Whether you love them or you hate them, meetings are part of life on product teams or project teams. If you're shipping stuff, you will eventually need to discuss what you plan to ship and align on all the details.
I think every leader (and team contributor, for that matter) has a different relationship with meetings. And that also depends on the day, and the content of the conversations. Some of us love to get around a conference table and hash things out as a group, others love to get heads-down, in-the-zone, working solo to problem solve or future-cast on strategy work.
For all the bad rap they may get, meetings can really be powerful tools for collaboration, decision-making, and progress… when led effectively. However, without a clear structure and purpose, meetings can easily drift into unproductive territory, consuming valuable time and energy.
If you're a software development team leader, you know how crucial it is to make each meeting count, especially when juggling numerous roles. And the funny thing is, as ubiquitous as meetings are, many of us may have never received actual training on how to run a good meeting. Certainly I never took Meetings 101 in college (Do I wish I had? Maybe? Maybe not? Sounds like a boring class tbh.)
No worries! We’re here to help. We researched, and talked to the experts, and put together this handy guide for the sole purpose of helping you lead efficient and impactful meetings, confidently, from start to finish.
After all, hosting productive meetings is both an art and a science.
Let’s get started.
Understanding the point of meetings
Just as each tool in a toolkit has a unique function, there is a distinct purpose of the meeting you plan to run. Categorizing the meeting into the proper “meeting type” will help you harness its potential.
Let’s walk through the most common types to help you evaluate when and how to utilize each.
Informational meetings are all about team communication. They aim to disseminate important updates or news to the members. With these meetings, the spotlight is on clear, concise communication. The intent is to inform, not necessarily to discuss. Thus, while some questions are natural, extended back-and-forth discussions are typically saved for another forum.
Making choices is inevitable in any business, but it’s especially crucial for engineering or agile teams. Decision-making meetings gather the necessary stakeholders to come to a collective agreement. With the right decision-makers in the room, structured discussions can pave the way to a consensus, ensuring everyone's perspectives are considered and the best path forward is chosen.
Challenges are par for the course in any project. Problem-solving meetings focus squarely on addressing these hurdles. They often lean into brainstorming and require collaborative input from various team members. Here, collective brainpower converges to find solutions and chart a way forward.
Planning and strategy
Looking ahead is crucial for any team or organization, especially in dev work. Planning and strategy meetings serve this forward-thinking purpose. The discussions revolve around setting ambitious yet achievable goals and plotting the course of action to reach them. In these sessions, a clear vision paired with actionable steps is paramount.
Not all team meetings are about work per se. Team building sessions might feel informal, but they play a crucial role in bringing coworkers together. Through interactive activities or discussions, these meetings aim to foster camaraderie, ensuring team members feel aligned, connected, and invested in collective success.
Training and development
Investing in team growth is always important. Training and development meetings cater to this by imparting new skills or knowledge. Given their educative nature, structuring them for clarity, comprehension, and engagement is non-negotiable.
Feedback or negotiation
A two-way street, feedback or negotiation meetings revolve around constructive criticism, proposals, and finding a middle ground. Whether reviewing performance or hammering out the terms of a deal, you can steer these meetings toward positive outcomes with an action plan and an open-minded and diplomatic approach.
New ideas help spark innovation. That’s what brainstorming sessions are all about. In a brainstorming meeting, every thought is welcome, and judgment takes a back seat. Encouraging creativity and openness can help facilitators uncover those 'aha!' moments that propel projects forward.
Knowing which type of meeting is best
While understanding different types of meetings is a solid start, knowing which one to deploy when is the real game-changer for making your meetings better and more productive every time.
Here are some aspects to consider when you’re trying to decide what type of meeting to plan:
Urgency and timeliness
Meetings can be reactive, called in response to sudden developments, or proactive, planned well in advance. When issues crop up that need immediate attention, timely discussions become indispensable. With tools like Spinach, you can quickly and easily set up and manage these reactive meeting invitations, ensuring you address urgent matters head-on.
The 'who' in a meeting can often determine its success. Inviting the relevant stakeholders ensures that all necessary perspectives are considered. When the right minds gather, discussions become more holistic, and outcomes are more effective. Let Spinach help you keep track of the right meeting attendees for every meeting type.
Complexity of the topic
Complex subjects often demand longer discussions, but it's also super important to not let things become convoluted. Clear and concise communication is key. Whether the team breaks down intricate software designs or navigates nuanced strategies, clarity trumps complexity every time with talking points.
Duration and depth
It’snot always easy to strike the right balance between thoroughness and efficiency. While diving deep into subjects is essential, it’s equally important to respect people’s time. Spinach can help by helping you structure meetings that maintain depth without overextending.
