Since they started working from home, 70% of employees experienced 70% more meetings, according to a recent report by Otter. Since working from home is a new norm for many companies, we can expect to keep having more meetings. That’s why strategic meeting management is even more important to ensure successful meetings and outcomes.
A great meeting is purposeful, involves thoughtful and inclusive discussion, and results in action items to guide meeting participants to their next steps. Markers of a bad meeting can include everything from including the wrong group of people to having an inconvenient or lengthy meeting time.
When the meeting feels like a waste of time to team members, it can affect the company culture.
To ensure you're always running an effective meeting, keep reading this guide. You’ll learn:
- Best practices for facilitating successful meetings
- The fail-proof checklist to run through in your next meeting
- Three ways to make any meeting more engaging
Best practices for facilitating successful meetings
Successful meetings aren't often possible without solid facilitation. Facilitation includes planning, sending the meeting invite well before the meeting, guiding the discussion, reinforcing accountability for action items, and time management.
Here are a few best practices you can easily follow when running meetings:
Create a focused meeting agenda
As a meeting participant, knowing the purpose of the meeting is top priority. This way, participants can decide whether they need to join, whether someone else should be invited as well, and prepare the key points of discussion they wish to contribute.
The best way to share information about the meeting as the facilitator is to send the meeting agenda at least a week in advance and the meeting notes on each relevant agenda item afterward.
Productive meetings start with a light recap of who is responsible for presenting each portion of the meeting agenda. It can be helpful to provide a rough time estimate for each agenda item to keep the meeting on track.
Research the type of meeting and tailor the facilitation
Ultimately, your facilitation method will skew depending on how structured the meeting needs to be. In some instances, letting the team guide the conversation for brainstorming may be more appropriate whereas a short, focused meeting may require more hands-on facilitation.
Good meetings start with intentional facilitation. Make the most of your time together by tweaking the facilitation method to suit the style of the meeting.
Start by asking yourself:
- What level of interactivity will support the meeting?
- What outcomes, action items, or deliverables will you need after the meeting?
- What sort of facilitation style will best complement the meeting goals?
Next, you'll want to pick a format. Here are some typical meeting types to consider:
- Recurring meetings: automatically scheduled meetings that occur at a set cadence of weekly, biweekly, or monthly meetings
- Project meetings: meetings in which a group reviews a project’s metrics, milestones, and action items
- Daily stand-up meetings: a type of status meeting where team members review where they're at with their tasks from the previous day and can ask coworkers for support on any outstanding tasks
- Brainstorm meetings: brings the team together to collaborate to innovate or problem solve
- Presentations: common for announcing a new product launch, new idea, policy, or another update
- Team building meetings: used to foster teamwork and boost morale
Decide on an in-person, virtual, or hybrid meeting
Another aspect of planning a successful meeting is considering whether to host an in-person, virtual, or hybrid meeting.
Here are some considerations to help you narrow it down:
- How complex is the topic?
- What's the most inclusive option for the group?
- What additional tools can support engagement?
Answering these questions will give you an idea of the best type of meeting to plan. It doesn’t always make sense to meet in-person for brief updates, but more complex topics can benefit from in-person facetime.
Hybrid or virtual meetings are best suited to teams who have the right technological tools in place to enhance engagement. Focus can dwindle in a lengthy virtual or hybrid meeting without them to tie the group together. If in doubt about what type of meeting to prepare for, send a polly to get your team’s thoughts.
For more ideas on planning the meeting format and content, look at Polly's template library.
Give contributors prompts for participating
Whether it's an in-person, hybrid, or virtual meeting, provide context for how everyone can participate, especially when it comes to brainstorming sessions or decision-making meetings that involve numerous stakeholders.
As the facilitator, it's your job to set the tone. Let the team know how they can ask questions and provide feedback to keep on time and avoid unnecessary or unproductive detours in the discussion.
For brainstorming sessions, you might include additional tools like Polly. If you're conducting a session on Zoom, participants can use the Q&A function to submit questions or ideas.
Perhaps you provide templates beforehand where participants can jot down discussion topics to cover at the end of the meeting. Why not send a pre-meeting polly to ask the participants what they’d like to cover during your time together?
No matter what participation levels you’re looking for, communicating them is essential to running successful meetings.
Assign action items and plan for follow-up
At the end of the meeting, you’ll want to review an action plan and assign the next steps for each team member. As a group, decide on the best way to talk about progress on those action items.
Be sure to share meeting minutes and highlight key details and takeaways after the meeting ends so that everyone has what they need.
Even if you have a stellar meeting, asking for feedback is one of the most important things you can do to ensure future successful meetings. Your team will note and appreciate your effort to keep improving.
The fail-proof checklist to run through in your next meeting
Show your meeting participants the utmost respect by following these simple guidelines:
- Start meetings on time.
- Briefly review the goal of the meeting and the meeting agenda.
- Share all relevant updates from the last meeting.
- Keep to time and provide a five-minute warning before the meeting ends.
- Refocus on the meeting topics as needed and prompt the note-taker to record any topics to be revisited outside the meeting agenda.
- In the meeting notes, differentiate between informational notes and decisions.
- Assign each task to a person and summarize deadlines and tasks.
- Ask for feedback to improve for next time.
3 ways to make any type of meeting more engaging
Designing a relevant and inclusive meeting is hugely important, but so is enjoying some of the lighter aspects of being on a great team.
Here are a couple of ideas to get you thinking about fun.
🎯 Open the meeting with a social game
There's nothing fun about starting meetings talking about the weather. Your team deserves better.
Use Polly to get the group talking, whether with trivia, icebreakers, or hot takes. These high-spirited activities help kick off conversation that leads to stronger bonds and bigger smiles.
🎊 Give playful awards
Make it a habit to be playful in your meetings. It doesn't have to relate to team productivity either.
One way to do that is to try Polly's team awards feature, where the team can vote on silly achievements and endearing shoutouts like "most likely to be a closet Justin Bieber fan" or "best virtual background." It's an effortless way to build camaraderie, even in quick meetings.
🙌 Show gratitude
Showing the team gratitude is one of the easiest ways to build morale, engagement, and productivity. Whether it's bringing snacks to in-person meetings or sending a small gift card so remote team members can grab their breakfast beforehand, it's a thoughtful gesture that goes a long way.
Other small gestures might be scheduling some time in the meeting for mindfulness meditation or asking for input on the ideal location to host your annual retreat!
Successful meetings start with planning
Meetings are here to stay. Luckily, it's easier than ever to design employee experiences that are both engaging and effective.
You'll know that you've hit your stride with successful meeting management when your team keeps to time, contributes thoughtfully, and follows through on the action items. If you're having difficulty getting team buy-in, it could be time to ask for feedback and reevaluate your meeting format and facilitation methods.
You can safeguard your company culture and take meeting facilitation to the next level by investing in the right supportive tools like Polly. Take the first step and try Polly for free to see how it supports successful meetings from start to finish.
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Written by Briana Biancolin
As a nomadic freelance writer, story lover, and professional snacker from Toronto, Canada, Briana's love of writing (and entrepreneurship) started as a kid when she would take the proceeds from her lemonade stand to buy notebooks and pens. After 5 years in creative recruitment, she took the plunge into freelance life, moved to Europe, and began writing full-time on topics like start-ups, wellness, design, travel, and tech.