Team meetings have grown to become one of the quintessential business tools of modern day organisations.
Over time however they’ve changed. Team meetings used to be about a manager or team doing most of the talking while everyone else listened. It was pretty much a one-way conversation.
Today, however, team meetings are much more about every person having their say, sharing information and ideas, discussing a project, planning goals and celebrating achievements.
Besides actually getting business done — especially as more of us work remotely — team meetings help teams stay connected at the click of a mouse.
Chatting with another person in the kitchen, comparing social calendars at the printer, or walking to grab a coffee are some of the things people miss most about working away from their teams.
As a result of the pandemic, more organisations are taking advantage of professional video conferencing solutions such as Redback Connect and other apps and software such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts and Amazon Chime to provide opportunities for teams to meet online.
Whether you’re throwing ideas around in a brainstorming session, discussing a new product, holding a weekly team meeting, a sales call, a daily stand-up over a virtual coffee, or a trivia quiz, video conferencing is a great way for teams to improve productivity, maintain engagement, collaborate on ideas, improve connectedness and have fun.
What are the functions of a meeting?
A team meeting is a chance for a group to create and build on its own pool of shared expertise and experience, and to review, update, and add to what it knows as a group.
It can also provide managers with the chance to see what makes a team click, and individuals with the chance to provide their own input and share their own experiences or those of others — such as clients, prospects and other stakeholders — to increase the knowledge of the team as a whole.
It’s important to be aware of what teams know as a group, which helps to avoid going over issues or subjects that every person is already on top of, which means you can make better use of everyone’s time.
An effective team meeting should also help all people involved to understand both the collective aim of the group, and the way in which their own and each person’s work can contribute to the group’s overall success in each particular project.
Team meetings also function as a way to come to a collective agreement. While everyone might not agree with the final decision made, for most people, in a majority of cases, it’s enough to know that their views were taken into account during the decision making process.
Not all team meetings aim to achieve the same thing. Some of the most common meeting functions include:
- Project or status updates
- Making decisions
- Solving problems
- Team building
- Brainstorming and collaboration
- Working with channel partners
- Sharing information.
Make sure you identify the purpose of your meeting, whether it’s to share business-critical information or boost team bonding. Establishing a clear purpose for your meeting early on will help you keep focussed and make your meeting more productive and effective.
Here are 11 ways to make your team meetings more successful:
1. Get input from your team
It’s important that every team meeting is worthwhile for everyone who attends, and encourages everyone to participate and come up with outcomes that will be beneficial for your business.
For starters, check everyone’s calendar and make sure that the day and time chosen for your meeting is the best time possible.
For more formal meetings and events, research shows that Tuesday is the most popular day for most people to attend, followed by Wednesdays and Fridays. Almost four in ten of us prefer to attend meetings in the mid-morning, followed by mid-afternoon, while evenings, lunchtime and weekends are off limits as remote workers increasingly try to reduce the impact ‘working from home’ has on their actual life at home.
Touch base with your participants before the meeting and ask for suggestions on the issues, challenges or opportunities they would like to see discussed during your meeting time.
While you might not be able to cover everyone’s suggestion, that doesn’t mean you can’t put it on the list for the next meeting, or touch base with the team member who suggested it. At a minimum, you at least have it on your radar.
2. Talk about relevant topics
No one likes wasting time in meetings that get nowhere and achieve nothing — but that doesn’t necessarily stop us from getting dragged into them.
Some research from Atlassian shows that we spend more than 30 hours a month in meetings, even though some of us consider at least half of them a waste of time.
In the new world of remote work, we’re spending more time meeting online than ever before with one in three Australians now attending more than 10 virtual events a month, up from just 2% in 2019. Significantly, more than half of us (51%) expect to attend more virtual meetings and other events in 2021.
That means it’s more important than ever to keep the members of your meeting engaged, and one of the ways to do that is to stick to the topics that are relevant to everyone.
If you’re calling a team meeting, make sure that everyone who is expected to attend will find it worth blocking out time in their calendar.
It’s easier for people to tune out in an online meeting compared to when everyone is in the same room when a discussion goes off on a tangent that is irrelevant to them and their work.
You can always put a discussion on hold with a promise to follow it up at the next meeting or with just those individuals to whom it is most relevant.
3. Set an agenda (and stick to it)
When your meeting attendees are all based in different locations, it’s more important than ever to make sure all the people at your meeting are on the same page.
To put it simply, every meeting needs an agenda. Unfortunately, not every meeting has one. We’ve all attended a meeting where there is no agenda, and the problems are obvious from the start — particularly because you don’t know where to start and you waste valuable minutes trying to work it out.
An agenda helps you identify and focus on the important topics that need to be addressed at a team meeting and the action that is required for each one.
As we’ve already mentioned, a good place to start is to ask for input on the agenda from people you’re going to invite.
Don’t put too many items on your agenda. There’s nothing worse than a team member, or members, preparing for an agenda item that never gets discussed or ends up with only a couple of minutes. Prioritise each item, set a realistic amount of time to address each one, and make sure that includes giving every team member a chance to participate on each agenda item that is relevant to them.
If you have a big project to discuss, tackle it early as opposed to leaving it until the end when you’re running out of time.
If a discussion goes on too long, establish in the meeting how it will be addressed moving forward, whether that’s at the next meeting or another forum.
It’s also a good idea to leave some time at the end for spontaneous discussion, which will help improve connectedness.
4. Prepare for your meeting
Setting an agenda will also help you prepare for your meeting by establishing its goals.
