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Three traits of every great meeting

A look at what highly effective meetings have in common and how you can replicate them

July 20, 2021

When was the last time you left a meeting feeling energized and accomplished? Poorly run meetings are a major waste of time for people, teams, and organizations. Think of how many hours you spent in mediocre meetings just last month. What could you have accomplished instead, if they were run more efficiently?

Poorly run meetings create problems with burnout, disengagement, and decreased productivity. They make teams less effective, because they take up a big portion of people’s time while not adding value or speed to the work.

So how can you make every meeting into a great one? In this article, we’ll cover strategies to make every meeting on your calendar more effective, efficient, and inclusive. You’ll be high-fiving your teammates (IRL or virtually) afterwards because you used less time to accomplish a whole lot more.

What does a great meeting look like?

While meetings may differ in topic, length, frequency, and a whole lot of other things – every great one has these three traits in common.

  1. It’s effective: An effective meeting drives work forward and adds value for everyone in the room. It helps teams tackle problems, connect, and collaborate – speeding them up rather than slowing them down.
  2. It’s efficient: An efficient meeting gets the most done in the least amount of time. It stays on track and focused, and is a good use of everyone’s time.
  3. It’s inclusive: An inclusive meeting is one where everyone can actively participate and add value. Instead of conversation being dominated by just a few people, it’s spread across the whole group.

In the following sections, we’ll explore strategies to make your meetings more effective, engaging, and inclusive so you can get the most out of your time together as a team.

How to run an effective meeting

An effective meeting drives work forward and adds value for everyone in the room. It helps teams tackle problems, connect, and collaborate – speeding them up rather than slowing them down.

Best practices like assigning action items and taking notes are key to running an effective meeting. But oftentimes, teams struggle to put them to action because they add an additional layer of work that’s clunky or easy to forget. The following strategies will help your team smoothly incorporate best practices into your existing workflow to get the most out of every meeting.

Connect what happens in meetings to what’s going on outside of them

Meetings shouldn’t exist in a vacuum. Effective teams use what’s going on with individuals and projects outside of the meeting to shape more meaningful discussion when they come together to meet.

The easiest way to achieve this is by building a team practice around sharing daily, asynchronous updates. Daily updates cover the basics – like who’s working on what and how everyone’s doing – so that meeting time can be used more effectively.

Examples:

  • Weekly team meeting: Use daily updates to identify discussion topics for your weekly team meeting – like how to work through blockers for an upcoming launch or how everyone’s feeling about a recent re-org.
  • Daily standup: Use daily updates to cover status updates so that standup time can be used to raise flags and blockers, and triage issues.
  • 1:1 meeting: Use daily updates to keep a pulse on how your report is doing so that 1:1 time can be focused on helping them work through problems and grow in their role.

Create an easy-to-follow workflow for action items and notes

Ever been assigned an action item during a meeting and forgotten about it even before you left the room? We know we have. Connecting what you do in meetings to your team’s daily workflow will ensure the insights you gain within a meeting live beyond the meeting.

Action items and notes should begin within the meeting, but be just as easy to find and follow-up on after the meeting ends. If your team uses Slack religiously, share your meeting notes in Slack. If you use an app for daily planning or task management, make it as easy as possible to add action items directly to that tool.

Tip: Take notes and assign actions directly from Zoom. For remote or hybrid teams, the Range app for Zoom lets you take notes and assign action items directly from your Zoom meeting screen.

More actionable action items

Action items should be documented as soon as they come up during a meeting – with details on what the action is (be specific about what “done” looks like) and who it’s assigned to. There should also be a clear path for following up on them. For regular meetings, like a sprint planning meeting and backlog grooming, we recommend adding a recurring agenda topic at the beginning of each meeting to check in on last week’s actions.

Tip: Add action items to your to-do list automatically. As tasks are discussed during a meeting, you can use Range to create and assign action items that will automatically be added to individuals’ daily plans so nothing gets missed.

Note-taking that’s second nature

For notes, be consistent with when you share them, what level of detail you provide, and where folks can find and follow along with them after the fact. This will help you avoid having the same meetings or conversations over and over, since you’ll always have a source of truth to point folks to to clue them in on past conversations.

