Making team meetings productive, interesting, and fun

A man and woman sitting at a table with a laptop.

With more and more organisations transitioning from remote to office working, this article looks at face-to-face team meetings as a golden opportunity for a team to gather again around the same table and make team meetings productive, interesting, and fun.

1. Making team meeting productive: what is the purpose of our meeting?

To be productive, a meeting must have a purpose—and that purpose must be crystal clear. A clear purpose is, for example, one or a combination of the following:

  • We meet to share information (e.g., inform we will be in charge of a new project, cascade organisation’s updates) and/or give instructions (e.g., who does what by when).
  • We meet to gather information and discuss (e.g., who dealt with a similar matter in the past, what did they learn).
  • We meet to brainstorm as a team (e.g., we need to significantly speed up a workstream. Ideas on how shifting gear?).
  • We meet to make decisions (e.g., we need to deliver a presentation and decide when it will be held, which topics are chosen, and who is in charge).

We’ll have a better meeting if people are aligned on purpose and know their roles in advance. For example, suppose James enters the meeting thinking the team will go in brainstorm mode to discuss a new project while Vicky thinks she will hear about a new department set-up. In that case, we are using team meeting time to shift attitudes and align expectations. James is entering the meeting in ready-to-contribute mode. Vicky is entering listening mode. We could have aligned expectations up front and, on occasions, avoided any resulting frustration.

Setting the purpose of the meeting means the meeting will do what it says on the tin: “Weekly Progress Meeting on Project Skywalker.” The meeting needs preparation to be a productive meeting. Preparation includes collecting documents, information, or input needed to make good use of team meeting time. It means the agenda has been circulated beforehand, and time has been allocated realistically to each item. Preparing also includes having considered what we aim to achieve for each key item.

2. Making team meeting interesting: is everyone contributing?

Once the primary purpose of the meeting has been made clear to all participants, and the meeting has been prepared, there needs to be participation for a team meeting to be successful. If the meeting is interesting, team members will participate. What ‘interesting’ means is, usually, a very subjective test. However, ‘interesting’ usually includes discussing a topic that matters to the team. Sometimes, the topic that matters the most to the team. To find out, we can ask questions like, ‘Is there a topic of particular interest you’d like to discuss at our next team meeting?’

Participation from team members involves ensuring team meetings are people-focused, and everyone has a turn. If only one or two members run the show, the meeting is about them – not about the team. If the meeting is a dry going around the table of ‘what’s going on,’ the meeting is about reporting individual matters. It is not about the team. A team meeting about the team ensures everyone contributes and has a role. We can plan contributions in advance, such as asking our team members to share progress or lessons learned on a matter of general interest to the team. Setting up roles may include, for example, assigning on rotation the task of wrapping up and circulating action points to the team at the end of the meeting. It may involve creating new roles, such as being the challenger of the team priorities and, during the team meeting, questioning whether actions still align with priorities.

When a team meeting is about everyone and includes everyone, usually everyone is interested. Indicators we are running good team meetings are noticeably improved communication (people talk), delivering our agenda, and avoiding the meeting going into (unnecessary) derail. It also means that better ideas have been exchanged, that everyone is comfortable, and that the team leaves the meeting energised.

3. Making team meeting fun: how is the mood of the team?

The points above deal with good planning and execution to make team meetings productive. Making team meetings enjoyable means bringing in a quality element to our meetings. For a meeting to be enjoyable, the level of engagement must be raised, and non-verbal communication must be leveraged, being it is unique to face-to-face meetings. Face-to-face meetings are precious occasions in which the team gathers around the same table in person. This is a golden opportunity to coach the team to work as a team, restate what makes the team unique, appreciate efforts and achievements, and use whole-body listening.

Each team meeting is a team-building opportunity. In addition, each team meeting is an opportunity to solve a problem that matters to the team. Fun can be a regular component of team meetings and reduce the boring bits. How can fun be added? Start with what your team enjoys doing together. We can get people engaged by asking, for example, to share their proudest moment of the week, either at work or in their personal life. We can start our meeting with a 5-minute quiz on fun company facts. We can get our team playing a game, for example, brain-writing—asking each participant to write down their ideas on a question on a post-it note for a few minutes and then passing their ideas on to someone else, who reads the ideas and adds new ideas. This repeats for 10-15 minutes, and the outcome then becomes material for discussion. The question to address could be this: How can we improve our team meetings?

Experiencing any of these issues? Find out how coaching can support your specific challenges.

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