Whether it's a weekly recurring team meeting or one-time impromptu sync with your manager, a reminder on your calendar to head to the conference room or dial into the video conference can conjure many emotions, ranging from enthusiasm to dread, often with no room in between.
We've all sat through a meeting that wandered aimlessly and veered off-topic. It lasted longer than planned, and you walked out with no clear idea of what comes next. Or you're calling in remotely and you can't hear a word of what's being said due to outdated conferencing software.
Meetings can be a drain on people's time, creativity, and productivity. According to a survey published by Harvard Business Review, 65% of senior business managers said meetings keep them from completing their work and 71% said they're unproductive and inefficient.
Alternatively, with the right strategies in place, meetings can be a space for collaboration, creativity, and positive communication that leaves participants energized, informed and motivated to tackle their assigned tasks. For folks working remotely and on hybrid teams, in particular, meetings are an essential way to stay informed and connected, on task, and in the know.
Ready to lead, run, and participate in the most productive meetings possible?
There are many different types of meetings whose titles may sound like jargon or all sound the same to an outsider. Each meeting type has a different purpose, length, goal, and setup. If you're just starting out as a manager or remote manager, make sure to prepare ahead of time with a meeting agenda, send out a meeting invite, and schedule meetings at a good time for every attendee's time zone. Since meetings are expensive and time is valuable, run through this checklist to see if you even need a meeting. If you do, planning and organization will be your best friend.
Here are some basic types of meetings, who should be involved, and how to run them. Don't forget to use a meeting agenda template to create an agenda, take notes, and stay organized week by week.
Standup meetings are quick daily or weekly meetings to check in with each team member's progress and roadblocks to help ensure that everyone is working as efficiently as possible. These meetings usually allow each teammate up to 5 minutes to talk through what they did the day before or week before, what they're currently working on, and what's coming up. They can also ask for help with any roadblocks. Standup meetings work well for hybrid teams because it's a way to guarantee some Facetime for all team members every day.
All Hands Meetings are when each and every person at your company gets in the same room (or virtual room) for a meeting. Sometimes these are related to a town hall, where your leadership team makes themselves available for a live question and answer session. An All Hands Meeting gives employees of all levels an opportunity to voice concerns, showcase successes, and be a part of decision-making from an early point in their career.
Due to the difficulty in scheduling and time-consuming nature of all-company meetings, aim to host at least one per quarter and set up a live feed for remote employees to be able to fully participate.
A 1:1 meeting between a manager and their direct report is an important tool for career growth, transparency, and employee satisfaction and happiness. For remote managers, being face to face, even virtually, using tools like Zoom, is an important way to show your employees that you are invested in developing your relationship with them. Open the conversation to honesty and create a space where they feel comfortable asking for help. Make sure to keep track of conversations, goals, and weekly or monthly check-ins and stay on top of performance reviews. (Our meeting agenda templates make great records of weekly meetings.)
Use regularly scheduled weekly, monthly, or quarterly team meetings to track progress towards individual, team-wide, and company-level goals.
Create and send out an agenda ahead of time, assign a meeting facilitator, and make sure every team member has a chance to speak. Leave time for brainstorming and team-building at least once per quarter.
Brainstorm meeting may sound a bit contradictory since a meeting is scheduled and brainstorming is a fluid, creative process, however, getting a group of creative minds in a room for a scheduled block of time can be a great way to generate new ideas.
If you have remote participants, make sure to use a video camera with 360° capability so they can see the whiteboard or any visual elements.
A kickoff meeting is used to set the tone for product launches, yearly strategy updates, content marketing planning, and other big initiatives for businesses large and small. They get all stakeholders in a project or on a team in the same “room” (virtual or physical), outline the project or quarter, review goals, assign tasks, and answer questions. Download our kickoff meeting planning guide to learn how to host a smooth kickoff that creates a space for creativity and innovation, no matter where your employees are.
