4 Tips for Better Team Meetings

Meetings are meant to be productive. With the right structure, they can be.

That said, a Workfront survey conducted by Harris Poll revealed that 59% of office workers believe meetings hinder their work priorities. Similarly, Harvard Business School professor Nancy Koehn stated that U.S. employees collectively attend about 4 billion business meetings each year—and that half the people her team surveyed consider these formal gatherings a waste of time.


We've all been there. An hour-long meeting stretches into the late afternoon and creeps into the evening. Employees disengage after a while, sneaking glances at the clock until the leader wraps things up.

It doesn't have to be this way. I've found that meetings can be productive, inspiring, and even fun. Here are four tips for making the most of important meetings. 

1. Share Key Materials in Advance

To minimize filler and make your meetings as efficient as possible, encourage your team to come prepared. If you distribute vital materials in advance, participants will be more informed, and therefore, more likely to contribute. 

I like to let my team know how to prepare for each meeting. By doing so, I set clear expectations and address exactly what I need from everyone. 

2. Create a Straightforward Agenda

You've got to determine what you hope to accomplish in each meeting. If your goal is to make a decision, include the key points to consider on your agenda. Address the format of your meeting—Q&As, for example, are very different from brainstorming sessions—and allocate a specific amount of time for each item. 

You should also list the objectives for each item on your agenda. I like to do this by distinguishing decision-making items (i.e., weighing the pros and cons of a new marketing plan) from accountability items (i.e., implementing systems to eliminate procrastination). Also, make it clear if your objective is simply to communicate new information. 

3. Offer Incentives to Participate

Leaders can engage team members during meetings by offering incentives to participate. You can improve your team's focus by rewarding participants for their involvement, even in small ways. Serving food, for example, can boost engagement. Another appealing incentive is to offer team members an extended break if they achieve the meeting objectives early.

4. Encourage Your Team to Speak Up

In his book Creativity, Inc., Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, expressed that candor is key to holding a productive meeting. I  believe that at the core of every successful meeting is a leader who pushes team members to share their ideas and challenge one another and participants who feel comfortable voicing their opinions. Candor—including constructive criticism—should be embraced. I've been in meetings where even the most reserved people have made valuable contributions, so I like to let team members know that I expect them to participate. 

Do you feel your meetings are productive? Which of the four recommendation should you implement for your next team meeting?