Run effective meetings

Virtual First | Communication Kit

Running effective meetings over videoconference isn’t rocket science. Still, most remote teams report loads of unproductive meetings each week. Good news: You don’t need a degree in organizational management to get good at meetings. Use this exercise to make your meetings more impactful, whether it’s a group brainstorm or quick stand-up.

30 MIN | PERSONAL EXERCISE

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Step 1: Ask yourself, “Could this be an email?”

Before you reflexively schedule a virtual meeting, make sure it’s for the 3d’s—important decisions, debates, and discussion. If you’re giving a status update or just have a quick question, try to handle it asynchronously. Check out Meetings 101 to learn more.

Step 2: Prep your agenda

Effective meetings have a clear goal, a short list of things to cover, and the right mix of attendees. If you decide to have a meeting, fill out the meeting prep worksheet below. When you’re done, double-check: Does everyone on the agenda really need to be there, or could they get the notes via email later?
Meeting prep worksheet

What’s this meeting even about?

Make your meeting worth it—and give back time to your team members—with a little prep.

Meeting prep worksheet

Step 3: Write a strong invite

In your invite, briefly summarize your points from the meeting prep worksheet above. If you’re working with people who like to prepare in advance, or if you’re trying to gather feedback asynchronously before the meeting, be sure to include reference docs with clear instructions. Is your invite too wordy? Try cutting it by half. Bonus points for including one of the 3d’s in your meeting title (ex: product design decision, team goals discussion, product roadmap debate).
Title: Deciding on a brand design concept

    Dear design leads,

    We’d love your thoughts on our latest design concepts. In our meeting, we’ll:

  • Discuss our three proposed concepts
  • Decide on one concept to move forward with 

    To prep, please re-familiarize yourselves with the goals and strategies in the brief by EOD Tuesday.

    Looking forward to talking!

    – Stella and the team

Step 4: Finish your planning

Once the meeting is on the calendar, help get everyone—including yourself—ready. Your meeting will run more smoothly if the team is prepped and ready for the discussion. 

  • Read and share any relevant content beforehand so everyone has the same context. 
  • Make sure everyone has done their pre-meeting work. Send a friendly reminder if necessary. 
  • If you’d like anyone to share their screen, let them know ahead of time so they have the right documents handy. 
  • Think about the tone you’d like to set. For example, a team-building meeting should feel light and fun, whereas a check on well-being should feel safe and supportive. 

Step 5: Open your meeting warmly

If you called the meeting, take advice from The Art of Gathering author Priya Parker and act as a gracious, authoritative host—someone who’s welcoming and warm yet confidently in charge. When your meeting starts: 

  • Leave time for unscripted chitchat. If your team members are remote, chances are they miss making impromptu connections. 
  • Warmly welcome everyone by their first name. If people don’t know each other, ask them to introduce themselves. Awkward silence? Try a creative conversation starter
  • Briefly restate your goal and agenda, and what happened the last time you met.
  • If needed, give people a short “study hall” at the beginning to review reference docs. 
  • Encourage honesty and candor by creating a safe and confidential place for people to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. 

Step 6: Keep things inclusive

When we’re videoconferencing, it’s easy to space out or interrupt while someone else is talking. No matter your role, you can help ensure that all voices—not just the loudest—are heard in your meeting. Try to:

  • Explicitly say you’d like to keep the meeting inclusive and hear everyone’s perspective. 
  • Redirect when things go off topic: “JD, I love those ideas but I want to make sure we get through our agenda. Let’s put them in the parking lot.”
  • Interrupt the interrupters: “Thanks, Justin, but I’d like to finish hearing from Eunice. Eunice, can you say more?”
  • Call on quieter people: “I’d love to hear from folks who haven’t spoken yet. Monique, what do you think?”

When you’re done, you can fill out the inclusive meeting scorecard to see how you did.

Inclusive meeting scorecard

Was your meeting inclusive?

Did you gather diverse perspectives? Fill out this scorecard to find out.

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Step 7: Decide on next steps and end early

When the meeting’s over, thank everyone for their time. Then quickly summarize the decision you made, what happens next, and who will do what. Have a notetaker prep a short recap and send it after. Bonus points for ending five minutes early, so people have more time to recharge.

 

More resources

3 easy wins

Build the habit

  • Tomorrow: Start all your meetings with a warm welcome and chitchat
  • Next week: Fill out an inclusive meeting scorecard for a recent meeting
  • Quarterly: Do a meeting cleanse with your team