I’m a firm believer in the benefits of regular, effective team meetings. Frequent catch-ups with employees help boost motivation and morale. And that all-important feeling of togetherness has been even more vital over the past year or so, with most of us working from home.

Striking the right balance can be tricky though. You don’t want to book so many meetings that your staff feel you’re breathing down their necks. And they do need time to do some actual work. But if you leave your staff neglected, they can lack direction and feel generally unloved. Nobody wants that!

So, how can we ensure team meetings work for everyone involved?

Effective team meetings

1.    Think about when to hold team meetings

You might be tempted to kick off the week by holding your team meeting first thing on a Monday morning. I’d say this wouldn’t be the best plan.

Sure, it might seem like a great way to start the week. You get to offload important messages to the team, they can gather up the actions, and you can all go forth and do beautiful things, right?

In reality, they’re still half asleep. Perhaps they’ve started the day scraping porridge off the kitchen wall, while frantically searching out keys, socks and lunchboxes. They get to work and have just about enough time to burn their tongue on their coffee when BAM! Meeting time.

Are they in the best position to take in what you’re saying? Have they got one eye on their brimming inbox? They resent you for being such a buzz-kill that they either had to prepare for this meeting on a Friday afternoon (unlikely), or not prepare at all (much more likely).

So, when do you hold your team meeting? According to a recent study, people are most likely to accept a meeting request for 3pm on a Tuesday. Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that most of the working day has gone by this point. It’s also possible that people will get through business more efficiently with little time left after the meeting until home time. After all, nobody wants to have to stay later than they were planning due to endless AOB.

Choose a sensible time for your weekly catch-ups and your employees will thank you for it.

2.    Give your employees a chance to prepare

Timing is key when it comes to effective team meetings. You need to share information with enough time for colleagues to prepare a meaningful contribution.

They shouldn’t be seeing the agenda for the first time in the meeting room, and there shouldn’t be any surprises. Putting employees on the spot in meetings is a lose-lose. You feel annoyed because you don’t get the information you need, and they feel betrayed because you’ve not given them a chance to prepare.

Get an agenda to them in advance so they know what to expect and how they can contribute. Of course, things come up during meetings that you haven’t planned for. That’s what the AOB is for.

So, what do you need on your agenda? Well, that will vary depending on the purpose of the meeting. If it’s a weekly catch-up for staff to update the rest of the team on progress, you might have a more regular format, starting with status reviews from all attendees. Of course, this might not work so well if you have a huge team. In this case, you might rotate which area of the service you focus on each week.

The main thing you need to ask yourself is: Where do you want to be by the end of the meeting? Are there questions to be answered? What do you want your employees to come away knowing?

Whatever your objective, make sure you’ve thought it through, that your agenda serves it, and that you’re not just having a meeting for the sake of it. That’s just a waste of everyone’s time. Inspirations can be taken from different places

3.    Start team meetings with a positive attitude!

If you begin your meeting slumping into the room with the distinct whiff of lets-get-this-over-with hanging about you, expect your colleagues to follow suit.

Instead, show your employees you value them and their time by thanking them for being there. Starting on a positive note will help them feel valued and foster more positive outcomes.

Consider starting by highlighting outstanding achievements that week, before moving on to the next objectives. You could also end your meeting on a similar note. This strategy will also make any tricker messages in between easier to swallow.

4.    Focus on topics that affect the whole team

We’ve all been there. There’s nothing worse than wasting time in a meeting that’s in no way relevant to you. It’s very frustrating and the quickest way to build up resentment in your team. How can you expect them to work efficiently if you don’t respect their time?

So, how do you make sure you don’t get Geoff from Accounts wanging on for hours about the new software he’s been using when it’s completely irrelevant to the rest of the team?

For starters, you need to ensure you’ve got a well-focused agenda (see item 2, above). And then you need to take control and manage the time, so you don’t run over.

Make sure all items on the agenda are relevant to the whole team. Geoff’s new accounting software might be very interesting, and he might have some valid points to raise, but is this the right forum? Plan another meeting for the Accounts team. Don’t waste everyone else’s time.

If you’re still holding most meetings on Zoom, you need to consider how to engage the team and ensure they’re not just switching off. It can be even more difficult to reign in discussions during a virtual meeting.

Ask everyone to raise their hand if they want to contribute, and to mute themselves if they’re not presenting. This will limit background noise and everyone trying to talk at once.

5.    Make the most of break-out rooms and let everyone have a chance to speak

Breakout rooms are a great way to increase engagement during meetings and maximise output. By splitting into smaller subgroups, you can cover far more ground in much less time.

Breakout rooms are even easier with remote meetings as there’s no extra space to find. Split colleagues into smaller groups and give them a task to report back on at the end.

All voices to be heard without compromising time constraints. Another plus is that smaller groups help everyone involved to maintain focus.

And there’s always one isn’t there? The one who loves the sound of their own voice, pontificating for hours, regaling the group with their sage advice.

It’s your job to curb this behaviour and make sure everyone gets a chance to contribute. There are always those who tend to stay quiet and fade into the background. But that doesn’t mean they have nothing to contribute. They might just be lacking opportunity or confidence. Or maybe they just can’t get a word in edgeways?

So how can you make sure you reign in the more confident and boost the wallflowers?

Engage all voices from the start, and make sure each team member has an agenda item they’re responsible for. You might want to ask your most junior members of staff for their thoughts first. This empowers those with less experience and shows them their opinion is valued. Plus, fresh eyes can sometimes see things that more experienced team members miss.

Remember to be inclusive when booking meetings. Be mindful of part-time team members or those who have flexible working arrangements. If these colleagues are consistently excluded from team meetings, it does nothing for morale.

6.    Location, location, location

Remote team meetings have been the name of the game for the past 18 months or so. But returning to the office doesn’t mean we have to go straight back to the boardroom!

A change of location can work wonders for creativity. Decamp to the local pub or cafe for a change of scene. You could even have a meeting in the park if the weather is nice. You could occasionally combine the meeting with a trip to a nice restaurant, with the added bonus of rewarding your team.

Walking meetings have also become increasingly popular, and your step counter will thank you for it! We’re all very time-poor at the moment, so it’s great to try and work in a bit of physical exercise to your working day.

A meeting outside the office is also free from a lot of distractions you’d normally get. No more quick messages, desk phones singing away, or other interruptions.

There are loads of things you can do to improve meetings for your staff, both back in the office or virtually.

If you need a bit of help managing teams, both on and off Zoom, get in touch. We’d be happy to help.