We’ve all been there: the workdays that feel like one never-ending meeting where everything is discussed, but nothing actually gets done. The unfortunate reality is that so many meetings are time-wasters, and ineffective in their overall goals and objectives. Managers and meeting hosts often just go through the motions, without actually considering how relevant, interesting, or engaging the meeting (or content discussed) really is. And this leaves team members feeling distracted and focused on all the actual work they have to get done. So, how do you make your staff meetings more productive and engage your team?
Before we dive into some tips and ideas to support you, let’s first run through some of the challenges with meetings today.
Why are meetings so unproductive?
Meetings can be unproductive for a variety of reasons, but some of the key ones are:
- There’s no clear focus
- The agenda gets side-tracked
- Team members are not participating
- The decision makers aren’t there (and the people who are in the meeting don’t necessarily need to be)
- The meeting is too long
- There are too many objectives
In the US alone, unproductive meetings waste more than $37 billion every year. And in a recent US survey, employees identified “too many meetings” as the biggest waste of their time.
Meetings are also great indicators of a company’s overall corporate culture and how strong and connected your teams are. So, if meetings are feeling unproductive and excessive, it might not be the meeting itself, but a more systemic issue that needs addressing.
How can we reduce unnecessary meetings?
A key to reducing unnecessary meetings is to be able to be objective and have the humility to admit that, well, you may have been doing it wrong. Perhaps you have a recurring meeting every week with a large group of people where only a handful are needed. Or a periodic meeting where you try to bite off way more than you can chew, and everyone winds up checked out and distracted. In order to reduce unnecessary meetings, try to consider the following questions:
- What is the focus of the meeting?
- Who actually needs to be there?
- What are we hoping to accomplish?
- Could these objectives be accomplished in another way?
- What information could be shared before or after to make the meeting shorter and more efficient?
- Is the cadence of this meeting too frequent?
If, let’s say, you realize that you have an ongoing meeting with too many participants, don’t be afraid of creating a new series with the essential group and giving the rest of your team a break. All parties involved will thank you for it.
Now that we’ve gone through some of the challenges with meetings today, let’s shift to some solutions on how to make meetings better. And to start with the basics, it’s important to note:
What makes a great team meeting?
There is obviously a level of subjectivity here, but the foundation for great team meetings is fairly uniform. A great meeting engages all participants. It accomplishes its objectives. It leaves team members feeling inspired, excited, and empowered. It keeps your team on task. A great meeting doesn’t take up too much time. It has a level of interactivity and lightness. It makes your team feel more connected and focused.
Great team meetings also have structure. Oftentimes, a great meeting has an agenda that’s shared ahead of time. Notes are usually taken during the meeting. And those notes and next steps are then shared with the group after the meeting is over.
And whether you’re in person or meeting virtually, great meetings are dynamic, blending visuals, insights, discussion, Q&A, and more.
How do you make a virtual meeting more fun and interactive?
While virtual meetings have some limits, we’ve all used the last few years to test those limits as much as possible and find creative ways to make them work for us. Here are a few of our favorite ways to enhance the virtual meeting experience:
GET OUT OF YOUR WORK CHAIR
No one likes to be stuck behind their desk all day. So, use your meeting time to get out of your seat and switch it up a bit. Have a standing meeting. Or a meeting that encourages everyone to sit outside (weather permitting). Or kick it up a notch and have a walking meeting (with or without video). While it might not be the best for sharing visual aids, it can get everyone’s creative juices flowing and bring a bit of lightness to the conversation.
BRING IN A ROLL CALL
A key to any interactive meeting is to make sure the people involved all know each other, everyone else’s roles within the company, and why they’re there. So, kick off your meetings with a round of introductions, or as the host, run through all of the attendees so that people feel comfortable within the group.
Pro Tip: To turn it up a notch, have team members answer a playful question during the round of intros. That way, while people are learning names and titles, they’re also building camaraderie.
PLAY WITH MEETING FEATURES
Encourage your team to utilize virtual meeting features like reactions (thumbs up, hearts, etc.) to participate in the discussion while keeping the meeting on track. You can also have moments in the meeting where you bring in the hand feature to engage with whoever is speaking (“show of hands, how many of you….”) and welcome questions or feedback to the discussion.
REMEMBER TO HAVE FUN
It is possible to seamlessly toggle between work and play—and when you do it right, everyone is better off as a result. That said, don’t be afraid to bring some fun into your virtual meetings. At Weve, we have solutions that integrate virtual meeting games to allow you to run a productive meeting with your team, while also delivering a bit of play and friendly competition.
How do you run a productive meeting?
Jokes, games, and play aside, going back to the fact that most meetings are major time-sucks (and often time-wasters), it’s essential to ensure productivity is a KPI in making your meetings, well, better.
