Team meetings can either be an effective way to get everyone aligned and hitting their goals or they can be a waste of time for everyone who attends.
Too often, these meetings end up wasting everyone’s time. In fact, 34% of respondents in one survey said they waste 2-5 hours per week on meetings that didn’t accomplish anything.
However, this shouldn’t be the case. So, we reached out to a couple dozen managers at marketing agencies and professional service companies to learn how they structure their team meetings to be more useful and enjoyable.
In addition, more than 65% of our survey respondents keep the number of people in their weekly meetings on the smaller side with 10 or fewer attendees.
In this post, we’re sharing 11 tips to make your weekly team meetings run smoother, including:
- Plan ahead
- Decide on a purpose, agenda, and time limit in advance
- Create an agenda
- Use a collaborative agenda
- Prioritize the most important updates
- Be explicit about what you won’t cover
- Keep your team engaged
- Allow time at the beginning of the meeting for watercooler talk
- Create a safe space for discussions
- Be consistent
- Make sure everyone is aligned on next steps
1. Plan ahead
By far, the best way to ensure your weekly team meetings are productive is to plan what you’ll cover in advance.
“Prepare for the meeting ahead,” says Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers Marketing. “To keep your weekly team meetings productive and effective, you want to plan ahead the main topics you’re going to talk about and keep it to the schedule. Don’t just start conversations randomly without having a meeting calendar because if you do that, the meeting will last forever and you won’t gain much from it.”
In fact, it can be helpful to have a set meeting structure and format outlining the key topics you cover each week.
For example, Angela Hawkins of Voices says, “Our weekly marketing meetings on Mondays—not including project check-ins—are focused on making sure we’re cohesive and in the loop as a team. We discuss what tasks are up and coming for the week ahead, how we’re progressing on those tasks, and whether there are any potential issues or roadblocks that require assistance in order to be able to move forward with next steps. We also have an end-of-week meeting on Fridays so the team has an opportunity to highlight triumphs, challenges, and accomplishments, which again serves to keep everyone on the same page and celebrate weekly wins.”
2. Decide on a purpose, agenda, and time limit in advance
Another advantage to planning ahead is that you can get clear on the purpose of these weekly meetings.
“Ensure that your meetings always have a purpose and that you enforce that purpose throughout the meeting,” says Julia Tiedt of SmartBug Media. “A weekly team meeting isn’t the purpose of the meeting, but a category of meeting. The purpose could be to align on weekly priorities or something similar.”
Paige Arnof-Fenn of Mavens & Moguls adds, “One trick I learned when I worked in Corporate America right after school was the rule that every meeting needed a PAL — Purpose, Agenda and time Limit to be successful.
It turns out that when everyone invited to the meeting knows why they are there and gets the agenda in advance and it clearly states how in-depth each topic covered will be discussed you are well on your way to a great meeting! This way if people need to do some research in advance or have a pre-meeting to discuss something before bringing it up in front of the full group, they have time to prepare and no time is wasted around the table.
This process sends a very powerful message to the organization and affects the culture of the group too. It communicates that your time is valuable and we want you to perform at your best, contribute where you can, and always be prepared. It is a great feeling to solve problems and watch your business grow. Nothing happens in a vacuum alone, it takes a lot of people (and meetings!) to move the needle no matter what field you are in. There is a huge sense of pride and satisfaction when you are associated with a winning team.”
3. Create an agenda
In addition, creating an agenda for all of your weekly meetings will ensure you cover what you need in the time allotted. This ensures your meetings are focused and don’t go over time.
“Prepare an agenda with bullet points, names of those who will be expected to input on each desired outcome, and share with all attendees in advance,” says Alistair Dodds of Ever Increasing Circles. “If possible, give a day’s notice of the agenda so attendees can prepare. This helps ensure a smooth meeting that stays on schedule and on topic.”
Lora Huhn of Vye says, “A written agenda will set the expectations of the meeting, keep everyone on track. The agenda should include, who’s in the meeting, topics to be discussed, and list any to-dos you had from the previous meeting. Discussion without follow-through is a waste of everyone’s time. If the discussion turns to something not on the agenda, cut it off, especially if it’s not helpful.”
