In some way organizations hinge on the success of team interactions and meetings are an essential part of everyday life. Be it a stand-up meeting, review session or trainings how effective and productive each meeting is can determine how well the team and the organization will fare. It is even more critical when it comes to internal communication because team meetings are a key channel for messages to flow – upwards, laterally and downwards within organizations. It is therefore essential for internal communicators to help employees and managers with toolkits and guidelines to be their best in such interactions. Research findings about team meetings aren’t quite flattering. According to one estimate, US businesses along lost 37 billion dollars on unnecessary meetings, an average employee attends about 62 meetings in a month and half the meetings attended are considered as ‘time wasted’. Here are a few suggestions to make the most of these time-bound engagements.
The basics: Well conducted team meetings are crucial for the success of any organization. While preparing for a team meeting think about what everyone attending the meeting wants to get out of the interaction and the specific outcomes you want. Consider how you want to use the time effectively and get the most out of everyone present. Craft the agenda ahead of time. Think about the setting since it can play a role in the meeting outcome. Know that some people may be introverted and hence may not speak up without a prompt or a nudge. Be inclusive while you conduct your meetings. Internal communicators can develop best practices that every employee can tap while running their own meetings. They can provide tips to make meetings effective and engaging.
The flow: If it is a first time meeting it helps to get participants introduced and understand the expectations and backgrounds of everyone present. If it is a regular and recurring meeting then you can consider having a defined and agreed agenda that can include celebrating success, reviewing the actions from the earlier meeting, updates from the respective invitees, upcoming events and highlights, summary and wrap up. To bring it better perspectives you can invite people from outside the regular group or even from outside your organization to share learning, feedback or new ideas. Before you end thank everyone for their time and attention. Indicate how people can stay in touch and when they can get to see the notes circulated. Internal communicators can help organizations realize the value of effective team meetings by
The owner: To ensure everyone is on the same page means helping all pay attention and focused on the meeting! The team meeting owner’s role is critical to helping everyone stay honest with the proceedings. Give participants enough time to appreciate the context of the meeting, have a sense of the agenda and are able to come prepared with questions and clarifications. As the team meeting owner it can help to ask questions and make the discussions interactive. Removing distractions from meetings is also relevant to keep everyone focused – including requesting that all participants keep their phones on silent or away at a common place till the meeting is over.
The technology: With the geographic spread of companies and people will different cultures interacting using technology conducting meetings online or virtually is complex yet manageable. It helps to get familiar with the equipment and process. Check if all joining the call or online meeting can access and have the required infrastructure to stay connected. If there are people from different nationalities check if there needs to be a translator if the meeting is in English. Better to start earlier than everyone else and test the equipment! Have some volunteers on the other side do a dry run and check if everything is functional. Buffer time in case there are questions and technical snags during the meeting. By helping team leaders set the context for geographically distributed teams internal communicators can improve how such employees stay engaged.
The structure: While you can have a fixed agenda also inviting the views of participants and understanding the most pressing issues on hand can bring in flexibility to the meeting. Ensure everyone who is expected to speak gets enough time to state their share of views. Be attentive to the time you have on hand and know how much you can achieve from the meeting. Know that sometimes it may not be possible to cover all points and if you feel some discussions need more time suggest reconvening separately for another meeting. Moderate the meeting such that everyone sticks to the agenda.
The next steps: This is by far as important as running the meeting. Nothing can be worse than participants not knowing what they need to do next. Document and share the meeting minutes quickly so that participants know their responsibilities about responding to actions and are better prepared for meetings in the future. If you have a closed group which connects frequently, have a common space for documents and notes to be accessed easily. Follow-up if needed to check if all have received and reviewed their next steps.
Internal communicators can help employees get better with their meetings. Such meetings are opportunities because regular interactions take place, decisions happen and is proof of how the organization is progressing. Helping put together a framework so that all meetings are consistently conducted and everyone is represented can lead to improved productivity and performance.
An article in The Economic Times (February 7, 2017) carries my comment about team meetings.