9 tips for better meetings

The most important resource for any team is always the people on it, and by extension, their time. Meetings can be an important tool, but they're also often overused, frustrating, and unproductive. Especially when working remotely, it's important to be thoughtful about the way that you communicate with your time. Keeping a few key things in mind during your next meetings can help you make sure that everyone's time is used effectively.

1 . Have meetings for the right reasons

Too often, meetings are held even if there isn't a particularly good reason. Before scheduling a new meeting, take a moment to consider if there's a more effective way to communicate. If you need to run through status reports, send an email. If you just want to touch base with someone, try messaging them on Slack.

While some meetings can be avoided, sometimes you just do need to host a meeting to move your project forward. Great reasons for scheduling a meeting include reaching a decision, coordinating work, brainstorming ideas (but keep it structured!), and weekly 1:1s.

2. Schedule your meetings thoughtfully

Even if it is necessary to have a meeting, keep in mind ways that you can schedule it while helping preserve heads-down time. Meetings require context-switching, and distractions like this inevitably interrupt work. Look for opportunities to schedule meetings adjacent to each other to try to preserve blocks of time, or request a different time if needed.

3. Set a meeting up for success

Going into a meeting armed with a few key things will help you make the most of it, and use that time effectively. All meetings should ideally have:

  • an objective
  • an agenda, preferably action-oriented
  • a facilitator/leader
  • outcomes
  • assigned next steps

Be sure to provide any materials or context to be read or reviewed before the meeting starts.

4. Keep meetings small

Meetings should include as few people as are needed to accomplish the meeting’s objective. Attendees should have a role in accomplishing that objective — for example, be decision-makers. Everyone else can be emailed outcomes and next steps after the meeting is over.

5. Keep meetings short

Think critically about how much time you need, and try to be thoughtful of your coworker's schedules. For example, don’t make a meeting an hour when it can be 30 minutes. If you schedule the hour, you’ll likely use the hour — it’s just human nature.

A good tip to accomplish this is to change your default Google Calendar meeting length to 30 minutes instead of 60. Google Calendar also has a feature called "Speedy meetings" that shortens default meeting times to 25 and 50 minutes. By ending a meeting a few minutes early, you allow everyone time to gather their thoughts and capture next steps.

6. Respect each other’s time

Review all of the materials provided before the meeting, so you don't waste time reviewing information during the meeting. All attendees should be on time, and all meeting leaders should start (and end) on time. A good way to start effectively is to recap previous discussions and decisions to provide context.

7. Respect each other

Be mindful of everyone else attending the meeting. Whether you're having an in-person meeting or working remotely, it's important to close your laptop and put your phone in your pocket (not on the table), unless taking notes. Practice active listening to improve your communication and make sure you don't miss any critical information. Avoid talking over one another to respect everyone's time and thoughts.

8. Take notes

Having actionable meeting notes is one of the most powerful outcomes of any meeting. Be sure to identify someone — ideally not the facilitator — to take notes. Share key points, outcomes, next steps with those that couldn’t attend or didn’t need to. Using a tool like Input is a great way to create powerful meeting notes that can act as a living document that everyone can reference and work from.

9. Finish strong

End your meetings the right way. Close with a plan of action, and reiterate next steps to make sure that everything is clear. Now, all you have left is to go forth and conquer!

Input is a powerful tool that uses docs to help you actually get things done. With Input, you can turn everything — including meeting notes — into an actionable, assignable task, helping you lead projects from start to finish in a smart doc. Signing up for Input is free.