Fight the midday slump with better meetings

8 tips to lead productive and to the point business meetings

Danila Petrova
© Shutterstock / Golden Sikorka

Between Scrums and Sprints, there’s no avoiding meetings when you work in the IT department. What happens when leading the meeting is on your shoulders? Avoid the yawns and disinterested, confused stares with a better, more focused meeting. Get the most out of your business meetings with these eight tips and take your career to new heights.

The more a team depends on teamwork to create and provide a service, the more communication is a key part of the work process. In addition, the bigger the team becomes strong mechanisms for effective and fairly quick communication is preferable to keeping information relevant and up to date.

In the modern IT industry, teams are the main entity developing product – so teamwork is a must. The bigger the project, the bigger the team. You will find no shortage of large software development teams.

Those two factors add up and create a necessity for effective, to the point meetings as a key structure for communicating important information within the development team. Working for an angular software development company has taught me many ways to lead effective business meetings. Those are exactly the tips I am sharing with you today, to make your business meetings more resultful.

Distribute an agenda to all attendees beforehand

An agenda is a short description of the upcoming meeting. It contains details such as date and time, in addition to the main objective of the meeting. Remember to send it out along with the invitation at least 24 hours or more in advance, giving your employees enough time to prepare for an effective meeting.

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It needs to be specific to the objective of each meeting, but you can create a general template for repetitive or regular ones. Then add on to the template for the more elaborate or specific ones in the future. This is a tool that is especially helpful if you need to lead a project planning meeting that covers a lot. Many Project Managers use agendas to keep their meetings productive and to the point. 

Highlight one item of the agenda as the focus of the meeting

Talking about multiple or unrelated topics within one meeting carries certain risks. It allows for way too many opportunities to go off-topic, making the meeting too long and losing your colleagues’ attention. Not to mention having to end it before reaching a decisive resolution, simply because your room booking has run out. 

Sometimes these types of meetings are unavoidable and have their place. For example, Scrum-based planning at the beginning of an entirely new project or a new Sprint requires covering a lot of ground. Keeping them specific is not really an option.

But my advice is to keep meetings focused. When sending out the agenda highlight one main item as the focus of the meeting and then add a few related and supporting items on the list to round up the overall solution.

Have an idea of the desired outcome of the meeting

Approach the meeting with a goal of what you want to achieve and navigate the conversation towards the goal. Will you relay important information? Do you want to receive feedback from your coworkers – perhaps hold a discussion? Do you want to have a strict planning meeting that clears up any questions regarding upcoming work? Or perhaps you want to share the latest success of the company’s project?

For example, if the meeting focuses on what tasks will be assigned for the next week or the next Sprint, guide the conversation toward isolating each task and assigning it to a team member. Answer any questions the person may have and then move on to the next one until you decide the meeting has fulfilled its purpose.

Naturally, you should prepare for a little shift in the outcome from what you initially anticipated. What not to do, however, would be letting the conversation carry too much towards discussing previous week’s tasks and their success rate. Instead, dedicate a separate meeting for assignment evaluation.

Manage content based on the number of attendees

A meeting can be held, ranging between a small team of under ten employees working closely together or a wider audience combining 2 or more dedicated teams. It can even widely address the mass audience of the entire company team. 

As you can probably assume it would be significantly harder to have an open brainstorming discussion with a large mass of people. It gets significantly less productive with each additional person until it becomes too chaotic to serve its purpose. In addition, carrying out a meeting as if it is a lecture at a seminar is not really taking advantage of the potential a meeting with just a handful of people holds.

Adjust the manner of speech, length, and focus of the meeting depending on how many people are expected to attend to make the most of what you work with.

Prepare and provide materials needed in the meeting

Bringing a printed agenda has been done, although due to ecological movements opting for non-printed resources is preferred.

If your company is strongly ecologically oriented, sending those materials with the agenda can help. In addition, use a big-screen monitor or a projector to show content straight from your laptop.

Create a presentation

Visual representation of the discussed content can help keep attendees’ attention on the topic. In addition, you can pull up specific information, charts, tables or relevant pictures. Important information or perhaps reports or targets should be within your teammates’ eyesight when you are discussing them. Visual aids provide for a better opportunity to keep the focus on the topic at hand. As a result, you will be well received by your audience and in the process. You avoid most risks for miscommunication. 

A great tool to use is a digital presentation. Dedicate a section in the presentation for each main point of the meeting (usually matching the sections you already sent out in the agenda). Cover everything related to each point before moving on to the next item on the list. Doing this will allow for clarity in the achieved agreement and the overall discussion perception.

Accept questions and suggestions at the end of each item of the agenda

If your meeting requires you to cover multiple sections that fall under the same general topic, making your attendees wait until the very end to address their questions or concerns can make them forget something important they needed to ask. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, allowing interruptions all the time by generic questions can destroy your focus and disrupt the meeting’s flow – a clear threat to the effectiveness of the meeting. 

Allow for any questions or suggestions at the end of each point of your agenda (or presentation). Once you have addressed each, move on to the next item on the list.

Send out a summary of the outcome of the meeting

Regardless of the meeting’s duration, a lot that can be agreed upon when making a focused effort to discuss the necessary topics. But all the best results of business meetings are useless if you or your team members end up forgetting something important. 

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So after the meeting is finished, write a short summary of how the meeting went and what decisions were reached. Send it out to the employees involved – it will make it easier for both you and them to keep track of all advancement on the topic.

Efficient meetings as an organizational tool

We all know just how much meetings are used as a management and organizational tool. It is completely understandable why that is. Meetings allow for very focused means of communication that can clear up many misunderstandings and misdirections before they even occur.

So making the most out of your meetings is definitely something you should strive to implement when discussing important details in IT projects. Once you get into the habit of planning your meetings a bit in advance, you will notice it does not take too much out of your time. It offers a lot in return when you observe the difference it makes in terms of the meeting’s productivity and success rate.

What are some methods you applied to optimise your meeting productivity? Did you find anything surprising?

Danila Petrova
Danila Petrova is a Marketing Assistant Manager at Dreamix, a custom software development company, focusing on strategy building and audience engagement. With a background in mathematics, informatics, she has extensive knowledge in web design, business communication and a deep understanding of the IT industry. She is involved in numerous graphic design projects and is passionate about the advancement of software development.

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2 years ago

Really appreciate your effort and time putting together this very informative and intelligent article on tips to lead a productive and to-the-point meetings in every business ventures. I should say this is a very helpful guideline and a very effective one for many startup companies and every educational institutions. Thank you for showcasing the nuances of the subject to such detail.