Life Hacks / Jul 28 2023

How to stop having bad meetings

Are you stuck in meeting hell? Here are a few of our tried and tested best practices for meetings that will get your team motivated and excited.

When it comes to meetings, you likely fall into one of two categories of people: you either hate them and think they're a waste of time, or you find them a good way to sync your team and make sure any blockers or potential issues can be handled before they really become a problem.

Meetings don't have to be such a pain. When done right, they can increase everybody's motivation and energize them to get things done. So if you're stuck in meeting hell, here are a few of our tried and tested recommendations that will help you stop having bad meetings.

Planning the meeting

  1. People, purpose, plan. What is the intended purpose of the meeting? Who needs to attend, and who is good with just going over the meeting minutes?

  2. Set an agenda and confirm it in advance. Having an agenda will help you keep the meeting on track. Send out the tentative agenda in advance and ask your participants if there is anything else that they feel needs to be talked about. Keep the agenda within scope of the purpose of the meeting.

  3. Fewer means more gets done. Try to keep the group size to a minimum and only invite people that really need to be there.

  4. Consider your meeting structure. Depending on your meeting purpose, you might want to structure the meeting beyond just the agenda.

Engaging everyone in the meeting

  1. Let the group prepare in advance. This isn't applicable to every meeting, but where there are complex decisions to be made, you might benefit from sending some distilled reading materials out a few days before the meeting. This gives everyone the opportunity to get up to speed and ready to contribute.

  2. No distractions. Ask your participants to put away their phones, close their other tabs or windows, and turn their cameras on.

  3. Start with a warmup. Get people feeling comfortable and alert with some light-hearted chatter before delving into the meat of the meeting.

  4. Live collaboration is key. Use a shared document where participants can contribute their inputs directly. You can use Koofr's simple text editor to keep things lean or tap into our Office for the web integration for more complex text documents or spreadsheets.

  5. Include the quiet folks. Ask them a simple question, like what do you think? to bring them into the discussion.

  6. Meeting minutes are a must. Designate someone to take notes during the meeting, then share the minutes with everyone afterwards. This lets your participants pay attention to the meeting itself without getting distracted taking notes. The document can be shared directly or deposited in a shared folder of archived notes.

Staying on time and on topic

  1. Assign a meeting moderator. Often, this is the person who organizes and runs the meeting. The moderator should be neutral and instead focus on keeping the participants on topic, on schedule, and focused.

  2. Use a stopwatch to help stick to the agenda. If you run out of time discussing one of the topics, or if new topics spring up during the discussion, then set additional meetings to cover the overtime topics another time.

  3. End every meeting on time. If you need to extend it, schedule a new meeting time instead.

  4. Mind the breaks and leave time for deep work. If you're scheduling several meetings back-to-back, make sure you give people a short break in between so they can hop to the bathroom or get a refill for their coffee. Dedicate at least a couple half-days or even a full day for focused work, so your team can get what you discussed in the meeting done!

What to do after the meeting

  1. Share your meeting minutes. If you haven't already, make sure everyone gets the notes you (or your colleague) made during the meeting.

  2. Turn words into action. Ensure that everybody is clear on their next steps before you wrap up the meeting. Dedicate the final minutes of it to recap what was discussed and agree on actionable tasks, responsibilities, and deadlines for everyone.

Asynchronous meetings

If your team has a hard time syncing up for a live, face-to-face meeting (either in-person or remotely), consider holding an asynchronous meeting instead. In asynchronous meetings, team members don't communicate in real time, but according to their schedules and time zones.

To keep the meeting on track, you can use a template-based document that is shared with your team, so each person can contribute to it when it's most convenient for them. It's also important to set deadlines for asynchronous meetings to make sure they are wrapped up in a reasonable timeframe.

Not sure if asynchronous meetings are for you? You can get started by just using a collaborative tool you already use, for example the document editor offered by your favorite cloud storage. For smaller teams, this can be more than enough. If you find it's not powerful enough for your needs, you can also look into dedicated software solutions for asynchronous meetings.

Love or hate meetings, we'd love to hear your experience! Talk to us in the Koofr subreddit.

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