How many team meetings do you attend each week? How exciting and interesting are they? My guess is “not very”. But meetings don’t need to be dull. Here are some of the more interesting ways companies across the world bring an extra dimension to their meetings.
1. Using odd meeting times can help staff remember more easily, and combat lateness / absence. Washington-based employee engagement software provider TINYPulse starts its daily staff meeting at 8:48 a.m.
2. Introduce novel ways to engage and connect with staff. Every Thursday, baby food maker Plum Organics gives everyone colouring books and holds a creative-thinking meeting where staff colour, talk, and decompress. Research suggests that colouring helps promote active listening.
3. Address the most important issues first – be like Stephen Covey and make sure you cover the most salient issues early on to ensure you have an effective, fruitful meeting.
4. Connection before content – ask probing questions to each other to get people out of their comfort zones and completely engaged. Take a leaf from the meetings manual of software provider LivePerson, who ask each other: “What are your doubts about something you’re working on?”
5. Games & sports can be used to get people having fun and ideas flowing. Mobile game publisher Genera Games have their meetings whilst playing basketball.
6. Don’t allow the same topics to be endlessly rehashed – create a visual aid to stop people rehashing old topics. Staff at security management software provider Brivo hold up ping-pong bats emblazoned with the phrase “no rehash” to discourage repetition.
7. Q&A sessions can drive engagement and get contentious issues and questions out in the open. If no one has a question, be like e-commerce company Etailz cofounder Josh Neblett and stare at them until they think of one.
8. Punish interruptions. Prevent lateness like Darrell Gehrt, vice president of Inquisium, by forcing people to sing when they enter late. During meetings at Keller-Williams Realty, anyone whose phone rings must make a donation to the company’s charity. This cuts down on interruptions during meetings, and when it happens, it supports the corporate nonprofit. Win win!
9. Make sure attendees leave with actionable tasks to complete. No one should leave a meeting without knowing what they have to complete going forward. At Apple, every project component or task has a DRI – a Directly Responsible Individual whose name goes next to all the agenda items they are responsible for. This way there’s rarely any confusion about who should be getting what done.
10. Have a clear end time. Constraints breed creativity and setting a clear end time will ensure you cover what’s needed. The staff at Tripping.com, a search engine for holiday rentals, sets a stopwatch for 30 minutes at the start of each meeting. If the meeting goes on for longer, the person who called the meeting has to put $5 in the team beer jar. Cheers!
11. Limit the people involved – Google strictly limits meetings to 10 people to avoid confusion and good ideas being lost in the crowd. And Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is famous for his “two pizza teams” – if two pizzas isn’t enough to feed everyone at the meeting, it’s too big.
12. Keep meetings short – incentivise people into keep meetings a short length, and create punishments for when people drag them on. At digital design agency O3 World, the boardroom is hooked up to Roombot, an app they created. It reads everyone’s Google Calendar and warns when it’s time to finish. It also dims the lights in the final minutes of the meeting.
13. Agile teams champion the daily standup – also called the daily scrum. The whole team meets every day for a status update, standing up to keep the meeting short. Meet where the work happens, not in a meeting room.
14. Make the most of new staff – sometimes entry-level workers can have the freshest ideas. Sean Higby of Newsala believes in getting junior colleagues heavily involved in meetings to generate new approaches & ideas.
15. Be like Christopher Frank of American Express and start your meeting by asking each person to define in five words or less the problem to be solved. If the answers are inconsistent or too long, you’re probably not focused on the same problem. Work towards clearly articulating the goal.
16. Be prepared to challenge & be challenged – it’s OK to ask tough questions and get contentious issues and problems out in the open.
17. Don’t wait for meetings to make decisions, and if meetings are really necessary make sure they happen as soon as possible. As Danny Sim says in this article: “Decisions should never wait for a meeting. Otherwise, the velocity of the company is slowed to its meeting schedule.”
Or, if none of those work, be like productivity software maker Asana – they have a no-meetings-on-Wednesday rule, ensuring that team members get at least one schedule-free day: a large block of time to focus on heads-down work, without having to fit it in between meetings.
There really is no excuse for running a boring team meeting. Don’t just go through the motions – shake things up and see where it takes you.