Switching between conference calls, brainstorming sessions, and status updates has drained your time and energy.
If you’re reading this article, it’s because your goal is the same as mine: not to waste time and energy.
Most executives spend 40% to 50% of their working hours in meetings. And most professionals believe that at least half of that meeting time is wasted.
Your AI-powered meeting assistant — Huddles
Meetings aren’t the problem—the surplus and ineffective ones are.
Collaborative meetings are crucial for driving projects forward, especially in areas like product development, marketing, design, and innovation, which rely on cross-functional teamwork.
So, how do you design and facilitate engaging and productive meetings?
01-Meetings are How We Get Things Done
Antony Jay wrote in his book “How to Run a Meeting” that our attachment to the workplace is built on social interaction. Without meetings, our commitment to the company would significantly diminish.
We are social animals, and we thrive when collaborating with others rather than working in isolation.
Ineffective, bad meetings are a waste of time. Productive meetings are the foundation of teamwork. Meetings should help us accomplish tasks rather than hinder our schedules.
In other words, we should be accomplishing tasks during meetings, not after.
02-Five Key Elements to Achieve Meeting Effectiveness
The purpose of a meeting is not the agenda but a clear and exciting vision. In simple terms, there is no other way to achieve the desired objectives besides through meetings.
The right mindset can improve emotions, attention, and engagement.
No one should judge the ideas of others during an innovation meeting. This can create a defensive atmosphere and is not conducive to encouraging creativity.
Effective meetings focus on results. Do not leave the meeting room without clear outcomes.
Huddles can help track action items assigned during the meeting. This ensures that tasks are clearly documented, assigned to responsible team members, and tracked for completion.
Not everyone from every project or team should attend every meeting. Invite those who can provide unique insights, perspectives, or information.
This is the most crucial part. Efficient meetings do not happen by accident; they are intentionally arranged. Choose a meeting facilitator based on their abilities, not their job title.
A good facilitator makes the meeting process clear and focused. Rather than the process, a good facilitator cares more about the “health” of the meeting.
A skilled facilitator does not need to be an expert on the relevant topic but should make the meeting thoughtful, cohesive, and engaging, turning it into a pleasant experience.
03-Increasing Efficiency: Fewer and More Concise Meetings
You have four ways to reduce your reliance on meetings: cut, shorten, optimize, or do nothing.
Company personnel must understand why meetings are being canceled and what impact it will have on their work. Many companies reduce meetings to free up teams’ schedules but end up creating more problems.
One effective way to save a significant amount of time is to reduce meeting times to 15, 25, 45, and 55 minutes.
When a meeting is only 15 minutes – with limited time, everyone becomes more focused.
Quick follow-ups, simple decisions, updates, or launching new initiatives can all be accomplished in 25 minutes or less.
45-minute and 55-minute meetings are reserved for topics that require longer discussions – allowing for “special cases” with extended meeting times.
A 55-minute meeting is essentially a new one-hour meeting – in the long run, those saved five minutes can make a significant impact.
To optimize, make small adjustments to maximize expected factors and minimize unexpected ones.
If a meeting is already running perfectly, there’s no need to change it just for the sake of change.
04-The Beginning and End of a Meeting Determine Its Success
The opening and closing of a meeting are crucial to its success, as they need to motivate the team to take action and build team cohesion to create real impact.
Set the stage for the meeting. Remind people of the challenges they face and what needs to be accomplished, share the objectives, and create an appropriate atmosphere for the meeting.
Emotions play a vital role in the workplace – they can either promote or hinder teamwork. A simple question like “What has your attention?” can help you understand what is preoccupying each team member.
If there are no clear next steps or unresolved issues, no one should leave the meeting room – use the last few minutes of the meeting to clarify any unclear points.
05-The meeting agenda is crucial, but don’t let it ruin the meeting.
The feasibility of the meeting is more important than the agenda itself. If the agenda is overly structured, the result is often a dull and unproductive meeting.
To Share or Not to Share?
Distributing a pre-defined agenda to participants can set expectations and can also distract their attention. Sometimes, not revealing what will be discussed next can make the meeting more effective. Mystery and limited information can enhance curiosity and engagement.
Revealing the agenda step by step can increase participants’ involvement and keep them focused on the current topic rather than worrying about what’s coming next.
Flexibility is Key
Adjust the agenda based on people’s reactions and interests. If certain items or content do not resonate with the team, remove them. If a specific activity is too tightly scheduled, allocate more time as needed and skip other items originally on the agenda.
