How To Run Productive, Inclusive Meetings

September 03, 2019 by Amanda Maksymiw

Team meeting in a conference room, with other employees on video conference

Every day in the United States, employees attend more than 25 million meetings. Stand-up meetings, team meetings, all-hands meetings, after-action meetings…all of these appointments fill employees’ calendars with events that fill their days but, in many cases, don’t actually provide the hoped-for business results. 

In fact, 67 percent of those meetings can be considered failures, costing companies more than $37 billion per year in lost productivity and wasted time.  

But there are some strategies you can implement immediately to make sure your meeting—whether in-person, virtual, or a combination of both—is productive, interactive, and engages every invitee. 

Get—and stay—focused with a solid agenda.

A meeting’s agenda should, hopefully, clarify its purpose for attendees. Even if a meeting is a standing weekly gathering, the invited team members still need to know why they’re there, how it is a valuable use of their time, and where the meeting will focus. The result? They’ll be far less distracted when the meeting actually happens. 

Priya Parker, author of The Art of Gathering, suggests meaningful conversation builds community, whether at a workplace or any other location. A thoughtful agenda that helps attendees know exactly why they are there and what input will be expected of them means each member of the team will join the remote, in-person, or hybrid meeting far more prepared to provide quality contributions.

Use screen sharing to hold attendees’ attention.

Productivity @ Work, the first-ever Fuze Communications Index, reported that participants stay more connected and engaged than they would if they were just on a call. The report’s data showed when a screen share occurred at some point in a meeting, attendees stayed connected for 87 percent of the meeting, rather than 75 percent without a screen share. 

One great way to use screen sharing is to collaborate on some sort of shared document⁠—even if it’s just a collection of action items and notes to which everyone can contribute. The meeting becomes more interactive, but does so naturally, rather than in a forced, artificial way. 

Ask participants to turn on their cameras, if possible. 

Where team members have the internet bandwidth to do so, it’s a great practice to foster a “cameras on” culture for remote meetings. Seeing coworkers in whatever environment they’re working from that day, whether it’s their home office, a corporate site, or a far-flung coffeeshop, helps combat the isolation remote work can create, and provide some virtual face-to-face time. 

Also, if the meeting participants use video at any point during the meeting, the length of the meeting increases on average by 14 percent. That’s more time for colleagues to get to know each other and build the relationships that are crucial to business success.

Create an inclusive space for all temperaments

There are dominant members of every team—extroverted, talkative folks who are verbal brainstormers -- and more introverted members who have just as much to contribute, but might be less comfortable stepping forward with their thoughts either on webcam or in a room with colleagues. By ensuring they, too, are able to participate in ways that feel natural to them, you increase the richness—and effectiveness—of meeting time. 

The first step toward engaging introverts during meetings is making sure that purposeful agenda mentioned above is in place when the meeting is added to team members’ calendars. That gives team members who need more time to process and sit with their thoughts about potential solutions to a business problem the space to do that before the meeting, rather than being forced to come up with suggestions on the spot.

The second way meeting leaders can ensure full participation is to make sure each attendee has been individually and specifically invited to share their thoughts on a particular question or initiative. Sometimes the quietest team members on a call or in a room might have the best answers, but they are sitting back and letting noisier team members take up all the space. It’s incumbent on the meeting leader to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Wrap up with action items and next steps

Save time at the very end of the meeting to coalesce everyone’s thoughts into clear action items and next steps. Be specific and assign responsibility to individuals (“Jacqueline will talk to our Chief Product Officer about how this new initiative might fit in the roadmap,” versus “Let’s make sure someone talks to the CPO about whether we can move forward with this idea.”) to ensure accountability and clarity. Then follow up with an email documenting what everyone participating agreed to during the meeting.  

Meetings are a terrific opportunity to brainstorm solutions to tough business problems, foster team cohesion, and make decisions efficiently, but they have to be effective. By being intentional about how your meetings are planned and run, you can create a much better return on your team’s investment of time and brainpower.

Amanda Maksymiw
Amanda Maksymiw

Amanda is responsible for setting and managing the Fuze content marketing strategy including creating, producing and publishing engaging content. Throughout her career, she's worked with fast-growing tech companies and VCs on developing content marketing, influencer marketing and social media strategies. Amanda received her BBA in Marketing from the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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