In-person and virtual methods for productive meeting culture
Take a moment to consider your company’s meeting culture. Would your team consider your meetings productive? Enjoyable? Engaging? Effective? Do you get work done in the meeting, or is action only taken after? These are essential central questions to consider and explore. Because meetings are vital. We need them to create, solve, connect, and communicate with our teams. They are the lifeblood of getting things done effectively and efficiently.
Meeting culture has a direct correlation to company success.
Meetings matter. So let’s make them as meaningful as possible. We’ve gathered some of our favorite techniques for better meetings, implementable for all teams, both in-person and virtually.
Let’s start with what to avoid.
Productive Meeting Killers
Does the information you wish to obtain or communicate require discussion or capturing room intelligence? If the answer is no, don’t call a meeting. If your objective is to simply deliver information, an email, Slack message, or newsletter will suffice. Save scheduled meetings for collective discussion, where attendees do work together.
The Webinar Trap
People don’t want to be talked at. They want connection and engagement; they want to be a part of something. It’s much more fun, stimulating, and productive to be part of a discussion and actively help create solutions rather than just listen to a lecture. In this way, many webinar-style meetings are a one-way street. A talking head stifles participation; attendees are kept from the chance to truly interact and engage. Don’t just deliver information, give people the chance to be a part of a collaborative experience.
Facilitation Techniques for Productive Meetings
A vital ingredient in the facilitation sauce is the prep work before the meeting even begins. You need a recipe to follow if you want a successful result every time.
- What’s the objective? If you need to gather your team, you must have an identified, tangible purpose. Otherwise, the meeting will not be productive and effective. You must first have an identified objective that you’re trying to obtain or else there is no tangible goal to work toward, i.e. no reason to have a meeting. Only schedule a meeting if you know your end goal.
- What needs to be discussed? Create and share a meeting agenda. This outline is both a list of essential topics and a time table to keep you on schedule. What will be discussed and for how long? Thoughtfully build an agenda then send it to attendees ahead of time so that everyone knows what to expect and comes prepared.
- Stick to the schedule. Once the meeting begins, stay on track. Respect everyone’s time. It’s like the golden rule, “treat others how you want to be treated”–value other people’s time as much as you value your own. Your team will not only respect you for the consideration, they will bring their best when they feel seen.
2. Create connection
Whether you are in the same physical space or communicating through screens, team connection is essential to team collaboration. The following are excellent connection builders.
An icebreaker or energizer warm-up is a great way to collectively spark creativity from the jump. The bite-sized activities get people moving and thinking. This establishes elevated, innovative energy that will carry over into the meeting. Icebreakers are excellent starters for both in-person and virtual meetings. From enticing question prompts to physical group movement, there are copious options to creatively jolt the room. Rock, Paper, Scissors is one example. This energizer is the classic one-on-one game with a twist; it’s a tournament. People pair up for a Rock, Paper, Scissors match. The winners of each round advance to the next round. This continues until there are just two people left and two large cheering crowds. It is a great activity to ignite excited energy amongst the group.
Icebreakers in virtual meetings help build connection when you can’t feel the energy in the room. One example is Guess the Shoes/Desk. Create a MURAL template ahead of time. Have everyone (anonymously) upload a picture of their shoes or their home desk space. Take turns guessing which pair of shoes/desk belongs to who. It may seem silly, but holding space for silly connection can have a great impact on the group dynamics and therefore group productivity.
Everyone wants to feel included. We’re built for connection. The beauty of collaboration is that we get better results when we source from diverse perspectives. So encourage equal participation. Don’t allow one person to dominate the conversation. Ask attendees who are less vocal for their insight/perspective. More heads are better than one.
You need everyone’s undivided attention for truly successful collaboration. If your meeting is virtual, encourage attendees to turn on their videos, and ban all devices if you are in person. Using video in remote meetings significantly increases the likelihood that attendees will pay attention. When you aren’t hiding behind a black square, chances of doing other work slims. Everyone’s full awareness is necessary for max productivity. Otherwise, there’s really no point to have a meeting at all. The concept is the same for banning devices. It’s so easy to get distracted by emails, social media, and the entertainment that devices provide. Eliminate distractions entirely. The more present and involved everyone is, the better the outcomes.
3. Do the Work in the Meeting
Part of our mission to rid the world of horrible meetings is to change people’s understanding of meetings. The typical (unproductive) meeting lacks action during the gathering itself. It’s a discussion about what needs to be done, with no work actually being accomplished until after the meeting is adjourned. We believe that the work should be done at the meeting. In other words, meetings are best as group work sessions rather than actionless discussions. A prepared prototype helps make this possible. One of our meeting mantras at Voltage Control is “no prototype, no meeting.”
A prototype is a physical representation of the identified objective; it is a tangible idea to flush out and explore with your team. Prototypes can take various forms, and they depend on your end goal. For a strategist or project manager, a “prototype” might be a storyboard, written brief, or sample pitch of the idea. A designer may make a mood board; a developer might quickly code something. Whatever prototype best fits your needs, create it, and then plan your meeting to present it and work through it with your team.
4. Debrief for Retention
Save time at the end of the meeting to debrief. Summarizing topics discussed, the information obtained, the consensus reached, and the tasks each person is responsible for at the end of the meeting reminds everyone in the room of the big takeaways and helps retention. It also provides an opportunity to clear up any confusion or lingering questions that may exist and ensures that everyone is on the same page.
Part of doing the work in the meeting is to assign everyone outlined tasks to do once the meeting is over. How will the decisions reached during the meeting be carried out? What needs to be done when, and by whom, to bring the idea to life? Divvy out the tasks in the meeting to appropriate parties and decide on clear deadlines, then unleash everyone to tackle their responsibilities. Your team will be ready to hit the ground running.
Pro tip: send out a follow-up email 24 hours after the meeting that outlines who is assigned what tasks and when they should be completed.
Incorporate these meeting techniques to help you build a strong and highly efficient meeting culture in any business landscape.
Need help building a better meeting? Bring in a professional facilitator from Voltage Control.
Voltage Control designs and facilitates innovation training, Design Sprints, and design thinking workshops, both in-person and virtual. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to talk.