Teams often fall into the trap of turning meetings into “reporting meetings” or “discussion meetings”. These correspond to two extremes – one is a dull, one-way output, and the other is an endless, boundless discussion and exchange.
In his new book “The Common Sense Approach to Working,” best-selling author Martin Lindstrom complains about how PowerPoint presentations make meetings even more complicated: “Seriously, for these time-consuming and globally-presented PPTs, can people really get something out of them? The best meetings I have attended have one thing in common: there are no PowerPoint presentations.
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I have met many leaders who are also headaches when it comes to meetings. “I feel like I have to hold them, but I don’t know why they always last two or three hours,” “I think the meeting content is important business topics and project progress, but for some reason, the team is always dull.”
There is no doubt that meetings have great value in team collaboration. Good meetings can help teams:
- Align frequently, keep information transparent and synchronous;
- Focus on priorities, making it clear to the entire team what the most important tasks are at the moment, and where resources need to be invested;
- Expose problems at high density and frequency, communicate ideas, and promote small step-by-step team problem-solving;
- Strengthen team cohesion and mutual support.
Through extensive interviews and research, we have found that teams are very easy to turn meetings into “reporting meetings” or “discussion meetings.” These correspond to two extremes – one is a dull one-way output, and the other is an endless discussion.
Of course, both output and communication are essential elements of an efficient meeting. The challenge of organizing a good meeting lies in how to balance the two and produce high-quality results in a very short period of time.
01-Sharing Focus and Exceptions, Avoiding Excessive Detail
1.What to Share
#Key Results: The 1-3 most significant achievements of the previous cycle.
#Risk Analysis: What risks, difficulties, or obstacles have I observed during this process? What is my analysis of these risks? What harm could these risks cause the team? How do I need the team’s support?
#Next Steps: What are my primary actions for the next cycle? How should priorities and resources be allocated?
2. How Long to Share
In general, during project, client, or goal-focused meetings, each member should share for 2 minutes on a specific topic. It is generally advised not to exceed 3 minutes. Huddles.app have timer for each template section to calculate the time accurately, so that it will not stay for a long time.
You may ask, “Can we summarize everything in such a short time? What if some members tend to be talkative?” Based on my experience supporting teams with meetings almost every day, 1.5 minutes is the standard value, and if some topics have many contingencies, 3 minutes should be sufficient.
Moreover, it is suggested to have a timekeeper at the start of the meeting who will strictly time each member’s sharing. When the time is up, the facilitator should interrupt and move on to the next agenda item. Initially, the team may feel uncomfortable with this approach, but it is a practice to learn how to complete a task within a time limit under pressure, similar to completing a level in a game. By continually practicing and finding their methods, they will eventually succeed.
3. Should topics be expanded upon?
When there are topics that really need to be discussed in greater detail, new agenda items can be added during the meeting, or a separate meeting can be scheduled to address them. It’s worth noting that I don’t recommend including any topic that requires more than 10 minutes of discussion in a regular meeting; it’s better to schedule a separate meeting for that. Many effective teams use the “big meeting followed by small meetings” approach, meaning that after the full team meeting, smaller topic-specific meetings are held.
The benefit of doing this is that when the team is sharing project updates or member progress, the rhythm is smooth, and all attendees can understand the big picture in a very short amount of time. It’s important to note that the leader can either facilitate or hinder the meeting’s pace. I have participated in many of these meetings where the leader inserted a topic randomly during a project update, and the group got sidetracked and went off in the wrong direction.
02-Which meeting to hold: Daily, Weekly or Monthly
1.Daily Meeting – Task Review
Purpose: The team shares what they completed in the last 24 hours, and their action plans for the next 24 hours.
Duration: 15 minutes
Suitable for: teams that work closely together, agile teams, remote teams.
- Yesterday’s task progress review
- Today’s plan
- Identify any roadblocks
The Daily Meeting, also known as the “stand-up meeting,” is particularly loved by agile development teams and is one of the four major meetings of agile teams. It is a quick way for teams to exchange information and align their goals in the morning. Many teams choose to set up a board in their workspace or meeting room and use sticky notes to share their progress one by one.
