The world of meetings has become more complex in recent years. Nowadays, many teams are remote or hybrid, where traditional norms for in-person meetings are getting an update. Meeting integrity matters more now than ever.
When we say meeting integrity, we mean a few things:
- Leading a meeting where all invitees feel included and safe to speak
- Creating an environment where communication is easy and open for all participants
- Running meetings in a way that respects all guests’ time and boundaries
In essence, conducting meetings with meeting integrity means holding them in a way that shows respect to all attendees.
Part of conducting meetings with meeting integrity is respecting each attendee’s time. A well-planned meeting will always run more smoothly than its more spontaneous counterparts, so go all out on your pre-meeting preparation. Here are our key ingredients for successful meeting preparation:
- Set an agenda and send it out ahead of time, so that invitees can review it prior to the meeting itself.
- Include notes on how guests can prepare. Are you expecting everyone to have their cameras on? Will everyone need to introduce themselves? Who should present what, and in what order?
- Decide how you are going to update those who were unable to attend. Do you have a specific person who will be writing notes and sending them out afterward?
As part of your preparation, ask yourself: who are the people who truly need to attend this meeting? We loved Trello developer Atlassian’s blog post on how to run inclusive meetings. In their article, they describe how whittling down the guest list increases the odds of each attendee having the chance to speak. Are you inviting anyone who simply doesn’t have to be there, at the cost of a more effective meeting?
When deciding who to invite, we love the suggestion from this article by Slido on creating two tiers of invitees. These tiers categorize who needs to attend, versus who could join but isn’t mandatory. So many employees report frustration towards meetings where they felt unnecessary, so why not let folks know if it’s something that is optional for them? If they have the capacity to attend and see the benefit from the agenda, they can show up, but this approach lessens pressure if it doesn’t make sense to sit in.
We are firm believers that part of respecting someone’s work is respecting their time. This idea is explored more in this great article by the New York Times, but the essence is, “Start on time. End on time.”
Don’t be afraid to start even if some folks have yet to arrive if that’s a policy that matters to you. By waiting for latecomers to arrive to start a meeting, you’re training employees that they have a few minute grace period for showing up; on the contrary, by starting right on time, you’re setting the precedent that timeliness is important if they want to be present for the entire meeting.
Ensure that your agenda is as realistic on timings as possible by including buffer time at the beginning and end for hellos and goodbyes. This is especially important for meetings where new team members are starting, external figures are being introduced, for larger meetings, and for meetings with attendees who haven’t seen each other in a while.
This one is a simple idea, but so powerful, explored more in this article from Google. Perhaps working parents aren’t left with any time to finish their day before they have to log off and collect their kids. Maybe your usual meeting time is impractical for team members in another time zone. Or possibly it’s a time that is straight after one team member’s therapy call. If you set the same meeting time each and every week, there may be guests that struggle with it. What’s more, typically it will be the same guests who have to struggle week after week.
Whatever the explanation, rotating times is the most effective way to avoid putting pressure on the same employees. Why not pick a few different time slots and rotate between them? You could opt for a two-week calendar, naming them Week A and B or a creative name that sums up your brand. It’s a really thoughtful approach that team members are sure to appreciate.
How would you like attendees to treat each other within your meeting? We love this suggestion from HubSpot, who have written about running successful meetings in a sales context, but this approach applies to teams of any kind. Decide on a handful of straightforward agreements that everyone can stick to for each meeting.
HubSpot’s suggestions for sales teams are:
- Sales team meetings will start and end on time.
- All team members should come prepared to discuss meeting agenda topics.
- Team members are to stay on track.
- We will engage in one conversation at a time.
Don’t be afraid to get creative and add your own ideas. At TextExpander, we start all meetings with the “stoplight system” as a check-in to see how each team member feels about their workload. In one word, they can say “green” for good, “yellow” for busy but managing, and “red” if they’re stressed about everything on their plate.
Ask your team for suggestions on what they would love to see happen in a meeting. Often, picking the ideas themselves will make them even more likely to stick to what you agree to.
Around the world, lots of workspaces have transitioned to a hybrid approach of remote and in-office teams. This guide does a beautiful job of reminding us that navigating remote call-ins can be tricky, especially in the early stages. Make sure that everybody in attendance is included in the conversation, by pausing to check in with those calling in remotely.
- Ask them if they can hear you well enough, or if the microphone needs moving.
- Before moving to a new point, check if there is anything that anyone calling in would like to add.
- Think about how remote team members can feel more present throughout the meeting. Could you project the video call attendees onto the wall? Can they see you well enough through your own webcam?
Even if you’ve said that one person can speak at a time in your meeting norms agreement, interruptions are bound to happen. They are especially likely on calls held online with a delay, and can happen naturally in excited conversations too.
What’s essential, though, is building in the practice of circling back. If someone gets interrupted, do your best to find out what they had to say afterward. Try saying things like:
- “I love where you’re going Neil, but I’d love to check if I heard the end of what Priyanka was saying properly.”
- “I’m sorry Ali, I think I spoke over you, could you share what you were going to say?”
- “Great, before we move on, does anyone have anything further to add that hasn’t had the chance to speak yet?”
Lead by example, and it’s a habit that is sure to catch on.
- Meeting integrity is all about running meetings in a way that respects the time and individual needs of your attendees.
- Set an agenda and send prep notes like whether guests should turn on cameras. Decide how non-shows can be updated after the meeting. Consider letting attendees know who needs to attend versus those who could but aren’t 100% necessary.
- Stick to the agreed timings, by starting and ending on time and creating a realistic schedule for the agenda.
- Rotate meeting time slots to ensure all team members can attend.
- Have team members offer suggestions for the meeting norms that you’d like everyone to honor each time you hold a meeting.
- Engage remote workers in hybrid workspaces, by checking the sound is working and projecting video calls onto the walls. Move the camera to a position where everyone in a meeting room is visible.
- Circle back after interruptions to make sure everybody speaks to show integrity is vital to you.
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