Meetings are an important part of any organization, yet they can be frustrating, unproductive, and cause attendees to become disengaged if not planned properly....
If you're growing a company or leading a team, it's important to have a strong meeting culture. Good meeting culture ensures that everyone is on the same page, communication is clear, and decisions are made efficiently. Unfortunately, not all teams have good meeting culture. In fact, many teams struggle with ineffective meetings that waste time, energy, and even money.
When a company meeting culture is varied, poor, or simply not fit for purpose, it will have a major impact on the business. Poor meeting culture will lead to misalignment, miscommunication, frustration, and even conflict among team members. This will lead to difficulties in making decisions, achieving goals, and completing everyday tasks.
Large corporations address meeting culture by incorporating unconventional methods into their meeting practices. For example, Facebook has a "no meeting" day every Wednesday, which allows employees to have uninterrupted time to work on their projects. Virgin Atlantic Airways holds "walking meetings," where employees take a walk around the block while they discuss business. Other companies encourage standing meetings, which have been shown to improve focus and efficiency.
Not every company gets this right though, for example, Google's meetings are notorious for being "unproductive." The company has even been known to hire outside consultants to help improve the meeting culture.
While these methods may not be practical for every team, it's important to understand that meeting culture is important and impact every aspect of your team.
Over the years we have grown to consider meeting culture consisting of three distinct parts:
- Meeting preparation: Many meetings go wrong even before they get started, this is where key factors like setting an agenda can help.
- Conducting the meeting: We tend to consider meeting culture to be part of the event itself. There are several aspects involved in running a successful meeting, which we will cover in this guide.
- Notes and follow-up: For effective decision making, the meeting is not over when the attendees left the room, but the practices like meeting notes, action items, etc. are gone through in part of our guide.
Why is Meeting Culture Currently a Problem
There are a number of reasons why meeting culture is currently a problem. The main one is that people aren't valuing meetings as much as they should be. This has led to employees feeling like meetings are a waste of time, resulting in them becoming unproductive, disruptive, and disengaged.
HBR surveyed "182 senior managers in a range of industries: 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work. 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient. 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking. 62% said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together."
This could be due to companies seeing meetings as a formality rather than an opportunity to encourage their employees. The average worker spends 31 hours in meetings every month, which is a lot of time that could be spent more productively. If companies want to improve meeting culture, they need to start by valuing their employees' time and making meetings more efficient and effective.
This is often caused by ineffective pre-meeting planning, a lack of focus during the meeting, and poor post-meeting follow-up. All of these things can be improved with the right tools and processes in place.
Meeting Preparation | setting the tone for meeting culture
Establishing a process and structure when planning your meeting is vital as it sets the foundation for everything that follows. Certain aspects to consider and focus on include planning meeting outcomes, identifying topic discussions, and locations, creating an agenda, and more. If one or more of these factors is misaligned, it will create a knock-on effect for the rest of the meeting and post-meeting.
Ultimately, pre-meeting preparation is roughly 40% of the entire meeting cycle. Without setting the standards for your meeting and planning efficiently, the entire process will fail, making this stage of meeting culture the most important aspect.
Some key things that should be considered pre-meeting are:
- Setting an agenda.
- Identifying key stakeholders
- Setting a facilitator for the meeting
- Sending a calendar invite
- What kind of meeting it is going to be
- What is the goal of the meeting
- When and where the meeting is going to take place
- How long the meeting will last
By getting all of these things straightened out before the meeting, you can avoid any stressful surprises or disruptions.
Arguably, one of the key factors in meeting preparation is the Agenda. An agenda is a structure of the meeting that contains all of the talking points and action items for a meeting. It helps keep everyone on track and focused during the meeting, but more importantly, it will ensure that the goal or goals of the meeting are achieved, avoiding wasted time.
A meeting agenda should consist of the following:
- Purpose of the meeting like topic or goal.
- A list of known participants and any additional resources needed for the meeting.
- Timestamps for each talking point.
- Action items and any decisions that need to be made during the meeting.
Agendaless meeting metrics can be used to identify those meetings that fail to achieve their goals and waste valuable time. Your agenda should be distributed ideally a week before your meeting takes place.
These metrics provide the opportunity to improve your meeting planning and ultimately your pre-meeting culture, to ensure that your company fosters a positive meeting culture going forward.
Using a tool like Flowtrace, you can see the metrics related to agendaless meetings, teams that accept invites, attend meetings, and how those metrics evolve over time.
You can find more in-depth reading about setting the tone for successful meeting by reading our Meeting Preparation Checklist | How to plan meetings effectively blog post.
