No tricks, just tips: 5 ways to make your team meetings more impactful

Whether you manage employees who are onsite, entirely remote or partially distributed, team meetings are a critical aspect of your team’s overall performance and engagement.

But with workplace statistics like the fact that the average employee spends about five hours a week in meetings and four hours a week preparing for them, and that 67% of executives consider most meetings to be a failure, meeting for meeting’s sake isn’t a good use of your time, or theirs.

Incorporate these five simple tips to make sure your team meetings are as inclusive, productive and impactful as they can be.

1. Create an inviting structure

As the manager of the team, you set the tone for how the meeting is structured, and the tone and feel it will take on.

Consider what you want to get out of the meeting before you set the agenda, and invite your employees to do the same.

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If your intent is to facilitate a group discussion at the meeting, let employees know that their input is sought, why and in regards to what specific topics. When team members can think about the types of information they can share or the questions they’ll have in advance, they’re more empowered to share and exchange knowledge; the meeting is more likely to be productive time spent for all.

When employees arrive at the meeting, ensure that the room has adequate space for everyone to have a (literal) seat the table where they feel welcome to speak up and share a viewpoint.

2. Play the role of moderator

Your team will inevitably have some extroverts who have a tendency to dominate conversations and some introverts who take a back seat to them. As the manager, you can take on a supportive position that enables all voices to be heard.

If you know certain employees tend to be less vocal on topics, ask for their specific opinions first. When employees engage in conversation or debate, encourage productive discussion. Comments like “That’s interesting. Can you help us understand more about that, specifically?” can keep conversations from derailing to places that aren’t on topic for the meeting.

3. Make the meeting relevant to everyone in the room

Team meetings should have an impact on everyone in the room, in some way. (If it doesn’t, the attendee list isn’t correct.) If your goal of team meetings is to gain visibility into what the team is doing, or share knowledge among team members, structure the format for maximum impact.

For example, replace round-robin style employee status updates with a “biggest lesson learned this week” exchange, or invite employees to share one or two big challenges they’re currently facing at work. Invite the team to suggest alternative approaches or solutions.

4. Protect the meeting time

Don’t schedule a one-hour meeting “just in case” if the task at hand could be accomplished in half the time. Likewise, don’t schedule a short meeting that won’t accomplish a thing, just because attendee calendars make it impossible to schedule the amount of time needed to discuss all the agenda items.

Similarly, productive team meetings start on time and end on time. If a meeting generates so much discussion or next steps that more conversation is needed, end the meeting on time and schedule time for a follow up.

5. Close the loop

The only thing more frustrating than a calendar filled with pointless meetings? Not knowing whether a meeting was productive, what outcome it generated or why it was held in the first place.

After each meeting, send a brief recap to employees reminding them why the meeting was held, what was accomplished and next steps or key deliverables that resulted from it. (If you can’t point to any of those details for the follow up, it may be a sign that the meeting was, in fact, unnecessary!)