How to run an effective meeting

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How to run an effective meeting: 4 essential ingredients!

Imagine a meeting that you leave full of energy. Encounters with colleagues and talks that just greatly inspire you! Unfortunately, these kinds of meetings rather seem an exception than a rule. There are some worrying figures out there that underline the ineffectiveness of most of our meeting behavior. According to research conducted by American software company Altlassian:

 

  • … 31 meeting hours per month are considered unproductive
  • … 91% of the average meeting goers daydream
  • … 50% of the average meeting goers consider meetings a waste of time

Altlassian puts the cost of unnecessary meetings to US businesses, in terms of wasted salary hours, at $37 billion. In short, it seems your staff meetings are considered productivity killers.

We hear you thinking “Hold on, we can’t just stop having meetings then?”. Indeed, we can’t. Although, are you really sure? In most cases the answer indeed is no: we can’t stop hosting and attending meetings. We’ll therefore have to come up with different strategies. How to run a meeting that is an effective meeting on one hand and still a pleasant contact moment on the other hand? There isn’t a specific template to apply, but there are some pretty straightforward guidelines to follow. Start experimenting with a few of these ingredients and you’ll see your meetings change to the better!

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Pre-meeting input: What to prepare in advance of the meeting?

Obviously, when there is more at stake, the more time you’d like to invest in preparing your meeting. And there’s more to prepare than you might have expected – and so, more to be successful at too!

  • Define your goal: An open door? Maybe, but in practice there aren’t many meetings that start with describing the goal of “why we’re here together”. As a meeting host, make sure to define your goal as concrete as possible and share this at the start of the meeting – or even better, enclose it with your meeting invitation. In it also describe the form of the meeting: is it a brainstorm, an informative session or do you want to have a debate?
  • Meet online or offline: Do you need to reserve a meeting room? What if the same meeting can be attended online via a conference call, Skype or a livestream? With help of Sendsteps, online attendees can vote on proposals or reply to questions during short presentations. If technology can be an alternative for your physical meeting, then think of the costs you can save in terms of time and travel!
  • Who’s joining?: Consider who is invited to your meeting. Select strategically and be aware of team member roles. Which colleagues have a large network? Who is a subject expert? Is there a good balance between introverts and extraverts? Our recent blog about “How to build trust in the workplace” might give you some more ideas.
  • Pre-meeting survey: Once your goals are clear, when you know who is joining and how your meeting takes place, then make sure to setup a short pre-meeting survey: this way you can collect expectations from all attendees. This will help you, in the days before your meeting, to further tailor the meeting to everyone’s information needs. For those with a [free] Sendsteps account – check out the Sendsteps Survey functionality and get started straight away.

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Setting the meeting stage: How should you the ideal meeting space look like?

A comfy space helps us to concentrate and to get inspired. So, let’s see what’s there to improve in your meeting room.

The space: To start with, a tidy space gives space in your head too. In a number of studies, plants also have shown their positive effect on the work floor. According to US Professor Roger Ulrich: “They attract attention without effort and evoke positive emotions that can respectively promote renewal of the capacity to concentrate and interrupt the stress process”.

Did you ever consider the factor ‘color’ upon answering the question of how to run a meeting? Well, you can go as far as adapting the color scheme in your meeting room. Scandinavian hotel chain Radisson SAS took the factor color very serious in designing their hotel meeting spaces: “Each color has both a physical and mental influence on our wellbeing and general health”. Bright colors make us want to engage stronger, nature colors express harmony and reliability and green in all its tones stands for innovation and optimism.

Finally be aware of what impact your seating plan has on the meeting. If as a host you want to make a decision at the end of the meeting, you might want to sit at the head of the table. However, if you rather like to have a brainstorm, then it makes more sense to have somebody else take a seat at the head of the table. Or to make use of a round table. Or like in many Japanese meetings: don’t have a table and chair at all and have a standing meeting. According to Forbes, this will even cut meeting time by 36%!

The meeting space getaways: If your own office simply isn’t the most inspiring place, or if you don’t have the space to host larger groups, then there’s hundreds of alternatives. In larger cities you see more and more smaller meeting spaces being offered, that have the vibe of a living room. In Amsterdam, Singel 80 is a good example of a living room-style meeting space in an old canal house. Next to popular meeting centers like Seats2meet.com and Spaces, international hotel chains like citizenM and The Student Hotel also do a great job on offering creative and fun places to meetup. Go out of your office and leave the comfort zone!

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Time management tricks: How to cleverly deal with the factor time during your meeting?

Now that you’ve prepared and organized both the content and the meeting venue, it is time for the actual meeting. Factor “time” is one of the most important influencers on the success of your meeting. That’s why we take a closer look on clever time management tricks:

When to meet: Pick the right moment of the week for your meeting. Mondays are often packed with “to-do’s” after the weekend and Fridays can be lower in energy. So, pick a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.

