We have all been to a meeting that was poorly run…this is why work memes exist. No matter how great the calendar app or meeting planner used to schedule the meeting, whether the facilitator has a project management certification, or how clear the video conferencing tool was, meetings and the people attending them are complex. Often, it is left to the organizer or facilitator to fix this challenge but truly everyone in attendance has a part in making a meeting work and become a successful engine to drive your projects and process. So how can we turn meeting culture around and influence better meeting habits, regardless of what seat we are sitting in?
Start, Share and Collaborate Agendas
A meeting agenda template may take a little effort to prepare the first time but, when done properly, a meeting agenda can help set expectations for the meeting purpose, help ensure the right people are in attendance and create awareness for guests to come prepared. When you are not the meeting facilitator or organizer and you find there is no agenda, you may think, “This isn’t my meeting or my agenda,” when in fact you should feel empowered to ask for one or start one to get others thinking ahead. When you are the organizer, you can use an agenda to set the right tone such as including an introduction with funny icebreakers.
A meeting request email is not only important to establish a time and date but can also be used to share the agenda in advance to give others a chance to review and collaborate. Asking guests to provide feedback before the meeting will not only create a purposeful agenda but can also create more buy-in from those attending because they will have more of a stake in the meeting as well.
Timeblock Agenda Items
Keeping the meeting on track will help influence team members to plan their topics and their discussion points in advance. Including blocks of time for each topic on the meeting minutes template, is the best way to help guide the discussion.
For recurring meetings, include a section right up front in your meeting agenda to have a retrospective meaning, look back at the meeting notes from the previous meeting to recap where you left off, review actions assigned, and make sure everyone starts the meeting on the same page.
Remember to include time in the end to recap decisions so everyone walks away with an aligned understanding. Block 5 minutes of a 30-minute meeting and 10 minutes for a 60-minute meeting to ensure there is enough time to capture this critical information.
Blocking time can be challenging at first when establishing this as a new habit but the team will quickly adapt to this and adjust haphazard-like discussions with more consistency.
Share Your Camera
People are the essence of the meeting. We meet to help others or to ask others to help us so we can all progress our work forward. When conducting an online meeting using video conferencing software, use your video cameras and share your faces so that those who do not have the luxury of attending in person can see you. Whether you are using popular software like Zoom video conferencing or any other free conference call tool, the whole point is to connect as best as you can when being in the room is not possible. Continue to influence others to activate their cameras and remove an easy barrier to help the team be more successful in meetings.
Use a Countdown Timer
There are many reasons why a meeting can start late but when the company’s meeting culture finds this acceptable or the norm, the toll it takes on meeting guests and customers is significant. When a meeting is scheduled, the meeting should start. Having an automatic timer start at the actual meeting time can naturally encourage guests to be on time and stay on task when they can easily see the clock ticking away. This also relieves the facilitator of having to take time from the meeting to remind everyone how many minutes of meeting time is left and reducing guests checking phones and watches so everyone can remain focused. And speaking of time, be sure to use a world clock meeting planner if your team or regular meeting attendees are located internationally.
Unless there is a designated scribe, many times it is left to the facilitator to take notes as others sit back and join the conversation (which can be perceived by some as what is social loafing). While this is not necessarily wrong, when a meeting guest shares comments or decisions that are technical or specific, it may be better for them to document since they know exactly what was said. Empower others to collaborate in the meeting notes template or to do list app when documenting discussion points and action items assigned in a meeting to establish team participation, collaboration, and accuracy of meeting output.
Share Meeting Notes
Distributing a recap of meeting notes in a meeting follow up email is a critical step in influencing good meeting behavior. This finalizes the meeting by officially sharing decisions and tasks and ensuring everyone in attendance gets a copy of those decisions in an identical format.
For those who could not attend, the shared meeting template brings them up to speed to ensure they are aligned or to give them an opportunity to review decisions they may need to weigh in or contribute to.
And when it comes to leadership, meeting decisions rolled up can help them focus on meetings where they are needed and empowers others to make choices that can be shared so everyone is aligned.
Be Repetitive and Consistent
The key to influencing more positive meeting behavior in all of the steps above is repetition. When there isn’t time for a kaizen event to change the current meeting culture, consistently repeat the process above on every meeting and you will see positive change roll through your organization or client sessions. Using a tool like Docket can help transform your meetings by creating better habits for you and your team.