Meetings can exist in every combination of remote and in-person participants. Both participants can be remote, both in-person, or one of each and the same goes for group meetings. When a meeting is "in-person," that's assumed that both parties will use a conference room, coffee shop, or shared workspace to meet.
When a meeting is "remote," all employees will call in using a video conferencing software (we love Zoom!) Hybrid meetings have a combo of in-office and remote members. When planning or running a hybrid meeting, make sure to use a 360-degree video conferencing camera in the meeting room so your remote teammates can see and hear everything that's going on.
For remote workers, use these tips to stay visible and interrupt (politely) when you need to. Working from home doesn't mean you're any less involved.
If you're an in-office employee, read up on how to be an inclusive teammate to out of office employees. For those unfamiliar with video conferencing, here's some info on video conferencing etiquette.
Here are some tips for running meetings as flawlessly as you can control. Remember to keep meetings as short as you can and leave time for questions and brainstorming!
Aside from the obvious benefits of setting an agenda (staying on track, establishing goals for the meeting, identifying discussion points), providing it to your team members ahead of time might spark some ideas, and will allow participants to come prepared and ready to dive in. If you will be offering remote access either for either a totally remote meeting or a hybrid with some folks calling in, be sure you've done a test of AV equipment ahead of time, just to be sure all is working properly. You can also practice your presentation skills to make sure you are captivating your group, relaying the most pertinent information, and displaying information in a visually appealing way.
Whether the meeting is in person, fully remote, or hybrid, a picture really is worth a thousand words. Whenever possible, the person running the meeting should provide visuals in the form of photos, charts, graphs, video, etc. These visual aids can provide clarity for attendees but also mix up the format to keep everyone engaged. Keeping visuals simple and easy to read will not only keep your team interested but will provide a piece of effective supporting information to drive a point home.
If you're leading the meeting, you're likely acting as the facilitator. You'll ensure that the meeting stays on topic, the agenda is followed, and participants remain engaged and productive. Formally restating the goals of the meeting at the outset is important in keeping everyone on task. Involving all attendees and remaining aware of different personalities ensures that each participant is invested in the topic and will be enthusiastic about follow-up.
Taking notes on the topics discussed, the decisions made, the next steps, and the who-what-when of making sure those actions are completed will help keep everyone on track. Another way to stay focused is to enforce a "no phones allowed" policy at meetings. It may sound a bit scary to leave your phone behind, but this method is growing in popularity and may help attendees remain "dialed in" on the topic without being tempted to check emails under the table.
Participants and team members are much more likely to stay engaged, participate and sign off with a feeling of time well spent if they feel they have been seen and heard clearly. Whether the meeting is by teleconference or video conference, make sure you are using the best technology available. Platforms like Zoom help create seamless communication for fully remote and hybrid meeting formats.
It sounds simple, but if you are attending a meeting and want to make it worth your time, as well as everyone else's, you need to participate. If you want to benefit from the collaboration, you have to want to contribute to the discussion. This can be difficult in a hybrid team meeting where it's tempting to just let the folks who are at the table do all the talking, but be sure to contribute in a positive, clear manner, when appropriate, even if you may need a gentle nudge from the facilitator.
The person running the meeting should try to leave some time at the end of the meeting for establishing a follow-up plan. Here, you will identify the specific action item, the participant assigned to accomplish the task and the due date of the action item. If there will be a follow-up meeting, it's important to set the time and day before the meeting adjourns.
Providing minutes of the meeting within 24 hours is helpful in keeping everyone informed and accountable. Doing so while the meeting is still fresh in everyone's mind can help keep people motivated to accomplish assigned goals and tasks. If you'll be continuing the conversation after the meeting, move it to Slack or another messaging app to be sure to include remote folks (rather than standing around outside the conference room to discuss.)
While not all meetings are created equal, they can be a positive, productive and effective use of valuable time for all involved. All it takes is some careful planning, focus, and enthusiasm. And if you want to think outside the box, a little incentive like pizza or a fun icebreaker can ignite a fair amount of enthusiasm and creativity before you even get started.
Looking for more? Check out these hilarious tweets about meetings next.