, and communication: your ground rules should lay down the importance of these items so your attendees can operate in the knowledge they will be heard and respected in the meeting.

Watch the clock

Keep your eye on the clock and ensure your meeting runs on time. This might mean wrapping up certain discussions early or allowing others to continue. You need to judge the value of what’s being discussed but broadly speaking, stick to your agenda and keep to your timings so that everything is covered. 

Ensure that there is a clear meeting leader

Even when bringing in other parties, there should be a person in the room responsible for timekeeping, leading and curating the meeting.

This will ensure that if things get out of hand there is one person to defer to and make judgment calls for when to move on. This does not mean that meetings should be run dictatorially – it is simply important to have someone in control of the flow of the meeting and to redirect energies where necessary.

Model the behavior you want to see

Remember that as a leader you are modeling the behavior you want to see in your staff. If you do not appear that you want to be in the meeting, your team will pick up on that. Be positive and engaged, listen to your team and collaborate where possible and set the example for meeting behavior your team can follow.

Share responsibilities 

Trying to do everything as the leader of a team meeting is valiant but may not result in the most effective or enjoyable meeting. Collaborate before the meeting by getting input from stakeholders and domain experts. Share tasks if applicable and leverage the expertise of your team.

This might mean having chosen attendees leading particular sections of the meeting, having a designated note-taker or person responsible for tech. If your focus is on facilitating the meeting most effectively, be empowered by sharing other tasks with members of your team.

Be flexible to business conditions

Try starting every meeting with a quick review of the agenda and of the parameters of the meeting. Is something business-critical occurring, or have some of the items to be covered drastically changed since the agenda was circulated?

Business is fluid and as the leader of a team meeting, you should be flexible when judging if the meeting needs to change or be abandoned.

Be engaging

If you are delivering training, there are many ways you can transmit information more effectively and by engaging your team in fresh ways. A meeting should not be a one-way conversation and by trying proven techniques of increasing engagement, you can have more productive meetings. 

You might include some exercises or activities to get your team to energized or think of problems in new ways. Remember that changing things for the sake of changing them can also lead to frustration. Not every kind of meeting needs an energizer or ice breaker. You are the expert on your team, and you should judge the tenor and make-up of the meeting accordingly. 

Consider inclusion and engagement and help everyone feel of equal value in the room – that they are valued for who they are. This means making the meeting accessible physically, but also socially/psychologically – e.g. the language used, waiting at least 7 seconds for people to respond to a question, using people’s names to invite them into a discussion. Remember that people “engage” in different ways – some speak up, others process thoughts quietly. Just “showing up” can be a form of engagement. 


Laura Sly, Trainer, Facilitator, Coach, Consultant; YLS Ltd

Encourage participation by creating the right environment

When facilitating a team meeting, participation is one of your key measures of success. Creating space in your agenda for people to participate and contribute is important. Create a safe space where people feel they can participate without judgment.

Set your expectations when it comes to participation and outline the ground rules so that everyone gets a chance to speak. Some team members are likely to be chattier than others: stay alert and encourage your less forthcoming team members to speak up.

Ensuring that everyone feels heard and empowered to contribute leads to a greater range of input and helps build a safe environment for sharing. 

Encourage honesty and openness

All teams may disagree on certain points, whether it comes to direction, focus or strategy. Build an environment where your staff can be honest, candid and direct in team meetings.

Encouraging your staff that honesty and candidness is not only encouraged but celebrated can help accelerate any process and ensure that every staff member can speak their mind.

While there will always be a meeting leader, make it clear that everyone’s opinion is valuable, whether they are part of the executive team or a junior member who just joined the organization.

Take notes, minutes or record the meeting

Have you ever lead a great team meeting only to forget what the takeaways were as soon as you’ve left the room? Genius can strike in the moment and be lost just as quickly.

Have a method in place for recording the meeting or taking notes. If you are leading a meeting, this might be conducted by another team member. For remote teams, this might be recording the video of the meeting or can be just as simple as having a notepad at the ready.

Recording the meeting also means you have resources to learn from in the future and improve your meetings if something didn’t go well.

Make reviewing meetings part of the routine, something you do at the end of every meeting, so that everyone is learning how to do it better all the time. Three simple questions: to what extent did we meet our aims in this meeting? What helped? What got in the way? Give everyone a chance to say something and put the responses in the note of the meeting so you remember to make improvements next time.


Penny Walker, Facilitator, Trainer, Coach, Consultant for sustainable development

What to do after your team meeting

Most team meetings will result in actions being agreed upon and further steps your staff will need to take. Be sure to continue the work done during the meeting with the following tips on what to do once the meeting is over.

Debrief

Be sure to allow time for feedback both inside and outside of the meeting. This might be in a slack room, a google poll or an email after the meeting, but hearing from the attendees on what worked and what didn’t can be instrumental in ensuring the value of future meetings. 

Some questions you might ask can include:

  • Were you given enough time/resources to prepare for the meeting?
  • How did the meeting deliver value and meet your expectations?
  • What would you have added to the agenda? 