Alina Clark of Cocodoc adds, “Creating a weekly agenda way before the day of the meeting makes our weekly meetings efficient. Weekly meetings shouldn’t be there for the sake of meetings. You need a purpose before the meeting. As such, the agenda should come way before the meeting even happens. Most companies create weekly meeting schedules to review the week. As much as a weekly review is an agenda, it doesn’t really necessitate the need for a meeting every other week. Reviews can be done through reports. We try to create the meeting agendas a few days before the meeting. We then post the agenda on our shared chatrooms. This allows everyone to prepare. Creating agenda’s thirty minutes before the meeting, or going into weekly meetings with no set agendas create ineffective banter zones, where nothing is really achieved.”
4. Use a collaborative agenda
Many marketing agencies and professional services we surveyed take this a step further by using software that makes it easier to collaborate when creating an agenda.
For example, Drew Beechler of High Alpha says, “My biggest tip for effective weekly team meetings is to always have a collaborative meeting agenda that is prepared jointly prior to the meeting. I personally use Docket for all my team meeting agendas — it keeps our meetings organized, collaborative, and actionable.”
Dorian Wallace of Insynth Marketing adds, “We used to track our deliverables on notepads, and every week we’d go through an unimaginable amount of paperwork. However, we went back to the drawing board on how to run our weekly meetings and adopted ClickUp. ClickUp is a project management tool that aims to make your business life easier, and it certainly does that. With ClickUp we can track every single deliverable and their progress down to the minute, see who’s struggling and needs support, see who’s at capacity, and just optimize our workflow on the whole and increase accountability and efficiency. We get ClickUp up on the big screen so everyone can see it and it just makes everything that bit more organized, it has especially helped us as we’ve grown. I can’t imagine our workflow without it.”
5. Prioritize the most important updates
After your watercooler chatter, dive right into the most urgent and important topics first. This ensures you actually cover them.
“One week is nothing when you consider an entire marketing campaign,” says Aaron Agius of Louder Online. “Keep that in mind when running weekly team meetings, and make sure to focus only on the important stuff. There’s no reason to overthink and over-discuss metrics unless it keeps happening. Look to discuss the weekly performance in general and discuss outliers.”
PRO TIP: Get a Live Overview of Your Most Important Projects In a Single Dashboard
Project management is all about juggling: resources, expectations, people, data, and much more. And as a project manager, you not only have to know where your projects are at any given moment, but you also have to be aware of where they’re going and where they need to be in the future. To do that using a project management system, you need an actionable dashboard that allows you to monitor metrics like:
- Tasks completed by project. Get a live update on the total number of tasks that have been completed in a particular project and track how many tasks actually get completed on a daily basis.
- Total hourse tracked. See how many hours are tracked on a monthly, quarterly and yearly basis. Split tracked time by project, client, tasks, and team.
- Tasks overdue by project. At any time, see how many project tasks are overdue, and take appropriate action to get them back on track.
- Tasks completed by project. At any time, see how many tasks have been completed in a project and how many tasks remain to be completed.
Now you can benefit from the experience of our project managers, who have put together great plug-and-play Databox templates showing the most important KPIs for tracking your team’s performance. It’s simple to implement and start using as a standalone dashboard or in management reports, and best of all, it’s free!
You can easily set it up in just a few clicks – no coding required.
To set up the dashboard, follow these 3 simple steps:
Step 1: Get the template
Step 2: Connect your project management tool with Databox.
Step 3: Watch your dashboard populate in seconds.
6. Be explicit about what you won’t cover
Oftentimes, the most important of your weekly meeting agendas is what you decide to leave off of them.
Alex Birkett of Conversion.AI says, “This is something I’ve thought a lot about recently, having revamped the weekly team meeting. It’s more important to think about what *shouldn’t* be covered in a weekly team meeting since I find that they can expand indefinitely, especially if you have a large number of people attending. What you cover will be specific to your organization, but typically include reporting on key metrics and progress towards goals as well as big projects completed, in progress, and planned. I like to avoid detailed feedback sessions and problem-solving (better suited to one-on-ones and asynchronous communications). I also like to avoid analysis and group brainstorming, because decision by committee is rarely a good decision (again, best to do this one-on-one or asynchronously or even in dedicated brainstorming sessions).”
