Having attended many team meetings, I’ve experienced both good and bad meetings. It’s not hard to figure out what hasn’t worked if a team meeting doesn’t go the way it was intended. Effective meetings are a very powerful way to bond a team, whereas poorly run meetings can demotivate a team and frustrate team members.
Here are seven guidelines that must be carried out in order to have an engaging and effective team meeting. While these guidelines are simple and may be known, the more important question to ask is whether your team is following these guidelines or not.
- Assign a timekeeper. Personally, I find it very frustrating when meetings do not stick to the time allocated for it. The best meetings are short meetings, which are focused, action-oriented and directed towards specific outcomes. A powerful way to start any team meeting is for the leader (or whoever is conducting the meeting) to state why the team exists. An example of this could be, “We are team of dedicated professionals whose job is to increase revenue, improve productivity and support business initiatives through the solutions we provide. This won’t happen unless we function as a cohesive, high-performing team.”
- Have an agenda. Unless there is an agenda for a meeting, it can be very easy to get off track and talk about things that are not relevant, which can easily result in the meeting going over time and fail to achieve the outcomes desired. An agenda should be sent out to all attendees prior to the meeting, preferably a week before the meeting, as it will help attendees prepare for the meeting and complete any action items assigned to them.
- State the outcome of the meeting. Every meeting must have a purpose. It is pointless to have a meeting just for the sake of having a meeting. This is quite a common practice especially in large companies, where there are recurring meetings scheduled, which leads to team members not attending meetings or not wanting to contribute during meetings. Every item on the agenda needs to have an intended outcome or purpose for being on the agenda.
- Review previous action items and minutes. One of the items on the agenda must be to review the minutes and action items from the previous meeting. This is so important for ensuring continuity and demonstrate to team members that things discussed previously will be followed through till completion. I have found that incomplete action items is one of the biggest objections people have towards attending meetings. Comments like, “Nothing will get done anyway” or “What’s the point of suggesting something if all we do is talk about it rather than doing something about it” can create a negative team culture.
- Appoint a minute taker. As stated previously, having minutes is critical for maintaining continuity and momentum. The role of the minute taker is to document what was discussed and what action items were agreed to. That way, in the next meeting, those items can be reviewed and followed up.
- Confirm action items at the end of the meeting. In my experience, this is something which is a stumbling block for most meetings. While minutes and action items may be written down, a recap or summary of what was discussed is not done. This is the responsibility of the meeting facilitator or the minute taker to summarise at the end of meetings. Assigning names to action items and when it needs to be done by is what makes meetings effective. This ensures there is a level of accountability for the team members. It is up to the team leader to follow up in between meetings and ensure that things are progressing after the meeting.
- End on time and confirm the next meeting. Finishing on time is a habit and needs to be part of the team culture. Failure to do can create a negative connotation towards meetings. Once items have been reviewed and assigned, the next meeting date and time should be scheduled. Of course, things may change in between meetings which could cause the meeting date or time to be changed, however scheduling the next one ensures that team members know they need to be prepared for the next meeting.
These are seven basic guidelines for conducting effective meetings. Whenever meetings go off track, chances are one or more of these guideline have not been followed. If these guidelines are executed consistently, chances are your meetings will be more productive, focused and ultimately, achieve the objectives of your team.
Question: What have you found to work well when conducting meetings?
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