Team meetings are a necessary part of a cohesive and productive workplace. Done well, they can contribute immensely to positive workplace culture. They're also paramount when it comes to taking effective action and enhancing productivity as a result of those actions.

However, meetings are not always done well. Without considering or creating actionable points that are going to make meetings effective, you could end up with a multitude of frustrations. Ultimately, these frustrations may take you further from your intended outcomes.

It is important to learn to effectively prepare for, implement, and then follow up after meetings. These strategies will help ensure your meetings are an asset to your company, rather than a time-wasting exercise. They will help your employees to feel valued and motivated to attend and contribute.

Preparing for a positive and productive meeting

The following tips can help ensure your meeting is set up for success before it even begins.

  1. Determine whether your meeting is absolutely necessary. Don't hold meetings simply because there's a weekly time slot for them. They should have a clear purpose in amongst the bigger picture and overall company objectives.
  2. If you decide the meeting is necessary, decide who needs to be there. Keep the numbers small to improve contribution and productivity. If a team member isn't required to contribute in some way during the meeting or have a role in the follow-up action points, they probably don't need to attend the meeting.
  3. Find the best meeting time to work in with the schedules and deadlines of team members.
  4. Ensure thorough preparation has been carried out before the meeting:
    1. Have pre-assigned roles (e.g. facilitator and record keeper). This helps ensure that each person in the meeting knows what will be expected of them.
    2. Create an agenda that includes a clear start and finish time, as well as allocated time frames within the meeting for each agenda item.
    3. Share the agenda in advance so everyone knows what to expect during the meeting. This helps people to understand the purpose of the meeting and what will be covered. Consider any automation tools that may help you to share the meeting agenda effectively, based on your unique workplace needs.
    4. The facilitator can implement a practice run-through beforehand to help ensure they are well prepared, especially when it comes to sticking with time frames for each agenda item.

Positivity and productivity during meetings

With the agenda you've created and shared in advance, you're off to a great start. Ensure your agenda has been created to be as brief as possible. According to research published in MIT Sloan Management Review, the time spent attending workplace meetings has increased considerably over the years. Make sure you cover the necessary points whilst keeping them short enough to maintain everyone's attention.

Ideas to make your meetings more enjoyable for everyone involved:

  • Offer the option to stand up during the meeting, or maybe even require it for a portion of your meeting.
  • Consider ways to add a little bit of movement into the meeting. Ideas include walking meetings when there are only a few people involved, or standing up and doing a few stretches partway through the meeting.
  • Decide whether a change of scenery is possible for your meeting. Can you hold the meeting elsewhere and still be time effective and limit distractions? Can you take the meeting outside into the sun and increase feelings of wellness at the same time?
  • Find ways to make your meeting interactive. Can you incorporate a game, quiz or team activity?
  • Start and end all meetings on a positive note. Begin meetings by sharing positive things. These could be actions or behaviors you've noticed from employees or recent company achievements.

Starting and ending meetings on a "positive note" is similar to "sandwiching" feedback. Team members are more likely to listen to issues, complaints, and concerns that need to be addressed if they're feeling positive from the beginning. If you launch straight into the "problems," they could be more likely to feel attacked or undervalued.

Similarly, it creates a stronger, and more positive workplace culture if your team members leave the meeting feeling positive. In this instance, they're more likely to head back to their work feeling happy and ready to be productive.

Ideas to increase productivity during meetings:

  • Stick to your agenda and time frames for each item.
  • Take note of any comments, questions or ideas that are off-topic and plan them into an appropriate future meeting.
  • Minimize distractions by establishing clear expectations on things like devices and food. If they're given the opportunity to do so, team members may want to multi-task in an attempt to make the best use of their time, or because of negative experiences with past unnecessary meetings. This could result in a reduced ability to absorb the necessary information, so consider taking these options out of the equation altogether if it's practical to do so.
  • Hold the meetings in-person wherever possible. It's easier to enforce guidelines around distractions in an in-person meeting.
  • Understand and respect the different personalities and learning styles of those who are present at the meeting. Some employees will respond well in a meeting centered on verbal communication; others may not.

Respecting different personalities and learning styles within a meeting

Ask those present at the meeting to brainstorm and write down ideas based on what has been discussed. A little quiet time sitting and writing can allow questions and ideas to sink in.

Have the option to keep these ideas anonymous. People may be scared to speak out in front of the rest of the team or speak their minds. Those who like to "keep the peace" and avoid bucking trends may not be willing to verbalize anything that's radically different from what the rest of the employees are suggesting.

Allowing people to write down their ideas and questions honors those who work best with the reading and writing communication style. At the same time, many will be more honest with their opinions this way.

You can still allow time for verbal discussion, which lets team members with a verbal communication preference express themselves in the way they best know how to as well.

Ensuring post-meeting productivity

Have a follow-up plan to carry out after each meeting that includes the following:

  • Who will action what points and by when?
  • What are the outcomes that should occur as a result of these action points? Clearly communicate the "why" behind the action points so that it feels purposeful and everyone knows what outcomes they are working towards
  • Share the meeting follow-up in an appropriate time frame and in a way that will allow team members to action it (e.g. e-mail).

If your meetings don't feel productive, try something different next time. That could involve a change in scenery or a change in the way the meeting is run. Ultimately, every workplace will have different needs, so employers should be willing to adapt until they find the perfect solution for their team.