Wondering how to run effective meetings? If you've read our high-level advice from CEOs on how to fight bad meetings or have run through our "Should we have this meeting?" decision tree and decided, "Yes! This meeting is happening!" then here's the next part of your journey. Holding the perfect virtual or in-person meeting post-COVID means you may need a refresher on effective meeting management. Keep reading to find out more about best practices, benefits, and pro tips you won’t find elsewhere.
Why effective meeting management matters
Plain and simple: Bad meetings lower morale, decrease productivity, and waste precious resources. Effective meeting management prevents these issues, but it also creates a lot of opportunities. Whether in person or online, meetings are a great way to build camaraderie between teammates. This improves job satisfaction, retention rates and even boosts creativity.
Effective meeting management also has the power to realize the full potential of every individual. Not all work can be done in a silo. Through structured and focused team collaboration, attendees are more likely to come up with inspiration for problem-solving that they may not have had on their own.
How to run effective virtual meetings
The best way to run effective virtual meetings is to understand how they are different from in-person ones, including how to use the technology, what it feels like for participants, etc. Leaders should always put together a virtual meetings policy sheet (cameras on versus off, arrival time expectations, and more) and details on how the information will be used. Pro tip: take advantage of the unique nature of remote meetings by recording them for promos or review, transcribing notes, and providing a way for those with disabilities to access important information that may be otherwise inaccessible.
How to run effective meetings
The below infographic shares actionable tips to make sure your meetings are efficient and run like a well-oiled machine. Check out this advice, plus some other great tips from productivity hackers, researchers, and professionals who have “been there, done that.”
- Set a clear and effective meeting agenda
Meetings can go off the rails if there are no talking points laid out ahead of time. Leave a couple of minutes at the beginning for introductions, then move on to your most important talking point. Ask someone to keep track of time and let you know when a segment is running long. According to the American Psychological Association, starting and ending on time is important for keeping morale high and instilling good habits as a group.
- Consider banning surplus devices
Nothing is worse than people playing with their phones while you're talking. If you’re running a virtual meeting, ask participants to turn their cameras on for the duration. Give them heads up in the invitation just in case too. For in-person meetings longer than 30 minutes, encourage participants to leave their phones in their pockets or bags until the break.
Also, make sure all devices are silenced. Studies have shown that even the ding of someone else’s text or phone call notifications can disrupt cognitive performance. Although the disruption varies based on notification length, context, and sound, the fact remains that it’s detrimental to effective meetings. Limiting the risk of it happening is worth the potential awkwardness of asking participants to go silent.
- Keep your meetings small
According to the Harvard Business Review, “Robert Sutton, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University, looked at the research on group size and concluded that the most productive meetings contain only five to eight people.” In our experience, less really is more. Not only is it easier for everyone to have a voice in a short meeting when there are fewer people, but it’s also more natural for collaboration. In large groups, members tend to fall into the bystander effect, subconsciously assuming that other people will bear the burden of helping when needed.
And don’t think your Zoom calls are immune. In a study published in "Human Relations," a peer-reviewed research journal, scientists discovered the following:
- “the bystander effect is also present in virtual (knowledge sharing) environments,
- that group size influences response quality
- and that the negative impact of social inhibition might decrease again in very large groups.”
- Adopt the Swiss train approach
Did you know that Swiss trains arrive every six minutes? No matter what time of day it is or when they get there, commuters can count on another car to arrive in less than 10 minutes of waiting. Their official passenger organization office explains that “it is extremely difficult to design a timetable with guaranteed changes at junction stations. If only one train is late, scrupulously precise planning collapses like a house of cards.”
But what makes this phenomenon interesting for meetings? The trains rarely (if ever) arrive on the hour or half-hour. Train arrival times such as 12:38 p.m. are far more common — and easier to remember. Not just because they arrive every six minutes but because they require passengers to keep a keen eye on the clock.
In a nutshell: Keep people on their toes with unusual meeting times. The novelty of it will keep them interested, and they’ll likely remind themselves repeatedly or triple-check the meeting details ahead of time so they don’t miss it.
- Save updates for emails
We’ve all been to meetings where an email would have been more efficient. If you’re not sure, meetings should involve more than three people, a topic that requires thoughtful questions and discussion, a collaborative goal in which every attendee’s participation actively supports, and a decision that must be made in a timely manner. Otherwise, you can quickly shoot off status updates and simple decision questions, either on Wrike or through your email.
- Take it outside
Not only is being outside in an open-air space safer as we transition away from COVID, but it’s also key to boosting productivity by as much as 40%. Pick a green space with grass, flowers, or trees nearby. If you’re in the city, the building’s uncovered parking lot or front entrance spaces are both great options. Remember to provide comfortable chairs and accommodations for the weather.
- Keep the meeting as short as possible
It turns out that our bodies physically cannot perform well during long meetings. According to the meeting experts at MetroOffice, “since our bodies typically require large amounts of glucose and oxygen for the brain to process new information, keeping your employees in a short meeting allows them to absorb everything you have discussed. Any more than that, and they’ll feel physically fatigued and lose concentration.” Ideally, meetings should be anywhere from 10-18 minutes.
- Use time to recap
Ask the question, "Who should do what by when?" Who includes the person responsible for the task and whoever must approve it. What refers to the task itself. Details such as what resources are needed and who the collaborators will be should also be summarized. And finally, the When. When is the task due? And what happens if it’s delivered late? Doing all this will ensure the next steps are truly actionable.
How to get your meetings in order with Wrike
Wrike is both a project management platform and virtual collaboration software teams can use for all their meetings. Create and schedule meetings as tasks, then invite participants by assigning them to them. Include meeting leaders as approvers, then add the time, date, and location information in the task details. Use the task discussion section to keep meeting notes and send automated updates to all participants. Attach documents manually or right from within Wrike’s shared asset storage, so everyone has what they need ahead of time without having to double-check link sharing settings and digging through endless folders to find it all.
Ready to master and run effective meetings? Then check out Wrike’s two-week free trial. Test drive our collaboration tools, automated reminders, and simplified communication features that make every event a productive one.