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The 17 Best Tips For Holding Effective Team Meetings

Updated: May 16, 2018

Business meetings are a necessity in many organizations to ensure that team projects are well-organized, achieve milestones in a timely manner, and respond to changing priorities with agility. They can be difficult to keep interesting when they become routine, especially when tight schedules can frustrate many participants who feel they could be more productive elsewhere. Effective meetings are kept productive and on task so that everyone involved can contribute to the team’s success.

Here are 17 tips that can help business meetings stay a useful tool and not become an impediment:

  1. Identify if a meeting is required
    One of the biggest reasons meetings get a bad rep in an organization is when meetings are held when they aren’t needed. It’s easy for this to happen when meetings are scheduled at regular intervals, but there isn’t enough to cover to make the meeting feel productive. Another cause of this is holding pre-meetings to prepare for meetings. Often preparation can be done by email or chat instead of creating more meetings that clutter a team’s schedule.
  2. Create an agenda
    Another way to hold effective meetings that feel relevant and useful is to spend time agreeing to an agenda beforehand with the key stakeholders. Have an itemized list of topics that the meeting should cover and the objectives that need to be met. Using agendas also gives team members a way to add their own input to the topics they feel will make for a more effective meeting.
  3. Invite the right people
    When a meeting has a clear set of objectives, it’s much easier to invite the right people to attend. You can use the three “I’s” process: identify the stakeholders and SMEs needed, invite them to the meeting, and include them during the meeting. If a team member isn’t involved and doesn’t have anything meaningful to contribute, they don’t need to be there. They can be kept in the loop by sending them meeting notes.
  4. Assign roles
    Meeting management can be improved when the attendees all know their roles. When a meeting’s attendance gets large, assigning formal roles can help avoid cross chatter and lengthy detours that can bog a meeting down. Here are a few meeting management roles that can be used:

    • Facilitator
      The organizer of an effective meeting typically has the role of its facilitator. This person kicks off the meeting with an introduction that outlines the objectives the meeting should achieve. During the meeting, the facilitator should act as a neutral party and guide the discussion through the topics to be covered. After the meeting, they should send meeting notes out to everyone who attended and requested and to cc’d.
    • SMEs
      Subject matter experts are the owners of the issues that the meeting is addressing, so they will be the key decision-makers.
    • Contributors
      Those who will have important input or who need to be in the loop on decisions are contributors.
    • Recorder
      If it’s important to have complete meeting notes, you can have someone other than the facilitator to record notes during the meeting. This will let the facilitator give their full attention to the meeting’s discussion.
  5. Choice of location
    Setting the location of a meeting can involve more planning than it might appear. You may have an attendee who is physically in different parts of the world, or everyone may be in the same office. Even when everyone can meet in a conference room, it may not be necessary to leave their desks if visual aids or whiteboards aren’t needed. Get input from your attendees on the best way to enhance the team’s collaboration.
  6. Schedule the meeting
    Depending on how busy some of your attendees are, scheduling a meeting can be the most challenging part of setting it up. Once you have the objectives, attendees, and location decided, it’s time to consider how much time will be needed and the date and time to meet. If important decisions are going to be made at the meeting, be sure to schedule enough time to cover the planned topics, and then find the best time that works for everyone.
  7. Take time to prepare
    If you’ll be making a presentation or visual aids for the meeting, be sure to give yourself or other attendees enough time to be ready when the meeting begins. If you’re the facilitator, get up to speed on the objectives of the meeting and the issues that they will bring up.
  8. Respect the clock
    Be sure to arrive at the time the meeting is scheduled to start and respect the time it’s scheduled to end. Everyone’s time is valuable, so schedule a second meeting if there wasn’t time to cover some of the topics that were planned.
  9. Don't allow mobile devices
    Make it clear that mobile devices should be silenced and stay out of sight during the meeting to avoid distractions caused by inopportune calls and notifications. The temptation to check mobile devices can hinder collaboration, so adding this to your team’s meeting rules can be a good idea if it will be a problem.
  10. Introduce attendees and set goals
    If attendees are not day-to-day coworkers or they are attending from a remote location, the facilitator should introduce everyone and their role before the meeting begins. A little ice-breaking conversation can make a meeting go more smoothly in these situations.
  11. Don't talk over others
    When discussions get heated and two or more people make comments at the same time, be sure everyone knows that talking over each other is not acceptable. It happens by accident from time to time, but it shouldn’t be an accepted practice, as it’s disrespectful and creates obstacles to a fruitful discussion, so this is another item to add to your meeting rules from the outset.
  12. Use body language
    Body language is its own channel of communication during any conversation. Eye contact and posture communicate attention and interest, while hand gestures can add emphasis to important points. Be sure to use engaging body language when you speak in a meeting and pay attention to the body language of others to gauge their own engagement.
  13. Keep the audience engaged
    Some meeting topics are dull by their nature, but it’s important everyone remains engaged to avoid wasting everyone’s time spent at the meeting. If engagement is lost, it’s better to stop for a break than to continue. Let everyone get up and walk around for a few minutes or spend some time re-energizing attendees with a little humor or chit-chat.
  14. Summarize key points
    Spoken communication differs from written communication in many ways, and one of them is the role of repetition. It’s much more likely that something said once will be forgotten because of the nature of the conversation. Repetition is a good way to ensure that key points will be remembered after the meeting.
  15. Recap topics
    Wrap up meetings with a recap of the topics that have been discussed and the action items that were decided. This provides more opportunity for everyone to depart on the same page and for questions to be asked if clarification is needed. When you send out your meeting notes, there shouldn’t be any surprises to anyone who attended.
  16. Assign takeaways
    If action items aren’t given clear ownership, the objectives of the meeting may not be accomplished. Be sure that as action items are determined, ownership is assigned and record it in the meeting notes as a reminder to the team after the meeting is over.
  17. Distribute meeting notes
    Finally, after the meeting, be sure to follow up with the meeting notes. This helps everyone remember important information that was shared, action items that were assigned, and the topics that were covered. All of this ensures continuity between meetings and keeps everyone on the same page as a team.

In today’s global economy, it’s not uncommon for team members who need to be included in meetings to be located in remote locations. Schedules have only gotten busier, too, so it’s also sometimes helpful if team members can opt to stay at their desks. In the past, an organization was limited to conference calls in these situations.

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