Make Meetings Great Again!
Meetings, amiright? You either hate them or you.. wait, does anyone actually love them? Within many companies, it’s very easy to have your schedule be inundated with an assortment of team meetings, recurring meetings, 1:1s, check-ins & daily stand-ups. Keeping a well-balanced calendar can be particularly arduous for those who travel often or are in client-facing roles. By the end of the week, I’ve sat through so many meetings that I believe could’ve been an email, I wonder how much money we burn weekly across the organization in order to communicate (often simple) ideas. Luckily, I fell onto a task to help my company revamp their Meeting Best Practice Guidelines in order to help make us more lean & efficient in our "meeting having."
So here’s some of the tips we came up with to help keep meetings (that need to be had) on track, and maybe even alleviate some using cool tools to skip meetings all together:
PLAN: What's your purpose?
Choose the best format: We’re living in a digital age and the tools at our disposal are only growing. Determine if you need to have a meeting or if there are other outlets to share the information you wish to disseminate. Cool tools I love for sharing ideas include: Airtable, Slack, or even a simple google doc!
Keep attendees lean: The more people in a meeting, the longer it will take to ensure everyone weighs in and the harder it’ll be to stay focused and on topic. Consider inviting a team rep as opposed to an entire team when possible. That rep should be given the responsibility to disseminate the information to their team.
Set an Agenda: this one is simple & often widely forgotten. It’s important as both a host to set the stage for what your attendees are walking into. As an attendee, it's good to be prepared before the meeting. Providing a quick blurb, a shared document or a small list of agenda items can alleviate at least 10 minutes of the background & set up. Consider posing agenda items as questions to help spark conversation.
Pro tip: Let your attendees know whether the meeting is to Inform, Discuss, or Debate. This helps attendees come mentally prepared.
PROCEED: The meeting’s started, now what?
Quickly Appoint Roles: You need someone who will moderate the conversation & ensure everyone who wants to speak is heard (Host or Facilitator), a person who will take notes and jot down associated actions items discussed (Note Taker) and someone whose got their eye on the time (Time Keeper).
Be Mindful & Radical: Allow everyone to talk but also know when it’s time to move on. Some people like to yell "gemo" (or good enough, move on) to avoid falling down rambling rabbit holes. Determine when topics should be taken offline or held for further discussion.
Be Present: It’s important to be focused so put away distractions. Ask people to kindly stop banging out emails mid-meeting if you have to. The time allotted for the meeting is important and valuable and if everyone’s focused, you could get out early!
Pro tip: If you’re using gCal, there’s a setting to enable “Speedy Meetings” which will set your meetings to 25 or 50 minutes. This extra 5 to 10 minute buffer helps teammates get from one meeting to the next, with maybe a quick snack break!
POST: What's next?
Send Meeting Notes: the note taker should clean up the notes quickly after the meeting and send out to all attendees within 24 hours. I like to highlight the action items and ensure someone's assigned to each to increase transparency & clarity after a meeting.
Meeting Audits: We find these to be especially useful for recurring meetings that can go on unchecked for weeks to months. Keep track of your frequently held meetings, how much time per quarter has been dedicated to them & do a pulse check to ensure everyone’s still engaged & thinks the meeting is a valuable use of time. Consider switching to other “meeting” formats to stay informed.
Other Ideas & Thoughts:
Improve your #Slack Game:
Geek Bot for your daily stand ups without needing to stand up. It’s a great way to inform your manager or see how your teammates are feeling, progress on things they are working on or stuck on.
Polly allows you to poll your teammates quickly through the slack application. Polls can be scheduled, set to recur, and provide responses anonymously. It’s a great way to conduct meeting audits.
Consider implementing “Meeting-free” time periods:
Recently our team shared a few resources about the cost of distraction (links below) and how we should try to cultivate periods of “deep work” into our schedules. With constant pinging & running from one meeting to the next, this often doesn’t seem feasible unless everyone’s on the same page. Some companies have adopted “Meeting-free Mondays” but you can always opt for meeting free time periods of 2-3 hours where people can be ping/meeting free!