10 Tips for Better Meetings
How do you stay motivated after years and years of daily meetings for one or more projects? Do you take part in interesting meetings? Do you look forward to connecting to your colleagues? Are your meetings short, useful and pleasant? Or you see your next meeting approaching and you would rather bury your head in the ground like an ostrich? (Actually, they never do that. 😊)
Here are a couple of tips for all the people who want more from those meetings waiting in their calendar. It is the responsibility of each one of us, who take part in a meeting, to make it more efficient and stimulating for everyone.
- If you have been invited to participate in a meeting it’s because you are an important member of your team and your opinion is valued, therefore make sure you take an active role by sharing with your colleagues the knowledge and experience you have accumulated. Make time to prepare for a meeting.
- We tend to forget that meetings only make sense if all the people taking part are actively participating. Before, when we used to work at the office (on site) some colleagues would constantly check their phones or do other things during the meetings. Now that we are all working remotely this kind of multitasking has also moved to the online meetings. It’s not long ago that I participated in an online meeting where we made some important decisions regarding a project. Theoretically, all the stakeholders were present in the Zoom meeting but at a later moment, we had to repeat a large part of the conversation because since the notebook cameras were turned off, some of my colleagues used the time to answer emails or do other activities. Even worse, days later I realized that some of my colleagues who had supposedly participated in that meeting had no idea whatsoever about some of the aspects discussed in that meeting. Therefore, be present and focused on the discussion taking place, otherwise it’s a waste of time and energy not only for you but also for the rest of the people taking part in the meeting. It’s more, you risk missing information that might otherwise help you or your colleagues do a better job.
- If you have a recurrent meeting in your calendar, happening always on the same day and at the same time, make sure to let your colleagues know if you are late or you can’t participate. You will thus show respect for other people’s time and show off your time management skills. If you are the organizer of the meeting and someone is late, don’t keep the entire team waiting for one person. Stick to the announced timetable.
- In agile workplaces, teams who work for digital or tech world projects organize daily meetings, called Daily Stand-ups or Daily SCRUM: they are 15 minutes long meetings designed to ensure that the entire team is pulling in the same direction and that each member knows what they have to do in that particular day towards achieving the common goal. There are several methods that can be used to organize such a meeting but usually the team members will take turns to answer the following three questions:
- What did I work on yesterday?
- What will I work on today?
- Do I have any roadblocks?
My advice is, instead of merely presenting a list of tasks that you have fulfilled during the day, you should offer meaningful information to your colleagues. For example, instead of saying „Yesterday I wrote two articles and I researched a new project”, you can say „Yesterday I wrote the articles that my colleague X can take over for validation and publishing on the website. Also, I did some research on the project Y and I think that in order to deal with certain situations we will need more time than we initially estimated”.
Change your mindset: the goal of these meetings is not for you to demonstrate that you did your bit of the project, the goal is that the entire team is able to fulfil their goals and that you all as a team bring value to the project for which you are working.
For this type of daily meetings to be successful, you must keep them short and focus on the bigger picture. For dealing with certain specific problems, it’s better to organize a separate meeting only with the colleagues who are directly affected by that problem.
- If you cannot perform a task or if you believe you won’t be able to finish a task by the promised deadline, be honest and say it. As a Project Manager I have often times participated in meetings where team members would try to dress up a situation so that it would looked better than it actually was and this type of behaviour can seriously influence the outcome of a project. On the other hand, of course, it is not helpful to have a constantly negative approach to all deadlines. In my opinion, what works best is the attitude that a British saying sums up very well: „Be honest and fair. Don’t sugar coat.”
- Let your team know if you identify certain risks related to the project you are all working on. Ask the right questions in order find out more information before you make a decision. Personally, I prefer to have a better understanding of the context early on so that I can better predict possible roadblocks or difficult situations.
- The time we dedicate to meetings is important and recently, my colleagues from Grapefruit had a great idea, one that I hope will get popular with as many teams as possible: set your meetings to last only 45 minutes, send your invites and try to stick to the 45 minutes. If you have back-to-back meetings, it’s a way to ensure you have time for a glass of water (hydration is crucial) and also that you replenish your energies for the next meeting.
- Working remotely is challenging and sometimes technology can fail. Sometimes online meetings run into technical difficulties such as unstable/reliable internet connections. If this happens, try active listening and if you realize that the messages communicated by your colleagues come with a delay, try not to interrupt or speak while someone else is still speaking. Use the chat box of the online meeting or use the Raise hand option (if available on your preferred online meeting platform) in order to avoid interruptions.
- Take advantage of the time you spend together as a team to observe the kind of language used by your colleagues and the way they react to the information they receive. Enhance your observation skills and your empathy so that later on, when you will have to communicate through text messages you will know what type of language to use with each member of your team and also how to correctly interpret what they are saying.
- Offer constructive feedback and value the work of your colleagues. You don’t have to wait for the appraisal season or for the retrospective meetings to offer feedback, you can do it anytime. Moreover, the meetings where you discuss the status of a project are the best opportunity to appreciate the people who are working on it. It doesn’t have to be long, a short positive remark will revive the atmosphere and you will all start your day a little more motivated. For example, „Today, I intend to publish the new product on the website. By the way, colleagues X and Y have done a great job using text and design to enhance the product benefits for potential clients. I myself feel like buying it, you did a good job, guys!”
I’m sure we all have had our fair share and good and not-so-good experiences with meetings. Remember though that it’s up to each one of us to make each meeting in which we participate more agreeable.
Start by implementing one or two of the recommendations mentioned above and you will see that collaborative work can be fun!