Here are some tips on how to maximize productivity without sacrificing experience:
SET SOME GROUND RULES
Things run smoother when everyone is on the same page. So, before your meeting (whether in the invite or a separate email), list out the guidelines you’d like everyone to follow. Cameras on? Start muted? Stay muted? How to use reactions/hand raises? You can create a bit of a template to use for all of your meetings moving forward and adjust as needed.
Pro Tip: There’s also an opportunity to bring a bit of engagement to this by requesting something more playful. Ask that attendees wear silly hats or pajamas, just to make sure everyone is paying attention and not taking life too seriously.
STAY ON COURSE
Meetings can often get sidetracked, with new ideas or issues brought to the group and leading the conversation in a completely different direction. To keep your focus, acknowledge ideas or issues as they come up, and start to compile a list. At the close of the meeting (or in a recap email) go through everything identified and map out how and when each item will be addressed.
STRIVE FOR BREVITY (AND EVEN GAMIFY IT)
Shorter meetings keep your team members productive both during and after the meetings. So, when mapping out your agenda, try to quantify how long each item will take, and where there are opportunities to condense or consolidate. Then, in the meeting itself, you can keep everyone aware of those time considerations to gamify the discussion a bit and make sure everyone is mindful of the task at hand.
Pro Tip: To play into brevity even further, you can set goals to reduce a meeting length by x number of minutes, so everyone stays more engaged, on track, and knows that you’re being conscientious of their time.
How can meeting culture be improved?
Meeting culture is often directly impacted by corporate culture, but it can subtly move the needle to work backwards and improve corporate culture that way. To do this, employees need to feel engaged and connected, and like their presence actually matters. Here are some ways to achieve this:
GIVE EVERYONE A CHANCE TO SPEAK
There are so many meetings where one person speaks the whole time, and then after one or two clarifying questions at the end, everyone is left wondering what just happened with the last hour of their life. To flip that story a bit, create a meeting flow and agenda that makes time for everyone in the meeting to share. Whether it’s presenting ideas, offering feedback, asking questions, or engaging in breakouts, when everyone is an active participant, people feel more seen, valued, and engaged in the conversation.
CREATE SPACE FOR CHITCHAT
Especially in a virtual office environment, there’s not always a great opportunity to make small talk and connect 1-on-1 with other team members. And those small moments can really add up over time and cultivate more meaningful bonds and connections. So, try to find opportunities to make that space available virtually. Maybe open a meeting 5 minutes beforehand for people to come in and connect. Or allow a few minutes after the meeting for people to continue to chat and catch up.
You can also create meetings specifically focused on team building and connection. We offer a range of virtual games, happy hours, and other connection-based events to bring your teams together and have a little fun while you’re at it.
MAKE TIME FOR APPRECIATION AND ACCOLADES
A little recognition goes a long way. And when you’re engaged and working collaboratively, there are often many things you appreciate about your team members, but not a lot of platforms to share that publicly with the broader group. To bring this into your meeting culture, start or end your meetings with an opportunity for team members to share appreciations and acknowledgements with the collective.
And if there are a lot of moments to share (or this idea really resonates with your team), consider hosting a virtual awards ceremony with us so you can honor your employees in a fun and focused way, and give everyone their time to shine. You can put your employees virtually “on stage,” allow recipients to give victory speeches, and even play their favorite song to further recognize them (and facilitate team building).
Is there a way to measure engagement and fun so I know when I’m doing it right?
Short answer: sort of. A lot of the growth and progress in this space is seen in subtle changes over time. Meetings get a little bit shorter. Employee morale is up. People are excited and participating more. You’re receiving positive feedback. Things are running more smoothly. Agenda items are getting accomplished.
The corporate culture feels a bit lighter and more playful. Team members are smiling more.
If you’re wanting more quantitative data, some of that will fall in how you set your goals up. If you’re looking for brevity, you can track meeting times and how you’re able to accomplish more in a shorter period. If you’re looking for productivity, track how many agenda items you make it through, or how many people you can remove from a meeting while still accomplishing the task(s) at hand. If you’re looking for fun, track smiles, reactions, and how people are utilizing the spaces and moments created to allow them to shine and be seen. And with any new idea, be sure to ask for feedback as you go, as that is often your best indicator of success.
Creating more productive, fun, and engaging meetings is so important, both virtually and in-person. So, making even subtle shifts can inspire your team, keep them focused and on task, and satisfy their needs for appreciation and connection.
And if all of this sounds great, but you’re at max capacity and want to be a bit more hands off with everything, Weve got you covered. Book your next meeting with weve.co or sign up for a demo now to see how Weve can make your team meetings more productive and engaging.