Attendees tend to lose focus after 45 minutes, so plan an hour and try to squeeze it into 45 minutes. Also, the moment of the day matters. Early morning meetings often loose time on people catching coffee, colleagues running late because of the traffic or colleagues not awake yet. Yet late in the morning people are most alert and therefore are a good moment to meet. However, don’t schedule it too close towards lunch time; The meeting might become unnecessary long because of colleagues wanting to use the lunchtime as extra meeting time. It remains to be seen how effective this extra time is and how strong the decisions will be.

Manage speaking time: Delegate a timekeeper who makes sure to stick to your agenda time slots. Announce him or her upfront, so that attendees are familiar with the person’s role. You can prevent individuals to “monopolize the conversation” not only by strong chairmanship, but also by making use of technology. Sendsteps allows you to quickly collect data during a meeting. For instance, by letting attendees vote through their smartphone versus live reflections of individual attendees. Once the results are on the screen, you can spend time on a general discussion about the outcome.

In the same way, you can also let attendees send in questions, that don’t necessarily need to be answered during the meeting; but you can filter the most important ones and answer the rest at a later stage. You might even want to appoint a “sidekick”, a team member that monitors all incoming messages through the Sendsteps message filter and who interrupts once there is interesting content to share.

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Post-meeting follow up: create ownership and activate team members

Once your well-prepared meeting has finished, you might want to follow up with a few last activities.

  • Evaluate: In your last agenda item, briefly make a round and ask attendees “what went well and what’s there to improve in the next meeting”? Alternatively, you can do the same by asking your attendees to fill out a short online questionnaire [e.g. via the Sendsteps Survey functionality]. When asking to evaluate within the same meeting, you’ll not only get more responses [‘your attendees all have something else to do tomorrow morning’], but also higher evaluation scores.
  • Create ownership: Instead of creating your own work out of a meeting, make sure to assign activities towards individual attendees. This not only makes your work less, but you also easily create ownership over a project or activity. It also helps to distribute a short list of outcomes after your meeting. This is something else than minutes: more compact and to the point. Combine these notes with some of your poll- and evaluation results, and people will be eager to attend your next meeting. And, you’ve showed them how to run an effective meeting!

 

Team building exercises for meetings

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Team building exercises for meetings: combining content and fun

When looking into team building exercises for meetings, often the most extreme exercises tend to come up. From egg-and-spoon races to blindfolded indoor tent building. Games of which it remains to be seen just how effectively they contribute to better teamwork.

Obviously, it is important to have fun with your colleagues; Team building activities reduce stress from work and they help staff to get to know each other socially as well as professionally. Still, it is different from catching up in a café. Therefore, the best group exercises are those that balance both fun and content. These exercises are out there and we’re happy to share them with you!

Must-met conditions for a successful team building meeting

In order to come up with valuable team exercises for meetings, it is helpful when the following conditions are met:
Formulate goals: Considering that team building is more than “just fun” means that you need to formulate goals. A goal of a team building exercise can be, e.g.:

  • To become more aware of roles, types or communication styles within a team;
  • To learn about each other’s activities resulting in shorter communication lines;
  • To make new team members feel more welcome and part of the team.

Engage everyone: Team exercises should appeal to everyone. Sportive games are nice for those colleagues who are physically fit, but can be a nightmare for those that aren’t good at sports. The same goes for exercises where colleagues need to be very expressive or sociable; you’ll easily over-ask of your introvert colleagues. Make sure the exercise fosters engagement, rather than causing embarrassment or discomfort.

Experiential learning: In relation to team building exercises, Kate Mercer, writer of the book “A Buzz In the Building: How to Build and Lead a Brilliant Organisation” talks about a ‘learning gap’. Mercer explains: “It’s possible to draw parallels and bring out useful learning points, but it takes skilled facilitation to do this effectively and it’s especially difficult to ensure that people take the learning back into the workplace.” By defining and communicating clear goals, it will be much easier to learn from team building exercises.

Constant nurturing: Building a team and creating an inclusive and positive culture takes time. Team building exercises don’t stand on their own, but need repetition in order to pay off. This is especially true for organizations in which colleagues don’t see each other daily. Once you finish the first team building exercise, you might already want to plan the next one.

Cost- and time efficient team building exercises for meetings

Often-heard cons of team building exercises are that they are time- and cost-consuming. Therefore, we elaborate on only cost- and time-effective team building activities that are easy to integrate into existing meetings. We defined 10 exercises that cover the build-up of your meeting:

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Exercises to Boast Team spirit!