Send every person an invitation that goes directly into their calendar.
Before the meeting, compile any information you may need to reference as well as any questions you have for team members. It also pays to think of any questions your meeting participants might have so you can have an answer prepared if possible.
Set expectations for team members so they know what their roles in the meeting will be. Let them know if they’ll be there simply to listen, or if you will require them to provide some input. Also let them know if they’ll be required to speak for a set amount of minutes.
If you’re attending a meeting, make sure you read the agenda and list any questions you have. Being on top of the agenda items before the meeting will also let you become more involved in the discussion. It’s also a good idea to write down any goals you want to achieve in the meeting yourself.
Preparing for your meeting will help you to make sure you come to a resolution on as many agenda items as possible, if not all of them.
5. Get the right technology (and make sure you test it)
Whether it’s your first online meeting or you consider yourself an old hand, make sure you know how to use your technology, and make sure it’s working properly.
Make sure you know how to join the meeting: do you need to install software or just click a link to join? Make sure your headphones and microphone work, and that your internet connection is up to scratch.
When people are slow to join meetings it can not only waste valuable time, but also leave everyone else a little frustrated which is not the frame of mind you want them in to kick things off in a positive manner.
Get out of your PJs, set up your remote space, and join as early as you can.
Whether you’re hosting a team training session, strategy day or weekly meeting, these days it’s more than likely you’ll be joining it using a video conferencing platform or software.
Video conferencing lets you connect with your team and collaborate with anyone wherever you’re working from, even on the other side of the world — and you can be underway in just a few minutes.
Increase the effectiveness of your meeting by working together in real time with productivity apps, such that let you utilise chat rooms for questions and answers, message each other, and use digital whiteboards that everyone can work on in real time for maximum collaboration.
The best video conferencing platforms let you mute participants, remove uninvited attendees, let people join automatically, take a seat in a waiting room; raise a hand; and designate presenters — all with the click of a mouse. You can also host them from a studio in a range of different settings such as behind a desk or from a lounge.
6. Share relevant information before your meeting
It can save a lot of time in your meeting if everyone is familiar with the issues being discussed, so providing anything relevant that might help a meeting be more productive when it comes to actually getting together can be a valuable tool.
General team updates or things team members need to know are easy to share with employees before a meeting takes place.
If your team meeting involves a number of different business units, share updates on each group before a meeting, instead of spending time in a meeting doing it. This not only lets everyone consume the information at their own pace, but will increase the opportunity that they will have a question to ask or something relevant to add or share.
7. Make sure you include everyone
A crowded conference call can make it difficult for people to share their opinions, especially when one or two individuals dominate the majority of a conversation.
Take the time to break regularly to allow time for questions, and remind attendees that they can use a chat window to share their thoughts.
Using tools like a virtual whiteboard helps people who might be more visual to get involved, or letting everyone talk for 1-minute about something interesting that took place in their week can be a good way to break the ice.
Using a video conferencing platform that lets people virtually raise their hand is another easy way to give everyone a chance to have their say.
8. Keep your meeting flowing
Because there are less chances to read everyone’s body language and people are less reluctant to jump in (and when they do it can be hard to understand people talking over each other), one of the challenges of online meetings is knowing who is about to speak or who needs to.
Virtual meetings can range from everyone talking over each other to long pauses after someone’s finished speaking. A meeting can come to an embarrassing standstill if no one knows the answer to a question that is asked, or raucous chatter if everyone thinks they do.
To avoid crowded airspace or an uncomfortable silence, frame your questions to specific team members. If people are working together or relying on other steps in the process to move forward, don’t forget to ask them if they have anything to share or have further questions.
By being direct when it comes to controlling the conversation, you’ll maximise your productive meeting time while ensuring everyone has a chance to be heard.
9. Take advantage of file and screen sharing
One of the best ways to keep your meeting flowing is to share files, your desktop, a browser window, a specific app, or other content during a meeting.
If you’re reviewing information or if referencing external documents that include visuals, statistics, graphs, images or even video, it helps people to follow along.
You can also let people co-author files in real time, as well as direct your attendees’ attention and keep everyone on the same page.
Sharing your screen also reduces the chances that you’ll need to pause, and will help avoid your team members becoming confused. Letting everyone share their screen is another great way to increase collaboration.
The best video conferencing solutions will also let you share content from any device and any operating system.
If you’re sharing your screen, make sure you turn off any email, messaging or other programs that might pop up unwanted notifications.
10. Record your meetings
While it might sound obvious, recording meetings is something many meeting organisers unintentionally leave off their to-do list as they focus on planning the meeting itself.
Recording a meeting means you can provide video of the meeting to anyone who couldn’t make it, and also gives people the chance to review what was said. Some video conferencing providers will also provide you with a transcript which you can easily share with everyone.
And seeing as it’s as simple as clicking on ‘record’ when you start your meeting (if it’s not that easy, try another video conferencing suite), you’ve really got nothing to lose.
11. Follow up and learn how to make your meetings even better
If there’s one thing that should be a goal of every meeting, it’s that you should try and make the next meeting better.
It might be as simple as tweaking the agenda, or more fundamental, like changing your invitation list.
It can be a good idea to ask your team members for feedback on what worked, what didn’t, what was missing and how it could be improved.
Don’t wait until the day before the next meeting to follow up on action items: touch base with meeting attendees so they have plenty of time to follow through on what they committed to.
That way your next meeting will be a seamless continuation from your last.