Top 10 Tips for Team Meetings: Boost Productivity & Professionalism
By Andrea Driessen, Chief Boredom Buster at No More Boring Meetings
A version of this piece first appeared in the American City Business Journals
London School of Economics and Harvard University researchers report that business leaders spend 60% of their time in meetings, and only 15% of their time working alone. As a busy professional, with the majority of your work time spent in groups, you can learn 10 easy ways to host and contribute to more productive team meetings:
- Be a know it all
It’s natural to disengage when meeting content isn’t relevant. The most effective meeting hosts review all potential agenda segments to determine whether they apply to all attendees. If participants already know a particular content slice, then simply don’t cover that segment for the broader audience. Or if you have vastly different levels of awareness in the room, divide people accordingly to ensure maximum relevance for all.
- No problem? No meeting!
We often meet habitually: the weekly project check-in, the monthly mandated. Yet many of these less-then-productive meetings can be canceled or shortened if we identify the problem the meeting is intended to solve. And if we can find no identifiable problem, then we don’t have the meeting. Sometimes, it’s that simple.
- Get Real
We’ve all suffered through long, boring meetings that try to do too much in too little time. When deciding what you’ll cover, be realistic. If you have just 60 minutes, can you actually address 13 items? What can be relegated to email or to a 1:1?
- Prioritize Priorities
A corollary to #3: to save time and solve your most pressing problems, address your most important issues first. Sound obvious? Common sense, we know, isn’t always common.
- Play “Pass the Pad” to avoid late comers
Meetings productivity suffers because people arrive late, and the punctual are penalized. Jon Petz, author of Boring Meetings Suck, recommends playing “pass the pad.” Start every meeting right on time. Hand the last person to arrive a pad of paper, or an electronic device, and voila: he or she is the meeting note taker. Anyone who arrives later is passed the pad, and so on. People see they can either be on time—or late—and become the dreaded note taker. As host, you’ll effortlessly see positive behavior change.
- Be a meeting bouncer
A common meeting malady: the tangent talker. Crack down on curve balls by naming a tangent officer who monitors and records tangents for later. Lighten it up by using a toy police badge.
- Make it multi-sensory
All meeting content need not be delivered via the spoken word—or via slide decks. We are inherently more engaged when ALL of us, not just our frontal lobes, is engaged. A few ways to address the whole meeting goer: Graphic illustration, in which someone draws out ideas in real time. Customer testimonials that emotionally inspire. Quizzes and games. Product demos. Surprise guests. Props that foster kinesthetic learning. Songs—if you can remember all the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody, you can remember your organizational mission—when it’s put to music!
We know Proper Planning Presents Poor Performance (PPPPP!). So meeting hosts and attendees will advance their careers by fully preparing for meetings—in advance. As host, assign preparatory reading and projects so precious meeting time is focused on what truly requires real time collaboration. As participant, do your homework. Plus, the more skin we all have in the game, the more likely we are to own and be accountable to group outcomes. Speaking of accountability…
- Hire an “accountant”
Ever return from a meeting and thought, “We keep talking about making positive changes, yet we continue to end up back in about the same place”? Of course you have. It’s all too common because most meetings lack built-in accountability structures.
My Post-Program Pair Up format readily boosts attendees’ accountability and results. Simply pair participants and explain that they’ve just met their “accountability buddy.” Then ask everyone to record at least one goal related to the meeting that they’ll commit to completing in the next week or month, and have them check in with one another.
Teams gain measurable accountability, and you get recognized for generating stronger results tied to your meetings.
- Remember: humor is no joke
The power of humor—if used effectively within the meeting mix—is no laughing matter. Indeed, there is a strong business case to be made for laughing while learning.
Relevant levity adds critical mental breaks and fosters more creativity. Leaders who engage in part with humor are often considered more “followable.” Humor lowers stress in part because it releases “feel-good” dopamine and sends more oxygen to blood vessels. It opens our minds and lowers our defenses. To wit: how often have you laughed with your arms crossed?! And when participants’ brains are open, they can naturally put more in them.
What are your top tips for hosting more productive meetings?