The formal nature of team meetings has recently changed with the advent of remote work. Videoconferencing is becoming extremely common, but not all of the problems it faces started with this transition. Team meetings for many reasons were not enough while they were held. In particular, here they lacked involvement.
If you’ve worked in a medium or large organization for a while, you’ve probably noticed an increase in non-essential meetings. They are arranged out of a common understanding that the meetings are important, pass without bringing anything remarkable, and are quickly forgotten. This is extremely wasteful – not least because they give the illusion of progress, but in fact they deprive the company of time that could be put to good use.
Of course, this does not mean that a total ban on gatherings is the solution. They are really essential if you want to keep everyone on the same wavelength, unleash creativity, and make sure major roadblocks are addressed properly. But they need to be done right , which means that you need to provide a solid basis for interaction.
In this post, we’ll look at five ways you can increase engagement during team meetings. Apply some or all of them and you will see a noticeable increase in the value of the meeting. Although you should still constantly improve your meeting formula, because there are no perfect meetings. Let’s start.
1. Build them around clear plans
Some companies like to hold special meetings in the hope that the spontaneity will make them more attractive. While this is a good concept to some extent, it does not take into account that meeting structures must be fully established in advance. Inflating it will inevitably lead to awkward pauses, indecision about where to go, and confusion among the participants.
If possible, you should plan each large-scale meeting (even if it is a review meeting) by defining the main goal, acceptable time commitment, required/desired participants, and available resources. Will you need to submit your screen? Can a slideshow help? It’s not a choice to make during meetings when it’s too late.
Note that this planning need not be clear to everyone in the company. Indeed, it is often useful to hide the details of a meeting from attendees so that they don’t go into it with expectations. Let’s say you want to take part in some team building events, for example: although you should have events planned, you shouldn’t reveal them to the members. It will damage their engagement. All you need to tell them up front is that they will work to improve the team. They don’t need to know anything more.
When you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to achieve, it becomes immediately obvious to the participants, and they start to mentally switch off very early. This is clear. Remember that meeting time distracts them from their main tasks, some of which may have inevitable deadlines, and they may become frustrated, questioning its usefulness. One of your goals should be to demonstrate the value of your team meetings right from the start by encouraging them to really care about them.
2. Reduce the numbers
How many people do you invite to a team meeting? Five? Ten? Twenty? The more participants arrive, the more alienated that participant will feel, because he will become just another face in the crowd. When you ask a question, they may remain silent, knowing that they will most likely not be challenged directly. This is one of the reasons why startups often have more energy. Their teams are smaller and every employee matters more. It’s nice to be important.
If you can reduce the number of participants by inviting only vital team members, do so. If you can’t because everyone needs to be there, look for ways to separate them during your meetings. Conventional video conferencing services support chat rooms that can serve this purpose, while companies like Topia.io offer tools that enable spatial video chat (conversations open and close across neighborhoods in digital landscapes, allowing for dynamic discussions).
3. Keep them as concise as possible
If you set aside an hour for a team meeting, think very carefully about whether this time is really justified. Will you be able to pay attention to the group for an entire hour? It’s more difficult than you think. It’s easy enough when you’re working alone and can completely immerse yourself in a particular task, but even the most hectic team meeting isn’t non-stop action. It’s also worth noting that some argue that average attention spans have declined in recent years (although opinions on this are mixed).
Accordingly, you should trim them as much as possible. Shorten the preamble, shorten the long and awkward Q&A sections in which you try (and fail) to get people involved, and use timestamps in your plan to ensure you move forward quickly. Five minutes to formulate the problem, ten minutes to discuss it, ten minutes to draw conclusions, and five minutes to summarize. It may not seem like much time, but thirty minutes can go a long way if you plan carefully.
Remember that you don’t have to use all the time you have allotted: it’s actually a terrible idea to stick rigidly to the intended endpoint. From the very beginning, declare that you have allocated extra time and will do everything as quickly as possible. This will help people focus. If they feel trapped for an hour, no matter what they do, it will cause them to pay less attention.
There is always a possibility that the meeting will take longer than you planned, but it should happen organically due to the actions of the participants. If you leave a buffer for feedback and questions and find that everyone wants to know more, you can set aside more time, but if you extend the session because you couldn’t get through key points, you will cause neglect.
4. Give everyone tasks to complete
Most professionals know what it’s like to be invited to a meeting, but feel completely unnecessary. You are expected to be there and seem interested, but you are treated like you are not even there. The intelligent answer is to let everything wash over you. You know that after that you will not be asked anything and that the content of the meeting will not affect you. Why invest emotional or intellectual energy along with the time you are forced to give?
As the organizer of the team meeting, it is your responsibility to give everyone something to do. You don’t need to come up with separate tasks for this: you can choose small groups and assign them tasks that require the active participation of all participants. However, think carefully about individual strengths before choosing groups. If you put two graphic designers on the same team for an activity that requires graphic design, one might just leave the other to do the necessary work.
Some level of ingenuity will inevitably be required, but don’t let that get in the way of your action. Contrived engagement is still engagement, and it all has broader implications for team cohesion and employee value. Make projects interesting enough that people will enjoy working on them. They may even see them as an opportunity to impress and make progress.
5. Show that you are really listening
Finally, a key component of any team meeting is the appropriate follow-up. If you receive valuable input from an employee (such as a SWOT analysis) but do absolutely nothing with them, why would they need to make the same effort for the next meeting? After all, there is no point in spending a lot of time writing a report for a boss who you know won’t actually read it.
During meetings, give only as much attention as you want your employees to give it, but don’t just offer constructive comments: commit to acting accordingly. If someone makes a compelling case for implementing a particular software tool, see it through by approving the trial run and putting them in charge of the project. Offering vague approval is not enough because people know that managers can forget such things and end up wondering what’s going on.
Repeat how you run your meetings
To sum up, there is no point in having team meetings if they don’t involve people. Be sure to put in the effort to make them as useful as possible. You will soon see a positive difference in results and increase your team’s ability to participate both during remote and in-person meetings.