Conducting the meeting - Fostering your meeting culture
In order for your meeting to be successful, there are several key areas to focus on including tone, punctuality, engagement, and following an agenda. These are vital for setting standards across a company and ensuring that each meeting is on track, engaging, and most of all, effective. Some of the main purposes of a meeting include:
- Making a decision
- Solving a problem
- Brainstorming ideas
- Team building
The success of a meeting, and also setting a positive meeting culture, can be determined mostly by having a meeting agenda, in addition to smaller factors such as the personality of the host, the management style, and even the company's standards. If the meeting isn't effectively planned pre-meeting, then it's likely that the meeting itself will be unsuccessful. Consider these examples:
Open and Friendly Meeting
This allows employees to feel involved and free to contribute, creating a warm and open atmosphere. However, it can cause everyone to become too relaxed and take advantage of it; freely arriving late, veering off topics, creating distractions, and disrupting the meeting flow.
Closed and Directional Meeting
This would be a meeting host not allowing any contributions, directly addressing the room, and creating a closed-off 'boring' atmosphere. Whilst it can get the point across and avoid wasting time, employees will be disinterested and will lack motivation.
It is important to find the balance and create an in-meeting culture that encourages teams to participate, respects the time and setup, and motivates them to take action based on the outcome.
Some of the key points to consider in order to set a positive in-meeting culture include:
- Following the meeting agenda - Avoid going off-track
- Focus on problem-solving and important topics
- Empower employees through recognition
- Set a designated note-taker (not the host)
- Don't overrun the meeting or start early
- Avoid extra 'fluff' to fill time
- Focus on the strengths of the attendees to maximize engagement
- If conducting a video meeting, ensure attendees are limited and able to access a quiet office space.
When holding a meeting, it is important to allow everyone an opportunity to speak, having a balance of participation. This helps attendees to feel engaged, promotes discussion, and gathers new ideas. In order to achieve a positive meeting culture, you can use this free guide from Flowtrace:
Free Guide - Internal Meeting Template
Aside from the guide, Flowtrace can help you with metrics on meeting punctuality, attendance, and soon, the participation share of people talking in a meeting. We have covered the topic more in detail in our How to run a meeting succesfully blog post.
Follow up actions - improving your Meeting Culture
The steps that you take following a meeting can be determined by how the meeting ended, what actions were decided upon, and if there is any sort of follow-up or review. A meeting follow-up can include an email summary, appreciation for attending, next steps needed, and a feedback form.
If a meeting ends on a positive note with decisions made and the next steps discussed, then it's likely that the meeting achieved its goals, and the culture you are building is improving.
However, if the meeting ends with employees feeling frustrated, angry, or unheard, this will likely affect your future meetings and can cause disruption amongst teams, ultimately your post-meeting culture will reflect that. Again, this all comes down to the planning of the meeting and how the meeting is run, every stage of meeting culture impacts the entire culture of meetings company-wide.
It is important to have post-meeting action items in place so that attendees know what they are responsible for and management is aware of the goals achieved. This will help to improve communication and avoid any confusion post-meeting.
As we discussed, a good meeting has a purpose and an ideal outcome in mind, and without a purpose, the meeting is a waste of everyone's time. Therefore to identify if a meeting was successful it is important to consider the following:
- Was the goal achieved - how was it achieved?
- Why wasn't the goal achieved?
- Collecting feedback on how the meeting was for participants; a win here is to get meeting feedback without asking for it.
Understanding whether your meeting achieved the goals it set out to achieve will help to partly identify whether you have a problem with your meeting culture, and take necessary steps to improve it. You can read more about our post-meeting thinking from How to collect meeting feedback blog post.
Improving Meeting Culture with Flowtrace
Flowtrace takes a systematic approach to optimize meeting culture by providing an all-in-one meeting culture solution. With our meeting culture toolbox, you can visualize important metrics such as how many agendaless meetings were run, punctuality ratings of teams, meeting delay costs, and other useful metrics across your business. These help you analyze your meeting data, identify problem areas to focus on, and take action to improve holistic meeting culture
It takes seconds to set up Flowtrace and we are integrated with different collaboration platforms. Let us take your time away from stressing about how to improve or set a good meeting culture, and allow Flowtrace to point you in the right direction. You can get started for free.
By showing these metrics, they can be used in comparison with your meeting goals to identify if your meeting was a success or not. If you want to improve your meeting culture, sign-up for Flowtrace today!
Culture is important, and the way we run our meetings is a reflection of that. By taking the time to implement some or all of these steps, we can improve our meeting culture and make sure that everyone feels valued and heard. Meetings are a chance for us to come together and collaborate, so let's make them productive, effective, and standard practice, using Flowtrace as a solution.
Flowtrace is an inter-team collaboration analytics platform revealing how work gets done in your business. Meetings are an important part of the information flow and we are designed from the ground up to reveal all important aspects of your teamwork, and meeting culture to support your team to achieve more, with better quality, and well-aligned to other team’s efforts.