How to conduct meetings effectively: 3 rules of EvoTalents Team

Evotalents
Evotalents August 18, 2020

Meetings, effective meeting

Team meetings are about communication, solving pressing issues and the ability to "synchronize". But what if your meetings began to look like chaotic communication and give a feeling of wasted time? It’s necessary to fix this ASAP!

Last year, our EvoTalents team (let us remind that we are an IT recruiting agency and work remotely) with a remotely distributed team) faced several issues during meetings:

  • Team meetings, 1:1 calls were beyond timing. As a result, there was uncertainty in scheduling the next calls.

  • Participants of the calls took part unevenly: somebody spoke more, somebody kept silent. We wanted everyone to be involved, especially when discussing issues that affected the whole team.

  • Meetings with a chaotic agenda, when the participants, on the contrary, could talk "about everything and nothing" at the same time.

  • Knowledge sharing presentations took too much time – from one and a half to two hours.

  • Lack of follow-ups after team meetings.

To make our meetings useful, we hosted a webinar with Ilya Ryabtsev, Director of Product Development at Oracle. We’d like to share our notes and hope they will be useful for you too!

1. Moderation of the meeting

The best option is when a moderator is a separate role during the meeting. The moderator makes sure that the participants adhere to agenda, don’t go out of time, and are evenly involved in the discussion. It’s better when the moderator is not interested in the discussion and devotes himself to moderation rather than participation. However, an experienced moderator can also speak and control the discussion.

If necessary, the moderator can stop a participant and give a word to others or start a discussion on a new topic. For the moderator, there is no rule like "interrupting is impolite" :)

Who is better to give the role of the moderator? If someone in the team takes the initiative and wants to get this role, great! You can also delegate the role of the moderator to each team member in turn.

Functions of the meeting moderator:

  • Ensure that the topic and aims of the meeting is clearly stated.
  • Make sure the speaker's message or question is fits the purpose. If the moderator doesn’t understand it, he can stop the participant and clarify whether his/her message is related to the topic & aims.
  • Give the floor to those who want to express themselves. For example, you can agree on a signal: a raised hand or a question in the chat will help the moderator understand this.
  • Keep track of timing and remind the goals and objectives of the participants, if necessary.
  • Summarize the meeting by generalizing, but not distorting the meaning. If the moderator has doubts that the meaning is conveyed correctly, it is better to ask again.

Moderation tools:

We highlight several tools for ourselves.

Firstly, it is useful to share a screen where goals, objectives and results of the meeting will be recorded in the form of a mind map or notes, and each participant can see them at any time during the meeting.

Secondly, we agreed on a Zoom hand or chat message for questions. It is not necessary to answer the question immediately, the main thing is to fix it in order to come back later and not forget to discuss it.

A simple rule that many people forget is to mute your sound so that others are not distracted. If necessary, forced mute of other participants for the comfort of others.

And, of course, meeting notes. Did you find it difficult to remember and write down all the most important things that happened after the meeting? Life hack: take notes during the meeting and finalize them after that.

2. Timing control

Have you already faced this problem? At first, the participants take a long time to tune in to conversation, then finishing the conversation takes a long time. As a result, the meeting drags on, and you can have not enough time to discuss important points.

To solve the dilemma: "allow relaxedness in the discussion or strictly control the conversation", Ilya advises using several techniques:

Create a meeting schedule. It is important to recognize that there is no perfect formula for holding meetings, and it is important to look at the situation. If we see that the team takes more time for discussion than expected, we move on to the next question and vice versa: if the team is not involved, we allow communication to be more relaxed.

Set aside time at the beginning of the meeting for informal communication. As a rule, the first 5 minutes of the meeting are spent gathering all team members. Thus, the beginning of the meeting can be devoted to informal communication and small talk.

Structure your message. Have you heard about the Minto pyramid principle? Barbara Minto described an approach to business communication in which the message follows a structure:

  • The main thing is at the beginning. So we are guaranteed to have time to share the main idea and will be useful, even if the meeting is interrupted or isn’t finished in time.

  • We give the details after the main, introductory part in case we have free time.

Separate questions by resource. Let's imagine that the topic is being discussed for the first time or the discussion is controversial. What if the participants ask a lot of questions? In this case, it is better to leave questions that require more time for the end of the meeting and answer short questions during the conversation.

Summarize in advance. The end of the meeting usually includes summing up the results. It is important to remember that summarizing also takes time. We begin to summarize 5-10 minutes before the end of the meeting (not after it’s finished!).

3. Involvement of participants

To begin with, we have to admit that uneven involvement is normal:) In every team, there are people who like to express their opinion, and there are those who join the already expressed opinion.

In addition, there are various reasons why the participants prefer to remain silent. For example, while waiting for my turn, I forgot what I wanted to say. In this case, it is useful to take notes or write a question in the chat immediately.

Sometimes a sense of tact doesn’t allow us to express our opinion (“The meeting takes a long time, I will better stay silent”). To cope with this, you can try to moderate the meeting yourself to improve personal and team self-organization. Using the Minto pyramid principle will also come in handy to get the key message across.

When it seems that someone has already said your thought, you can summarize your statement - it may turn out that you misunderstood the interlocutor or add something from yourself to the discussion.

Conclusions

Common reasons why meetings aren’t finished according to the schedule are the imbalance between relaxedness in communication (when "chaos" begins and everyone forgets about agenda) and control (participants do not speak out and feel constrained).

Steps which help make the meeting better:

  • A separate moderator role to guide participants.

  • Build messages and agenda in accordance with the Minto pyramid: from the most important part to the details.

  • Control timing. Divide time on "chatting" and on business, clearly indicate the shifting to the discussion and the time for it, and announce the agenda in advance.

  • Conduct a retrospective. To assess the usefulness of a meeting, it is convenient to use a scale for this. In addition, give feedback to the moderator: note the pros and suggest what can be improved.

Feel free to experiment and try tools that work for your team.