7. Keep your team engaged
Many weekly team meetings as well as reporting meetings get a bad wrap because it is one or a few people who are doing all of the talking. Everyone else is on mute and silently wondering why this call wasn’t an email.
A simple way to make your meetings more engaging is to share the mic and encourage everyone on your team to talk.
“Encourage employee participation,” says Chris Wilks of BrandExtract. “Employees will lose interest rapidly if it’s always a manager just dictating statuses of projects and company updates. Make sure you allow for employees to contribute and share.”
Rahul Vij of WebSpero Solutions says, “When it’s a team meeting, everyone should be allowed to speak their minds. They must have valuable inputs to help you improve your organization’s culture and work ethics. Enabling everyone to open up and share their views also makes meetings engaging and beneficial for the participants.”
Jordan Brannon of Coalition Technologies adds, “Make it fun to keep the team engaged. It’s good to spice up a meeting with a little bit of humor so that everyone’s eyes don’t glaze over during a topic that maybe isn’t terribly exciting to cover. To really keep the team engaged, it is good to occasionally call out one team member and ask them their thoughts on a topic that was just discussed. Putting them on the spot to speak up tends to keep the whole team paying attention as they know there is a chance they could be called upon at any time.”
8. Allow time at the beginning of the meeting for watercooler talk
One of the easiest ways to make calls more engaging is to start it with a few minutes of watercooler talk.
Janice Wald of Mostly Blogging explains, “It’s vital to stay focused. Inevitably, people who haven’t caught up in a week will bird walk, in other words, discuss topics not related to business. These are water cooler conversations that can range from personal to sports. By allowing time for this, we make sure the conversation stays focused once we start talking about our business accomplishments for the week.”
9. Create a safe space for discussions
Another key to empowering all employees to participate is to provide a collaborative and healthy work environment.
Lauren Walter of Online Optimism explains, “Leave plenty of room for open communication and foster an environment that invites team members to seek clarity freely. When having a meeting, we are dedicating a portion of our time to seek and receive support from team members. In order to reach that goal and have an effective meeting, there needs to be space for questions, concerns, and ideas to be raised comfortably.”
10. Be consistent
Having weekly team meetings implies that they will take place weekly. So, this means consistency is everything.
“Keep them consistent – but not the same,” says AJ Alonzo of demandDrive. “You should cover the essentials every week and make sure your team knows the important stuff, but if you do the same thing week in and week out they’ll start to tune you out. Switch things up by running a workshop, bringing in a guest speaker (could be someone from another team or from outside the organization entirely), running scenario training…basically, anything to shake up the regular cadence of your meeting without fully moving away from the essentials. This way your team gets what they need on a weekly basis without feeling monotonous.”
Harriet Chan of CocoFinder adds, “We ensure to create a weekly agenda and all team members have a commitment to attend the meetings and be punctual. It is vital to be consistent and prepare in advance by picking a time that works for everyone and sticking to it so that everyone will be on board, leading to an increase in participation.”
11. Make sure everyone is aligned on next steps
Finally, make sure that you articulate any action items and next steps that need to happen after your weekly calls.
“One of the most essential advantages of team meetings is that they allow you to guarantee that everyone in your team is on the same page,” says Ben Richardson of Development Academy. “As a result, you should use your weekly team meetings to go through critical metrics, dashboards, and the team’s overall success. Every team in a company should have a set of objectives, which should be concrete, actionable, and well-communicated. The engineering team has set quality and feature objectives. The marketing department has set goals for positioning, pricing, and content. Quotas exist in sales. These objectives outline what people are striving for daily. There is never any doubt about why or what people are doing when everyone has goals and they are shared. Meetings are defined by their objectives.”
In sum, these are a handful of tips you can use to hold more efficient team meetings that your team members won’t dread attending.