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No mo’ meeting FOMO

How to keep everyone in the loop without adding more names to your attendee list

October 5, 2021

As teams grow, it’s common for meetings to grow along with them. Sometimes this is necessary (think: a company all-hands) but more often than not, it can be counterproductive. As the group snowballs, discussion becomes unwieldy, folks start to check out, and the entire meeting can feel like a big waste of everyone’s time.

So, how do you know when your meeting’s gotten out of hand?

If you’ve found yourself adding folks “just to keep them in the loop”, or noticed that a 15-minute standup has morphed into a 45-minute ordeal, it’s probably time to make a shift. If only a handful of folks are actually engaging or getting value out of the discussion, that’s another sign it may be time to take a look at your attendee list. Narrowing down who attends each meeting can keep the conversation more focused and free up more of your team’s time.

Here lies the challenge, though. Meetings are often deeply ingrained in our teams’ cultures and communication habits. When we rely on them as our primary place to share and gather new information, it can start to feel like if folks aren’t in the meeting, they’re missing out.

So, how can you keep meetings focused without making folks feel lost or left out?

The secret is great meeting notes. In this article, we’ll cover how to elevate your note-taking and distribution practice so you can give your team back more hours in the day, while keeping them even more in the loop than ever before.

Why do meeting lists just keep growing?

There are a few common reasons meeting attendee lists tend to snowball over time.

  1. Your team or company is growing: As your team grows, naturally you’ll add new teammates to your existing meetings. This works up until a point. At Amazon, Jeff Bezos refers to this as the “Two Pizza Rule” — if you can’t feed everyone in the room with two pizzas, your meeting has grown too large.
  2. You’ve got gaps or silos in your communication: Oftentimes, teams over-rely on meetings because they don't have good alternatives for communicating updates, staying in sync, and getting work done. When teams and individuals don’t know what each other are up to, they add each other to meetings to sort it all out.
  3. You’re trying hard to keep stakeholders and partners in the loop: This one goes back to the point above — when you don’t have other reliable channels for communication or sources of truth, it’s hard for people outside of the work to keep tabs on it. Adding folks into the meeting for the sake of sharing progress or upward reporting though isn’t a good use of anyone’s time. The same goes for cross-functional groups. When you’re working on a project with lots of interdependencies, it’s natural to want to keep everyone in the loop, but piling names onto your meeting list isn’t the only way to do this.
  4. Your team has the right intentions, wrong format: Meetings tend to snowball when teammates err on the side of over-inclusion. It’s a good problem to have — a culture of inclusion is foundational to any great team and it’s important to have diverse perspectives and voices represented in all of your discussions. (Our meeting inclusion checklist can help.) This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put a little thought into your meeting’s attendee list from time to time though. Revisit your meeting’s purpose — is everyone in the room getting clear value out of the time together? Is the discussion multi-way, collaborative, and engaging for all? If your answer to either is no, you probably have an opportunity to focus your attendee list and/or move some topics to an asynchronous format — an inclusive way to keep folks in the loop without having to cut into their workday.

A common theme here is transparency. We tend to invite our teammates to meetings when we want them to have visibility into the decisions and discussions happening within them. But adding someone to a meeting isn’t the only way to keep them in the loop. We’ll explore how to achieve greater transparency (and prevent meeting FOMO) through meeting notes in the following sections.

Bigger isn’t always better. It may sound counterintuitive, but the bigger the meeting the less inclusive and effective it actually is. Large meetings tend to be less productive, churn over the same topics each week, and run overtime. When you’ve packed a room (or Zoom) with too many people, it’s easy for folks to lose sight of why they’re there, feel bored, get frustrated, or check out of the conversation entirely.

Good meeting notes can keep your invite list to a minimum

The secret to solving meeting FOMO is through clear, consistent meeting notes and open communication around them.

Notes keep the whole team in the loop. They ensure everyone has visibility into important discussions and decisions being made, and document them for the future too. The improve transparency by giving everyone an opportunity to see what was discussed and decided on, even if they don’t attend, and provide a written artifact that helps with upward reporting and cross-team communication.

Be specific so that everyone feels informed and included

Taking notes during a meeting isn’t necessarily ground-breaking, but chances are, even if it’s something your team already does today, there’s room for improvement.

Our #1 piece of advice for note-taking is to be as specific as possible.

A good rule of thumb is that someone who’s never attended that meeting should be able to review the notes and clearly understand what was discussed. If your notes are full of short-hand and jargon or miss a big section of what was covered, they’ll be a lot less helpful in bringing folks along. It can be helpful to use a template for note-taking to ensure what you’re documenting and sharing stays consistent over time.

Remember, the goal here is to make sure folks outside the meeting are included and informed — and don’t have to follow up afterward with a million questions.

Tip: Assign a note-taker. Having a notetaker ensures that there’s one person dedicated to documenting the meeting and who will be listening extra carefully to get everything written down. Make sure to assign your notetaker at the beginning of the meeting (or even beforehand), so they’re not playing catch up midway through the session.

Check out more tips for taking better notes here

Distribution is just as important as note-taking itself

Once you’ve got the documentation part down, you’ll want to think strategically about note distribution, or sharing, too.

Sharing consistently helps build a habit around meeting notes — both for the note-taker and for those following along. If your team uses Slack religiously, share your meeting notes in Slack. If email’s more your thing, share with your team alias there.

Considerations for note distribution

  • When you share (ex: Immediately after the meeting)
  • Where you share (ex: To the Eng team email alias)
  • Who you share with (ex: Eng, design, and exec teams)

Remember, consistency is key. Staying consistent with when and where you distribute your notes, will help folks know where to look for information and how to follow along.

More tips to ⬆️ transparency, ⬇️ attendees

  • Ensure managers are well-equipped to communicate information to their team and that it’s being prioritized
  • Give folks avenues to voice questions and concerns, even if they didn’t attend the meeting
  • Check-in with your team regularly to make sure everyone feels aligned, informed, and included
  • Explore other ways to communicate updates, progress, and wins with one another — like async check-ins

Try it with Range

Every meeting doesn’t need to be an all-hands. Your team has better things to do.

Bringing focus to your attendee list can make your meetings more efficient for those attending and free up valuable work time for folks who don’t actually need to be in the room. Range can help you do it more effectively.

With Range, it easy to document and share what’s discussed in meetings so that everyone – even folks who don’t attend — stays in the loop. You can assign a notetaker during the meeting, use our note-taking template to keep it simple, and then automatically share notes over Slack and email as soon as your meeting ends.

Try Range for your next meeting
No mo’ meeting FOMO
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