Coming prepared with the right resources is key. Whether that means gathering data or research materials, or inviting a smart tool like Spinach to the meeting, having the right resources in place can greatly influence a meeting’s outcome. And don’t forget, preparedness is also about knowing how to use the resources you have available to you.
Every organization has its unique rhythm and set of unwritten rules around meetings. Understanding and adapting to these cultural nuances can determine how well your meetings are received. Whether your team appreciates quick stand-ups or in-depth round tables, tuning into these cues can elevate your meeting game.
How to be an influential meeting leader
There are so many aspects to consider when you’re trying to lead a great meeting. Staying organized, coming prepared, maximizing efficiency, delivering results, it’s a lot to juggle. The best leaders make it look effortless, but that kind of success takes preparation and practice.
Here are our top tips for being an influential meeting leader:
Before the meeting
It’s important to lay the groundwork. The steps you take before the meeting set the tone for how your meeting goes.
Set clear objectives
Clear objectives help your meeting stay on track. They provide direction and purpose. By articulating your goals, like "Brainstorm marketing strategies for Q4" or "Finalize budget allocations," you ensure every participant knows the destination.
Plan a meeting agenda
A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow. And it’s important to remember that an efficient meeting balances structure with spontaneity. Think of your meeting agenda items as your itinerary, outlining the major landmarks but leaving room for detours that can lead to unexpected discoveries or innovations.
Choose the right meeting participants
Every individual on your team brings unique value to the meeting. You don’t want too many cooks in the kitchen, but you also don’t want to leave out important stakeholders. It’s up to the meeting leader to make sure the right people are in the room, so you can focus on a comprehensive, and informed decision-making process.
Set up your meeting tools
IThe tools you deploy in your meeting can enhance or hinder your whole meeting experience. You need to make sure you've done due diligence when it comes to technological preparedness, especially for virtual meeting sessions.
During the meeting
Once the meeting begins, you’re doing double duty as both a leader and a participant. Stay present and engaged, to make sure the meeting stays on track.
Set the tone right away
Much like the opening notes of a song, your initial remarks set the tone for the rest of the meeting. An atmosphere of positivity, openness, and mutual respect can transform the dynamics and outcome of your gathering.
A meeting's strength lies in its collective intelligence. Using techniques to support participation ensures that the wealth of knowledge and perspectives in the room gets a platform. Remember, the magic often lies in the mingling of varied insights.
Stay on track for the meeting time
While free-flowing discussions can enrich the meeting, it's crucial to keep the conversation focused. Time management is a skill that meeting facilitators need to master. Strike a balance between structured objectives and organic conversations to ensure both productivity and creativity.
Practice active listening
Active listening is a secret weapon when leading meetings. By immersing oneself fully and listening with intent, you're not just gathering feedback but fostering trust and camaraderie. It’s a subtle nod that says, "I value you."
Summarize and clarify
As discussions continue throughout a meeting, it's essential to anchor the key points. Periodically revisiting and clarifying main ideas ensures alignment and reinforces the meeting's purpose.
After the meeting
While the meeting has ended, the conversation isn't really over. The aftermath of a meeting is as critical as its planning and execution, because there’s often a ripple-effect that can influence future endeavors.
Distribute meeting notes
Providing clear, concise, and timely meeting minutes ensures everyone has a shared understanding and can act upon discussed points effectively. Notes or it didn’t happen!
Follow up as needed before the next meeting
Following up showcases commitment and leadership. It’s about checking in on action items, reiterating the importance of tasks, and ensuring the ship remains on course until the next voyage.
Seek feedback and reflect
After the end of the meeting, the best leaders always seek ways to improve. Soliciting feedback and reflecting on it enables continuous enhancement of meeting leadership skills, ensuring even better meetings in the future.
What gets measured gets managed. Understanding and measuring the impact of your meetings provides a roadmap for refining strategies and maximizing efficiency in the future.
Use Spinach to have your most effective meetings yet
Now you have the tools and techniques to take all your meetings to the next level. From preparation before the meeting, to follow through after, and everything in between, you’re ready to lead meetings that deliver results. And with Spinach on your team, you have an AI-powered meeting assistant that can help manage all the details.
Spinach gives you instant meeting notes with key decisions, action items, and ticket suggestions, so you never have to worry about something falling through the cracks. And because Spinach was designed specifically for dev teams, it connects to all the tools you already use, and suggests new tickets based on what you discuss. No more lengthy meeting transcripts or recordings, you get just the decisions and action items you need to accelerate your team.
Ready to elevate your meeting game? Dive into the world of Spinach and discover how AI can make all your meetings better.