Tip: Streamline note-taking (and sharing) with Range. With the Range meeting tool, you can take notes directly in the tool as you move through agenda topics (no need to open a separate doc) and then share them out automatically to attendees and stakeholders as soon as the meeting ends.

How to run an efficient meeting

In an attempt to be more effective, meeting discussions can sometimes drag out and even spill over into several other meetings. Here are some strategies to help your meetings stay focused and on track.

Build an agenda and stick to it

Agendas keep the meeting on track and ensure everyone comes prepared for a productive discussion. Encourage folks on your team to create an agenda for every meeting. If you’re invited to one with no agenda, ask the organizer to create one and share it. Empower your team to decline meetings without agendas.

Tip: Use templates to make agenda-setting a no-brainer. No time to create an agenda? Not a problem. We put together template meeting agendas for many common meetings to help you get you started.

Tip: Collaborate in real-time. The agenda builder (part of the Range meeting tool) allows all meeting participants to add topics to the meeting agenda. Generating a dynamic agenda this way allows you to rearrange, organize, and mold the meeting around the needs of the participants. If someone in the meeting brings up a tangent, just add it to the agenda and keep going.

Assign roles to keep the meeting on track

When someone is in charge of managing time and discussion topics, meetings are less likely to run over or get derailed with side conversations. Every meeting should have a facilitator – who’s in charge of running the show and keeping the discussion moving in order to cover each agenda topic in a timely manner. For certain meetings, it can be helpful to add topic owners who are responsible for keeping their topic succinct and focused.

Tip: Time it out. If your group is especially talkative, try using a timer to keep discussion from running over. The Range meeting tool has one built right in.

Tip: Give everyone a turn. Try rotating meeting facilitation so everyone gets a turn–the meeting tool and integration with tools like MS Teams can help with this.

How to run an inclusive meeting

An inclusive meeting is one where everyone can actively participate and add value. Instead of conversation being dominated by just a few people, it’s spread across the whole group.

Get everyone talking with an opening round

Research shows if someone speaks at the beginning of a meeting, they’re more likely to stay engaged throughout. To get everyone to open up, try holding an “opening round” during your meetings where everyone says hello and shares how they’re doing.

Tip: Try a team-building question. To add a little more structure to your opening round, you can try kicking things off with an icebreaker question to get to know your teammates a little better. We’ve got an e-book with 60 of them to help you get started.

Tip: Give everyone an equal chance to speak. To carve out space for everyone to speak, try using the spinner (part of the Range meeting tool). The spinner randomly determines who speaks next to get more people talking throughout the session.

Create ways for all types of personalities to engage and participate

Ever been in a meeting where the conversation is dominated by a few loud voices in the room? Or felt put on the spot when you were asked a question you were prepared for? These things tend to happen when meeting structure and format doesn’t take into account all types of personalities and work styles. Some of us like to brainstorm and riff off our teammate’s ideas as a group. Others prefer to prepare and think on discussion topics beforehand, and are more likely to speak up and engage if they’ve had time to do so.

Tip: Give folks a chance to prepare beforehand. Some people take more time to react to new information than others. Sharing an agenda and/or a meeting pre-read gives folks time to process discussion topics beforehand so they’re prepared to discuss in-person. They’re also more likely to actively engage in the conversation and contribute ideas when they’ve had some time to actually think about them.

Tip: Test out different forums for engagement. If you typically run brainstorms at the end of your team meeting, try adding an async component that gives folks a chance to prepare ideas beforehand or submit them afterwards. Having a mix means people have more time to think and ideate (rather than be stuck in a room and forced to be creative). It is more inclusive of people who are quieter, and you always have a digital artifact, instead of thousands of sticky notes.

Conclusion

There aren’t enough hours in the day for mediocre meetings.

Bring purpose, focus, and engagement back into your meetings with the Range meeting tool. It helps connect meetings back to daily work to make them more effective, streamlines agenda-building and facilitation to improve efficiency, and offers more pathways for engagement to make every meeting more inclusive.

Try the Range meeting tool
Three traits of every great meeting
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