How to Lead an Effective Team Meeting 26 Jul 2019


Team meetings can be the worst part of the job. You walk into “essential” company meetings only to feel your productivity slipping away. As an employee, you thought meetings were a waste of time. Now that you’re the boss, you’re starting to realize that unproductive meetings aren’t just eating up time. Ineffective team meetings are hurting your business’s bottom line.

More than $37 billion are wasted each year on unproductive meetings. While your meetings may not be wasting that much cash, team meetings are still draining your company’s resources. Especially since 50 percent of all meetings are considered unproductive. How can you make your meetings productive?

Team meetings don’t have to be a form of torture for your employees. Answering some simple questions in advance will ramp up your meetings’ effectiveness and make them more enjoyable. So before you plan your next meeting, let’s look at the what, the how, and the who of your team meetings.

The What: What Do You Need to Discuss?

Not having a clear agenda for your meeting confuses everyone. Things can easily get off track if you don’t keep a tight rein on what’s discussed. Team meetings may also run overtime if there are no clearly scheduled items. Using an agenda helps your meeting stay on schedule.

To create an agenda, you need to know the purpose of the meeting. Is there a specific problem you have to discuss or make a decision about, or is the purpose just to check in with employees? Following an agenda ensures every important point gets addressed. Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg goes as far as keeping a notebook with her during meetings and making sure each item on the agenda gets discussed. She believes that using an agenda is crucial for successful meetings.

Once you understand the meeting’s purpose and have an agenda, it’s time to plan what to say. Engaging team meetings don’t just happen by accident. So let’s take a look at how you can prepare your meeting presentation in advance.

The How: How Are You Going to Present Your Portion of the Meeting?

You’ve planned the agenda, but your work’s not done yet. You still have to write out how you’re going to present your part of the meeting. Leaving your presentation up to the last minute makes your presentation disorganized, confusing, and dull. Preparing ahead of time ensures that your presentation will be engaging and informative.

No one wants to hear how Webster’s Dictionary defines “meeting”. Research examples, statistics, or experiences that are relevant to your topic and incorporate them into your introduction. Time how long your presentation takes so you don’t take up the whole meeting. Keep a lighthearted tone so people feel comfortable asking questions and adding relevant points.

If you’re still stuck on how to present your part of the meeting, go back to the purpose of the meeting. American Express’ VP Christopher Frank says you should be able to state the problem or purpose in 5 words or less. The purpose gives you a central topic and keeps your presentation on track.

You may not be a great public speaker, but using these tips can make your presentation engaging for your audience. Knowing what you’re going to say simplifies the next step of planning your meeting: Who are you going to invite?

Photo of a boss deciding which employees need to attend an upcoming meeting

The Who: Who’s Essential In This Meeting?

Requiring employees to attend meetings that have nothing to do with them wastes everyone’s time and is incredibly boring. Let’s say you have a meeting to discuss a project that only a few of your employees are working on, but you require the whole department to attend. Your employees that aren’t working on the project could take up the majority of the time discussing unrelated topics. Before you know it, the meeting is over, and you didn’t take any time to address the project the meeting was supposed to be about. Your key employees on this project have now wasted an hour of their time and still don’t have any answers to their questions. By limiting your invite list, you keep your meetings focused and beneficial to all participants.

Look at your agenda and decide who needs to attend this meeting. How can you know how many people is too many? Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, uses a simple rule to determine how many people to invite to a meeting. There can’t be more people than can be fed by two large pizzas.

If your list starts growing uncontrollably, break the list up into smaller meetings. Email any important decisions made to people who need to know, but don’t need to be involved.

Now you have all the information you need to plan your next meeting. Knowing the what, how, and who of your meetings helps you lead productive team meetings.

Huddle Up, Team!

Team meetings can be unproductive time wasters, or they can keep your employees up to date with your company. It’s all in the preparation. Answering some basic questions beforehand helps your meeting achieve its purpose.

Do you know the what, how, and who of your meetings? Before you do anything, figure out what needs to be discussed. Once you know the purpose of the meeting, you can figure out how you’re going to present your side of the meeting. Finally, decide who should be invited so that your meetings stay focused. This way you can have interesting team meetings that save time and benefit all participants.