January 19, 2016 By Steve Schult
February 10, 2017
How to Have an Amazingly Productive Team Meeting, Every Single Week
Our friends at Trello are real experts in team productivity. But with a widely dispersed team (even more so than ours) we had to ask – how do they do it so well?! Leah Ryder leads Content Marketing at Trello, and shared with us her team’s “5A’s” of productive team meetings, using Trello, join.me, and more!
Meetings have gotten such a bad rep lately – it seems that the new trend for teams is less is better. And weekly recurring meetings might be considered the worst of all, thanks to the same old people, the same old stories, and the same (long) periods of time plaguing our busy work schedules.
Yet, team meetings serve an important role: they make sure each member is in sync, that projects are on track, and that the right goals are being met. Especially with distributed teams like ours at Trello, staying connected is vital for productivity. So, with the goal of having an amazingly productive team meeting every week, our Marketing team set out on a journey to build a structure that would not only suit everyone, but also not waste anyone’s time.
Here are some of most important things we are learning along the way:
Did you know that over 63% of meetings have no planned agenda? A meeting without a plan is like a train without a track. It is all-too-easy to let conversations go off topic and avoid decision-making about important items. So you should prepare and share an outline of the meeting with all attendees in advance. This way, everyone understands what needs to be accomplished in the allotted time. If discussions get heated or you have a co-worker who is known for disrupting the flow, you can just refer back to the agenda. It is the signal to keep moving to that all-important (yet elusive) meeting end.
We use designated lists on our team Trello boards to build meeting agendas. The list “This Week” is the official agenda for the meeting. A top card entitled “To Discuss Next Meeting” outlines the rules for agenda items. Team members add items and attach any relevant materials as well as tag themselves as the “owner” of that item. This means that they are responsible for presenting that item. Each card is discussed in the order it appears on the list.
With everyone on the team clear on meeting structure, agenda items, and what to prepare, we can stay as efficient as possible with everyone’s time.
Meetings should be much more than a time on people’s calendars when people break from their work and show up in a room (or video conference, like we do). A weekly meeting should serve as a “due date,” or marker in time, by which each team member prepares an update on their active projects, problems, and accomplishments.
We have permanent cards on our team meeting board for each area: Content, Product, Design, and so on. We each take the time to write a few points summarizing our week, and take the time to read each other’s updates before the meeting. Preparing and reviewing these notes in advance saves that precious meeting time solely for questions and valuable discussion. And having all parties present on join.me video conference is key to keeping the whole team fully engaged, no matter where they are. You can, and you should, trust your teammates to engage and prepare for your meetings.
Friendly reminders that pop up in Slack five to 10 minutes before a meeting in your team channel don’t hurt either.
As meetings need structure, they also need a designated administrator to make sure the structure is followed. This is especially true for weekly recurring meetings, because they are not necessarily set by a specific person for a specific reason. We all want to avoid that awkward meeting scenario where no one knows what to do next, or how to move forward.
To help our entire team feel engaged week by week, we designate a rotating meeting lead. This also gives everyone on the team a sense of ownership for the meeting. To make the leadership race fair, the current meeting lead chooses their successor. At Trello, we do this by adding their face to the “Meeting Lead” card on the agenda:
The exiting lead isn’t off scott free – they have a new role for the next week, too. They become the Scribe, which we’ll cover next.
Not every team member is going to be able to attend every meeting. But if proper steps are taken to record key details about the meeting, even those not in attendance can check in later and see what happened in their absence.
Yes, we’re talking about good old-fashioned meeting minutes. They can be a saving grace for sick days, vacation, or later inquiries about what was discussed and when. They can also, admittedly, be a pain. So we designate a Scribe who is in charge of that week’s notes. As you can guess, the Scribe puts those notes right into the specific cards discussed during the meeting. Anyone on the team can then always get a quick rundown of each project’s latest progress.
It’s like that old adage about the tree falling in the woods… especially if everyone can’t participate, it’s good to have evidence that, yes, you did meet last Friday at 4:00 pm like you promised your vacationing boss!
Recurring meetings have the toughest time feeling purposeful and powerful because they settle into routine. If you can avoid show-and-tell by having people review general updates in advance of the meeting, you can avoid having a meeting where no initiatives are left hanging. An easy habit that makes weekly meetings more productive is to use routine for action. After each agenda item, make sure the meeting lead asks specifically “what are the action items out of this discussion?” The Scribe can take note of what steps are identified, and distribute those action items as tasks to relevant team members at the same time. We do this by tagging the “@team member” involved right in the agenda card, so they get a notification to review the task later. That way, each meeting feels progressive, and productive – not routine or repetitive.TRY join.me FREE!
Subscribe now and get the latest updates as soon as they are posted!