Are your meetings less than effective?

If you are like most leaders, the answer is an enthusiastic, “Yes.” 

You may have wondered: “Is this meeting really the best use of our time?” “Could we have collaborated asynchronously instead?” or “Could this have been an email?”

There’s a growing movement to ban or severely reduce meetings (most notably, Shopify’s move to auto-delete recurring meetings with more than 3 people invited). We agree with the move to think critically about whether something needs to be a meeting at all.  But despite the challenges with meetings, we stand by the opinion that when run well, effective meetings are still one of most meaningful ways to collaborate, move strategy forward and work through significant issues.  

How, do you run an effective meeting? 

Here are some important tips we’ve learned from our work with hundreds of organizations in the last decade: 

No. 1: Establish Great Meeting Norms

Before you schedule a single meeting, start with establishing the norms you want the team to follow. They might look like this: 

  1. Be intentionally present: to ensure we get the most out of our time together, stay focused. 
  2. Practice curiosity: Bring a learners’ mind and encourage exploration. 
  3. Honor each other’s time: We start and end on time. When conversations go too long, we trust the facilitator to move us forward. 
  4. Encourage inclusion: We all create an environment that welcomes participation. 

Download the Better Meetings Guide

Too many meetings that could’ve been an email? Get the FREE guide with our client-tested meeting agenda and template.

    No. 2: Set a Clear Objective 

    A well-organized meeting starts with a clear purpose and agenda. Start by asking, “What do we hope to achieve by running this recurring meeting rhythm?” 

    No. 3: Develop an Agenda that Supports the Meeting Objective  

    Some meetings provide quick coordination on shared projects. Others check in on strategic plans. Others work through emergent issues. Some may just need to provide key updates and information for the sake of alignment. And some need to achieve a combination of these options. The agenda or structure of the meeting will be very different based on what the meeting hopes to achieve. 

    No. 4: Invite the Right People 

    Make sure that the people you invite have a stake in the topics being discussed and can contribute meaningfully to the conversation. 

    No. 5: Summarize Key Takeaways and Action Items  

    At the end of the meeting, summarize the key takeaways and action items to ensure that everyone is on the same page and knows what needs to be done next. Consider what messages need to be shared with other teams for the purpose of integration and alignment. 

    No. 6: Leverage a Shared Work Management Tool

    Using a collaborative work management tool such as Ninety, Trello or Monday can help teams gain incredible momentum in their work together. Use this tool to reference and document concurrently while running your meetings. The tool can help the team:

    1. Review the status of projects or strategic goals.
    2. Note key updates so absent team members can stay informed. 
    3. Record action items in real time as they are identified. 
    4. Prioritize topics for discussion. By viewing all the potential issues to talk through in one single view, participants can better understand which ones are most important to talk through. 

    No. 7: Prepare 

    Just a little bit of preparation can make the difference between an effective meeting and a bad one. Consider the following as you prepare to show up well for your next meeting: 

    1. What key updates do I need to share with my team? 
    2. What action items are due that I need to provide a status update on? 
    3. What projects or strategic goals I lead do I need to share a status update on?
    4. What issues do we need to talk through as a team (assuming the meeting is designed to have space to do so)? 

    By following these keys to running a great meeting, you can help ensure that your meetings are productive, efficient, and effective. It might be hard to believe, but when teams follow these principles and guidelines, many grow to actually love their recurring meeting rhythms. 

    Meetings are a key component of the 6 Levers Framework. The Rhythm Lever is all about how to create team routines and habits that ensure your most essential strategic activities aren’t subject to chance.

    Download our free guide to better meetings (including the agenda we’ve tested with dozens of organizations).  

    Want to learn more about how we build organizational health? Check it out.

    Download the Better Meetings Guide

    Too many meetings that could’ve been an email? Get the FREE guide with our client-tested meeting agenda and template.