2.Weekly Meeting – Milestones
Purpose: The team synchronizes project progress, exchange information, and promote collaboration on a weekly basis.
Duration: 45~60 minutes
Suitable for teams: Essential for any team
- Project progress sharing
- Uploading and sharing themes
- Topic discussion (what do you need)
In my opinion, the weekly meeting is essential for any team. The preparation before the meeting is crucial, and we recommend that participants update their projects and progress before the meeting. If any team member has any issues they wish to discuss, it is best to write them down before the meeting to encourage everyone to think proactively, clearly express themselves and save a lot of meeting time.
3.Monthly Meeting – Reviewing Metrics
Purpose: The team regularly reviews the progress towards goals, adjusts strategies, and clarifies priorities and tasks for the next cycle.
Duration: 45~90 minutes
Suitable for teams: Management teams or low-density collaboration teams
- Aligning goals and sharing metric data (OKR alignment)
- Sharing progress on project clients
- Task delegation and theme sharing
- Discussing issues (what do you need)
- Discussing core topics (usually 1-2 topics)
Monthly meetings focus on data and whether goals are being met. Many management teams refer to these meetings as “monthly business analysis meetings”. In addition to reviewing data, the monthly meeting will also focus on whether the team’s current strategy is being implemented, clarifying priorities, and adjusting resource allocation plans. Of course, organizing everyone together comes at a cost, so it is a good opportunity to discuss a few core topics as well.
03-Let’s discuss the next step plan, not the perfect solution.
1.The core element of agility is to push the next step.
A huge challenge in meetings is that we know we need to move quickly, but end up dragging on. One of the main reasons meetings go longer and longer is that we don’t distinguish which topics we need to “push the next step” and which ones require a solution that everyone agrees on.
Meetings themselves support the first goal, which is to “push the next step.” If there is a need for a topic that requires collective creation, another “special discussion meeting” can be organized.
Why do people tend to engage in discussions during meetings? It may be because we are obsessed with finding the “perfect solution” and cannot accept the reality that “other people’s ideas are different from mine.” In fact, from another perspective, meetings can be a “practice field” for teams to learn how to push the next step in an uncertain environment. Leaders need to practice how to “hold on” to some topics and keep them open for a period of time.
2.What do you need？
Have you ever had an experience where someone spoke for a long time during a work conversation and you still weren’t sure what they wanted? This situation often occurs in meetings when one person doesn’t express themselves clearly and the other person interprets it differently, causing confusion and wasting time.
To avoid these “confusing” situations in regular meetings, I recommend a method called “Clarify Request Type.” For each topic presented in the meeting, we first ask the proposer to explain the background and reasons, and then specifically ask for their needs, “What do you need?” and “Who needs to respond?”
Huddles Meeting Template-Regular Meeting (Classic Version)
We have categorized the needs into: #Action Needed, #Decision Making, #Information Retrieval, #Information Sharing, and #Rule Amendment.
The third step is to invite @response person to respond. If possible, write down any actions or decisions. If it is not possible to directly meet the needs of the proposer, we suggest discussing a new plan together at least to make progress in some way.
Once you adopt this approach, you will find that communication becomes more focused and clear, while also training team members to actively think about how to clearly express their own needs.
Another important point is that many leaders have confided in me that meetings have turned into reporting sessions, where everyone just reports on the current situation to the leader and brings up any difficulties or needs directly to the leader, who then provides feedback and assigns tasks. The leader becomes the center of the meeting. The “clear types of demands” method requires team members to directly @reply the person who is responsible for their specific need. This way, the demands and responses become a high-frequency network of interactions, where members can raise demands and support each other.
Hope that this sharing can support you in preparing for the next meeting and make good use of everyone’s time!
Founder of Huddles, Meeting Effectiveness Expert
Deeply accompanying the organizational evolution of agile transformation in enterprises.