Listen to your team

What do they need from your meetings and how can you deliver better value to them? This might come up during open discussions in your meeting, though its key to allow other forums for your team to raise these items without the scrutiny of speaking in front of everyone.

You may even consider allowing anonymous feedback with a form or survey if the topics of discussion would benefit from anonymity. What’s important is that every member of staff can give feedback and have their voice heard in the way that is best for them.

Demonstrate value

Demonstrate the value of your meetings to your teams and stakeholders throughout the organization. Did your team meeting expose a customer pain point or result in a great new product idea? Were you able to solve a problem as a team that can benefit the whole organization?

If your team is one part of a greater whole, share best practices and your findings. If you can prove your team meetings generate results, staff will likely be more engaged in future meetings.

Running better team meetings that engage your staff and increase productivity is not an exact science. Use the tips above but be sure to trust your instincts and tailor your approach to your team. 

Team meeting FAQ

Running a successful team meeting is an alchemy of planning, facilitation, great exercises, and engaging content. Is there something we didn’t cover above but is on your mind? We highlighted some of the most commonly asked questions about team meetings below for you!

Is there such thing as too many meetings?

Yes and no. Any manager running meetings should have a clear idea of the purpose and benefits of the meeting. If the meeting has no value or purpose, you should really question whether the meeting needs to go ahead at all.

If you are running multiple team meetings, consider whether they can be condensed, made leaner or whether some of them can be replaced with collaborative online tools. Meeting fatigue is very real and burning your team out on an excessive number of meetings can only reduce productivity. 

Is the traditional team meeting dead?

No. Teams will always need to meet and discuss business items and, where possible, meeting in person is still hugely valuable. Creating engaging meetings with purpose and fresh approaches to engaging staff will help your team meetings be something your staff look forward to, rather than dread. Slack channels and collaboration tools are great but do not discount the value of a well planned and properly run team meeting where people can collaborate face-to-face.

How do I make team meetings more fun?

Fun is a tricky concept when it comes to team meetings. Does every meeting need to be fun, and should a meeting’s value be judged on whether it is fun or not? Perhaps a better question would be: How do I make a team meeting more engaging?

In a business-critical meeting where high-level items are being discussed, you do not necessarily need people to have fun, but to be engaged with the subject of the meeting and have clear takeaways and actions.

In a team development meeting designed to get teams talking, fun should absolutely be a consideration. Use games, exercises and proven methods of engagement from our library to help people connect, build bridges and have fun.

Every meeting should be the best version of itself it can be: if its a meeting where people are getting to know each other, make it more fun; if its a meeting where you are trying to improve collaboration between staff, make it more collaborative. By focusing on making your meeting more engaging, your meeting will be more successful: successful teams inevitably have more fun. Create a positive feedback loop!

How should I start a team meeting?

Warming up your staff ahead of complicated or emotive discussion is a great idea. This might include an icebreaker activity, the sharing of good news or announcements, or a quick debate on a small issue. Encouraging the activity you’d like to see in the meeting in a fun, brief form is a good way to ensure staff are warmed up and ready to engage with the rest of the meeting.

Engage people with open questions to invite them into the meeting, set the tone, be positive, and make lots of eye contact. Remember you are modeling the behavior you want to see from your participants, and by making a great example, people can follow suit.

What should I do in my first team meeting?

When you are leading your first team meeting, whether with an entirely new team or in a new role, you are setting the tone for future meetings and interactions with your team. Lead a poorly planned and executed meeting and you are teaching your team to dread your future meetings. Make a big impact by finessing your first meeting and creating a template for future success.

In your first team meeting, ensure you have ample time to get to know everyone, break the ice and have open, frank discussions. After your first team meeting, give your team the chance to offer feedback and help you improve – creating an environment of honest, unilateral feedback will pay dividends in future meetings.

What are team meetings best used for?

Team meetings are great places to resolve issues and confusion with honest, open discussion. Items that might take dozens of back and forth emails to clarify can be talked through in a safe public forum and you can save time as a result.

In many organizations, team meetings might be the only time you can get the right minds all together in a room for a single purpose. The collaborative atmosphere is great for developing ideas, problem-solving and fast iteration. Bouncing thoughts off one another in a meeting environment can be extremely effective and lead to unexpected outcomes.

Team meetings are also best used for transmitting critical information in a way you know your staff will receive. Emails can be missed or items in a bulletin can be skipped. In a team meeting that everyone is on the same page, the necessary information is given to your staff and that any concerns and raised.

In conclusion

We hope we’ve given you some insight into how to lead a better team meeting and get the most out of the time you spend in meetings. Whether you run a team meeting once a week or every three months, taking the time to plan, collaborate and consider how to make your meeting more engaging is an integral part of managing and leading a team.

If we’ve left anything out or if you have questions about any part of the post, write to us in the comments below. We’d love to hear how you connect with staff in team meetings and your tips to lead the best team meeting possible!

Better tools = better team meetings

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