Okay, moment of truth.

Raise your hand if you have ever groaned after receiving a meeting invite.

We all have.

As a leader, it can be difficult to motivate team members to participate in a meeting, let alone get everyone together in the same room.

And with the availability and accessibility of technology, many meetings take place virtually via video chat, which adds another level of complexity. In fact, most team members who join virtual meetings are often multi-tasking or working on other things.

The cold, hard truth is that most team members dislike meetings. Team members would rather spend their time working on their tasks or projects than sit in a meeting. This is because meetings are typically disorganized, mismanaged, or simply a waste of time. Meetings are often scheduled and held without a clear agenda, goal, and timeframe.

However, as a project leader, you have the power to change all this. When planned and managed properly, your meetings can be productive, motivating, and engaging. Good, productive meetings that are well thought out and well planned can enhance team collaboration, increase trust among the team, and address crucial project needs.

In this article, we will share some tips on how to run a meeting—like a boss.

8 Tips for Productive Meetings

1. Plan in Advance. Productive project meetings require effective planning. This applies to all meetings—not just the weekly, biweekly, or recurring meetings.

Many managers fall short of planning meetings. They see a need or a conflict and immediately throw a meeting on the calendar without putting much thought behind its purpose or the goal. Yes, meetings are a great opportunity to address challenges, conflicts, or solve a problem, but it’s important to think them through and plan first.

So, before scheduling a meeting the next time a need arises, ask some of these questions: What is the purpose? What do we want to address, accomplish or solve? What is an appropriate length of time?

When considering the length of time, don’t book a 60-minute meeting when realistically 15 minutes will do. Respect others’ time!

2. Set an Agenda. As part of your planning process, establish the meeting structure with a clear agenda. The agenda doesn’t have to be a giant document (unless appropriate, of course), it could be a list of topics to discuss in the “description” section of a calendar invite.

Make a list of items to cover and discuss, consider a realistic amount of time to address each one, and estimate the appropriate meeting length. Don’t forget to leave some time for Q&A, open discussions, and collaboration at the end.

If you think agendas are a waste of time, think again… Agendas will not only inform team members as to why the meeting was scheduled in the first place, but they also give team members a chance to come prepared. In fact, some companies make it a rule that EVERY meeting invite has an agenda.

3. Ask the Right Questions. Depending on your team and the reason, purpose, and goal of the meeting, be sure to make a list of questions to ask the team.

For example, if you are meeting to discuss the progress of a current project, in order to get the answers you need as a leader, you might want to ask questions, such as “Is what we are working on meeting project goals? Business goals?” “Is the project progressing satisfactorily?” “How can I help deliver your results?”

All in all, the goal is to make a list of or take note of questions that will give you the answers you need as a leader, spearhead discussion and collaboration, and address challenges or roadblocks.

4. Use the Right Tools. No meeting should be scheduled without integrating the right tools to facilitate that meeting. For example, do you need a meeting room with a whiteboard? Do you have enough sticky notes? Do you have the right technology?

If you are conducting a virtual meeting, you could use a tool like MindMeister, which allows the team leader or facilitator to take notes virtually for all participants to see in real time. It also allows participants to add notes and collaborate.

Be sure that your meeting is as productive as possible by having the right tools ready to go.

One of the best activities you can do in a meeting is pulling up your project management tool and entering in tasks and projects together as a team. Plus, you can create any automations right there on the spot for workflow and process management.

5. Use a Timer. Again, be sure to respect others’ time. If you booked a meeting for 30 minutes, then do your best to stick to those 30 minutes. If you have a lot of topics to cover within that timeframe, then use a timer to help you keep track. Timers give everyone an added sense of focus and urgency.

Some project leaders dislike using a timer (I’m one of them!) as they don’t want to disrupt others while they are speaking. However, the best way to address this is by explaining the purpose of the timer. For example, you could say, “I’m going to use a timer to keep things moving. When it goes off, it is simply a reminder for us to move onto the next topic. It’s a guideline, not a fire alarm.”

If the team is really collaborating and working together, and conflicts are being addressed, and the meeting end time is quickly approaching, gently announce that the meeting is about to end. Then, give the team a choice. Do they want to stay in the meeting longer to continue the discussion, or reschedule a meeting for another time?

6. Take Notes. Always, always, always take notes for every meeting—no matter how short. As a project leader, if you have to conduct the meeting and are unable to take notes, then ask for a volunteer note-taker in the group. Meeting notes can be documented in the following format:

  • Meeting date and time
  • Participants’ first names
  • A copy of the agenda
  • A summary of topics discussed
  • Action items

Editor’s Note: Dropbox Paper is an excellent tool for automatically creating an agenda and notes based on your upcoming meetings. If you integrate it with Google Calendar, you can instantly create a document for the meeting complete with the information above.

Remember, the purpose of recording meeting notes is to document what was discussed as well as action items. After the meeting, be sure to circulate the meeting notes and store them in a centralized sharing location (such as Dropbox or Google Drive) where team members can access and refer to them at any time.

7. Ask Team Members to Come Prepared. This step is a shared responsibility between the project leader and meeting participants. Of course, you can’t exactly enforce that every participant comes prepared, but a gentle reminder can go a long way. Furthermore, if participants are expected to speak or present during the meeting, then they are more likely to come prepared.

8. Ask for Feedback. Many team leaders forget or skip over this step, however, it is one of the most important. By asking team members for feedback on meetings, you can improve the format and structure of your meetings and how you approach them, which can motivate and engage team members to participate in the future.

If there is time at the end of your meeting, ask the team for feedback. What did they think of the format or structure? Did they find value from the meeting? What worked or didn’t work for them? What could be done better in the future?

Set Your Projects—and Your Team—Up for Success

I think we can all agree that there’s nothing worse than sitting in a meeting that is pointless, boring, or off-topic. As a project leader, if you notice team members aren’t participating in discussions, staring at the conference room clock—or worse, skipping your meetings altogether—then it’s time to rethink how you are conducting your meetings. After all, there isn’t anything worse than trying to conduct team meetings when participants are absent.

Many project leaders lack the structure, execution, and organization of their meetings. This not only has a direct negative impact on team morale and collaboration but also on your projects. A lack of a proper meeting framework will inevitably waste project resources and what every project manager needs: time.

If you are concerned with how much time you and your team are spending on meetings from a budget perspective, then get into the habit of estimating the amount of time you will need for meetings into the project plan during the initiation or envision stages.

Remember, meetings should have a direct correlation or impact on reducing risks, ensuring financial value (to the company or the customer), and cost. If meetings do not provide value to these areas, then you may want to reconsider their purpose.

Plan Productive Meetings with Rindle

Planning meetings becomes easier with Rindle. Rindle is a complete project management tool that is easy to adopt and use for managing projects and teams. It is designed with a wealth of collaboration features, such as comment threads, messages, and email updates, making it easy to communicate effectively with remote and virtual teams.

You can easily create a series of cards or an individual card specifically for meetings. You can keep this card in the “backlog” column and store running meeting notes, share agendas, and topics to discuss.

Planning and participating in team meetings don’t have to be a waste of time. Plan meetings like a boss with Rindle.