Create Real-Time Agendas
Brian Robertson, author of “Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World,” suggests that effective meetings focus on what’s pressing at the moment, rather than pre-defined agendas. Solicit input from all members on agenda items, listing them out. They don’t need to fully explain their ideas, just provide a few keywords. They can then add new items during the meeting.
Huddles.app can help in this section of improving meeting agendas and overall meeting efficiency in several ways:
- Agenda Creation and Sharing: Huddles.app provides a platform for creating and sharing meeting agendas. Users can easily outline topics, assign time slots, and share the agenda with meeting participants in advance. This ensures that everyone knows what to expect and can come prepared, improving the overall efficiency of the meeting.
- Real-Time Collaboration: With Huddles.app, meeting participants can collaborate in real-time to create and adjust the agenda as needed. This feature aligns with the idea of creating real-time agendas, where participants can add or modify agenda items during the meeting based on evolving priorities and discussions.
- Flexibility and Customization: Huddles.app offers flexibility in structuring agendas. Users can adapt the agenda on the go, skip items, or allocate more time to specific topics as required. This flexibility helps in optimizing the agenda and addressing pressing matters effectively.
06-Autonomy of Choice: Nobody likes to be forced to attend meetings.
What is valuable to managers may be irrelevant to some team members.
I’m not advocating that people should avoid attending meetings; instead, I encourage them to participate voluntarily in meetings they find valuable.
Contrary to common perception, allowing people to choose to attend meetings voluntarily actually enhances their engagement.
Invite Only the Right People
The quantity of participants plays a crucial role. Too many attendees can make a meeting difficult to manage and less efficient.
The quality of a meeting doesn’t solely depend on having smart people involved but on balancing the participants. You need a diverse range of professionals and perspectives.
Determine the Right Size
Cognitive psychologist George Miller observed that the average person’s memory span for a category of items is about 7 units. Some people use this 7±2 formula to decide on the ideal number of participants for regular meetings.
For brainstorming sessions, I prefer having 20 to 24 participants, divided into groups of 5 to 6.
Participants, Not Spectators
Active roles include presenting, providing feedback, brainstorming solutions, making decisions, sharing insights, or knowledge.
Don’t invite people solely to take notes or to “feel” like they are part of the team.
08-Engagement: Uncover and Amplify Hidden Talent
When participants take turns to speak, it can prevent interruptions and groupthink.
Executives can speak last to avoid influencing others.
First, individuals think on their own; then, they discuss with another person; next, two groups discuss together; finally, the whole team collaborates to accomplish tasks.
This gradual approach is useful for team retrospectives, brainstorming, or summary meetings.
This involves having participants read meeting materials like memos at the beginning of the meeting. Discussions begin 30 minutes later. This not only prevents ineffective conversations but also encourages silent members to participate.
You can set up a question box to address questions from all employees, not just extroverted ones.
Each employee can propose their questions before the meeting, and everyone votes for the questions they’re interested in. The most popular questions must be answered by top leadership.
Make Meetings Fun
Curiosity is the mother of learning.
Effective team-building exercises promote what psychologists call active learning. We absorb new concepts through touch, action, and interaction with things, rather than through observation.
Storytelling, metaphors, and practical activities aid in learning new ideas—they are more effective than mere statements.
09- Establish Team Rituals to Make Meetings More Fun
Rituals are an effective, direct way to drive meaningful change.
Team rituals can also make meetings more engaging, productive, and vibrant.
This practice keeps the team energized—there is at least one day a week when their work isn’t dictated by a meeting schedule.
You can conduct one-on-one meetings outside, and walking meetings are also suitable for addressing small issues. By exercising or experiencing different environments and people, our brains relax and find inspiration.
Not using tech devices like phones and computers for meetings can enhance our information retention and learning abilities.
Studies have shown that handwritten notes are more effective—compared to typing on a computer, they often help filter what needs to be remembered more rigorously. Therefore, handwriting can aid in remembering and absorbing more concepts.
In addition to being fun, talent shows can help people get to know each other, which they might not do otherwise.
10- Additional Advice: Devil Is in the Details
Start on time, end on time. If everyone follows this simple rule, there will be much less stress on the team.
Do not underestimate the power of food. For longer meetings, such as brainstorming sessions or workshops, ensuring team members are well-fed and hydrated is crucial. For shorter meetings, food might be distracting.
A room with a great view is not necessary. Functionality of meeting room equipment is more important than its location or aesthetics.
Test meeting equipment. Do not assume that all equipment will work flawlessly. Perhaps the room was used by others who left it in disarray, leading to wasted time at the beginning troubleshooting a projector or other devices.