How to run focused meetings?

Two weeks ago we published an article about scheduling and running speed meetings. It got a lot of attention on LinkedIn and people really seemed to like the idea. But what about actually attending them and running these focused meetings?

In company’s cultures it may sometimes feel like you don’t have a say in how a meeting is run, but it is your responsibility as an attendee to make sure the meeting stays focused and runs smoothly. After all, you are spending your time in that meeting, so don’t let it go to waste!

To run focused meetings you need to make sure only people who are really needed at the meeting at present there. This means declining some meeting invites.

Be proactive about what meetings you attend

When a meeting request lands in your inbox it can feel like you absolutely have to attend it. But look at the situation from a different perspective. Every meeting you say “yes” to means less time for you to do value-adding work.

Ask for an agenda before accepting an invite to see whether you can add value to the topic of the meeting and if you aren’t clear – ask how you will be expected to contribute! Don’t be shy about asking these types of questions. Not only will it help you save your time, but it will also help shape the way people in your company think about meetings.

If you think the meeting isn’t the best use of your time – get in touch with an organiser to explain why this meeting won’t add value to you or to the attendees. It could be hard to decline a meeting invite like that, but it is much better to take responsibility for your time and focus on the work that adds value.

DYOR

Do Your Own Research. If the meeting makes sense and your attendance is needed – spend time on preparing for the meeting. Think about the things which might come up and prepare answers for the questions you think people may ask you. This will help keep meetings short and focused.

Have an agenda

One of the most important things you’ll need for a focused meeting is an agenda. Without one you will spend huge amounts of time determining what to talk about without actually getting anything done.

We decided to outline best practices and common mistakes for the most common meeting types: Daily Scrums, All-Hands, One-on-Ones, and Strategy or Decision Meetings.

1. Scrum meeting agenda

In Agile development and Scrum it is very common for teams to have quick, daily, focused meetings (typically at the start of the day). This meeting is typically limited to a maximum of 15 or 30 minutes (dependent on a team and a project). During this meeting the team will discuss the plan for the day and any issues the team or individuals in the team are having.

Best practicesCommon mistakes
Make sure everything that’s said is valuable to the whole team (no individual conversations!)Don’t turn scrum meetings into full status meetings.
Use a tool like Calbot to plan a meeting around team’s schedule and work environment.Don’t micromanage.
Stand during the meeting to keep it short.Scrum meetings shouldn’t be used for detailed discussions.

2. All-hands meeting agenda

All hands meetings is a great way to keep the team engaged and run focused meetings and discussions

All-hands meetings (or team-wide meetings) is a brilliant opportunity to keep the whole team up-to-date and excited about the work that you are doing. It is also one of the best ways of build culture, share ideas and just hang out together! Getting everyone together could be chore (especially if the team is big), but with a meeting scheduler like Calbot you can do it in second.

Best practicesCommon mistakes
Keep these meetings concise. People are there to socialise, not listen to someone’s PowerPoint.Don’t do a data dump. Instead discuss few key metrics that make sense to everyone.
Transparency is key. People will stop turning up if you aren’t honest with them in these meetings.Focus on the “we”, not the “I”. Don’t bring up individual issues which are better discussed in private.
Include everyone (even remote workers).Get everyone involved. Invite people to comment, give suggestions, criticise, ask questions and otherwise engage with the content of the meeting (anonymously or not).

3. One-on-one meetings

High Output Management offers a range of great practices for running one-on-one focused meetings

One-on-one meetings offer a much more personal setting meaning they are perfect for feedback, coaching, setting of priorities and rapport building. In one of my favourite business books, High Output Management by Andy Groove, the author discussed how 1-on-1s provide leaders with a 10X return on their time.

Best practicesCommon mistakes
Choose the right frequency for the meetings. Once a week might be too much, but once a month could be too little. Experiment and see what works!Focus on higher level goals. Status updates could be done over email. Instead focus on meaningful conversations such as career paths, goals, obstacles.
Hold longer meetings. Coaching and building rapport takes time. Take responsibility and actively work towards these goals with a person you are meeting.Prepare an agenda for each meeting, but also leave time for open discussions (you never know what might come up).
Hold these meetings in a private space. People tend to be more open in this setting.Set goals for each meeting and hold that person accountable.

4. Team meetings

Large team meetings where decisions are made are hard! People will have strong opinions as these things will directly impact their work. These types of meetings probably deserve a blog post of their own. However, these are some of the quick tips when it comes to team meetings:

Best practicesCommon mistakes
Be open and transparent, but don’t be afraid to disagree and debate your point.Stay on point. Saying something like: “we want to grow” isn’t a strategy.
Get everyone involved. Each team member will have their own perspective, so get everyone to share.Don’t make the meeting the time when a decision needs to be made. People tend to like to sleep on things. Saying that, have a deadline by when the decision has to be made.
Have a clear plan for what happens next.Don’t get stuck on certain topics. Always try to move the conversation forward.

Let us know in the comments on LinkedIn or Twitter what types of meetings you run most and how you keep them focused and effective! We’d love to hear from you 😃

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