Review the previous blog post on improving meetings.
This continues the theme of discussing the various types of meetings and what are some specific ways to improve them.
Here are some specific meeting types:
- Review & Approval
- Decision Making
- Alignment & Status Meetings
- Relationship Building
Review & Approval Meetings
These meetings exist solely because some work gets done and needs to be reviewed and/or approved before it gets to the next step. Usually, managers are the ones who come to this meeting as reviewers and approvers of work done and to give feedback.
For these types of meetings here are a few specific things that will make them way better:
- Send Pre-Read meeting material to be reviewed/and or approved way ahead of time. Preferably, a minimum of at least 2-3 days.
- Ensure only the absolute minimum set of people are invited. Larger the meeting, the lesser the chance that the meeting stays on track and on time
- Summarize the meeting and check for explicit approval or next steps at the end of the meeting.
Many times, there might be many paths forward and one of the best ways to decide the way forward is to have a discussion around these options and weigh the pros and cons of each. Although it might appear that a meeting might be important to schedule in these cases, many decisions can be made without a meeting itself.
- Schedule a meeting only if really required, and use async decision-making via email and other communication channels
- Invite only the people who can make the decision. Cancel the meeting if the key decision-maker cannot make it.
- Send all Pre-Read material to be ahead of time. Preferably, a minimum of at least 2-3 days. This allows attendees to come better prepared for the meeting and there is minimum time wasted on filling everyone in.
- The Pre-Read materials should contain the pros/cons of each decision option and also the recommended decision option whenever possible as well as why it is the recommended option.
- Once a decision is made, ensure that the decision outcome is widely distributed across the organization. It is one thing to make a decision, but that decision only becomes an outcome when disseminated widely.
This is one of the most common types of meetings in organizations today. Usually, something comes up and there is no clarity or understanding of the path forward and a meeting is called for.
- The key to making these meetings successful is including the right people. Include people in these calls who actually contribute and have something to say. If people generally remain silent or don’t contribute, ignore them in the next meeting invite.
- Start the meeting strong and end it strong by having the meeting organizer summarize the problem statement, progress and unknowns.
- Track action items and assignments; follow up on the next meeting
Alignment and Status Meetings
When an organization gets to a point where there are many large teams, you get behavior where each team really optimizes for its own function without regard to other teams or overall company progress. To break these kinds of deadlocks, you will need frequent alignment meetings so that everyone remains on the same page and everyone is working on the same priorities.
Usually, these are the most boring type of meetings as people talk about what they are working on and everyone goes around the table and you pay attention just long enough till your turn is over. There is a way to run these types of meetings quickly and efficiently and I will share this on another post separately.
The main way you make these meetings effective is by having a system where there is a way to write down status/blockers/progress *before* the meeting starts so that the first 10 mins are spent by attendees reading through these and discussing anything impactful or important directly. This turns the regular status meeting into an interactive discussion. See a full blog post on making these meetings way better.
Relationship Building Meetings
Many types of meetings like 1:1s with managers, and check-in calls are more about mentorship and coaching and less about specific work items. For these meetings:
- Frequent quick check-ins have an outsized benefit over longer formal meetings.
- Consider weekly async status reports as a way to catch up with a team to avoid an overload of 1:1s
- Have a list of topics to talk about and track over time to see progress
These are typically large one-way communication meetings: a company all-hands meeting is a good example of such a meeting.
For these meetings to be successful, they need to be
- Short and to the point, typically anything over 1 hour is too long
- The material needs to be at the right level of depth, context and understanding for the audience. One of the biggest problems seen in these calls is that there is a detailed presentation on some topic that one one else in the general audience can follow and they quickly give up.
- Each presenter can not present more than 5-7 slides as a rule of thumb and not speak for more than 10-15 mins.
- Ensure these meetings are recorded and available to people who cannot attend the call.
Read more about meetings: Better status meetings.