  • Onboarding presentation: At Sendsteps every new employee presents him or herself with help of a PowerPoint. After a week or so everyone knows the new team member a little, which breaks the ice for a personal presentation. He or she can tell something about hobbies, family, travels etcetera. Add crazy and funny pictures to the presentation and close with a short quiz. Laughter guaranteed!
  • Celebrate success: Either start or close your meeting by letting everyone briefly elaborate on “one thing that makes you proud?”. The question is related to what has been achieved in the last week or month. Keep it short and simple. Experience the energy boast this gives!
  • Present work week: Share per person in three minutes what you achieved last week and what will you do this week. It forces everyone to measure his or her own effectiveness and it gives the team a good sense of what everyone is working on. Allow Q&A time after the three minutes and see if other colleagues can be of any assistance. A great way to kick-off the week!

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Team effectiveness exercises

  • Roleplay brainstorm: Discuss a subject or issue from specific roles [e.g. manager, client, shareholder, competitor etc.] and challenge yourself to take on different perspectives. Set the timer for x-minutes and divide roles. Every participant starts off by introducing him- or herself in the role represented. In your wrap up ask yourself: “how [or not] did it change views?”.
  • Fish bowl discussion: Split up your team in two groups. Form two circles. The inner circle discusses; the outer circle observes. Either switch roles, then draw conclusions and decide. Or let the groups switch roles and then conclude and decide. Especially handy for large teams!
  • One-to-all brainstorm: Let a colleague pitch a challenge. Let attendees send in one-sentence solutions via Sendsteps and present them on the presentation screen. Let the colleague elaborate on those ideas from the audience that seem interesting to him or her. In a short time, you’ll receive lots of interesting content to elaborate on. A great approach to problem solving!
  • Discuss back to back: Discuss a statement [agree/disagree] and convince each other in pairs by leaving out body language; the stronger it now comes down to arguments and discussion techniques. Fun to watch your colleagues execute this exercise!

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Team Socializing Exercises

  • Office trivia Quiz: Funny facts and figures about team members, clients, the office or past field trips. Formulate silly quiz questions [multiple-choice], play a quiz and bring back these sweet memories!
  • Two truths and a lie: Let a colleague tell the team a 5 minute story with two facts and one lie. Let the team decide which of the three concepts is the lie. The story around your colleague might get a whole new dimension.
  • Memory Wordcloud: Define a few general work-related topics, like: “My first day”, “Work travel” or “Teamwork”. Choose a topic and give everyone a think-break of a minute. Then start posting your memories via Sendsteps onto the wordcloud. Did you ever think of printing the wordcloud to canvas and hang it in your office?

Your next team builiding exercise?

Use Sendsteps to gather replies on all your [quiz] questions. Setup an interactive PowerPoint session and add multiple choice, open- and wordcloud questions to your slideshow. Questions that address the subject that you like to discuss and on which you’d like to receive feedback. Do you dare to start the team building experiment 2.0? Good luck!

Start the experiment and build your team culture

Experiment with a combination of exercises – see what fits best with your team. Obviously, there are hundreds of other team building exercises for corporate meetings out there. As long as you set goals, have balance between fun and content, if you can learn something from your team building and if you repeat it on a regular basis – then team building exercises become a powerful instrument for building a great team culture!


 

How to build trust in the workplace

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How to build trust in the workplace by having better meetings

In business, the word ‘trust’ can easily be perceived as a hallow term. It can be difficult to grasp the real meaning of it. Trust might not be easy to quantify, but everyone will agree that it is worth spending time and resources on. British employee engagement specialist Susan Jacobs, known from the Jacobs Model, defined the following 8 drivers of trust on the work floor:

  1. A sense of belonging: the feeling of an employee being part of a team
  2. Voice and recognition: the possibility to speak up and have a say in decision making
  3. Significance and position: the extent to which an employee feels valued
  4. Equal treatment: the understanding that everyone is treated equally
  5. Learn and experiment: the experience of being able to experiment, make mistakes and learn
  6. Choice and autonomy: the empowerment to make individual choices for the organization
  7. Security and certainty: the sense of being save due to confidence in the team
  8. Purpose: the understanding of how an individual contributes to the whole

Creating Trust | How to organize business meetings?

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At Sendsteps we often relate to trust, since the audience interaction tool is used in settings where trust is such an important ingredient: during all kind of meetings. Think of team building exercises, strategic board room sessions or shareholder meetings. Clients often ask us questions on how to:

  • … encourage an open dialogue
  • … address anonymous feedback
  • … be certain of data security

Before answering these questions, it helps to get a better understanding of the different roles and characteristics of your individual team members. What is their influence on trust within the team? Obviously, there are many ways of looking into this. At Sendsteps there are a few perspectives that we believe give an interesting view on trust within your team. We cover three aspects;

  1. Karen Stephenson’s theory on trust within office networks. Her theory helps us understand how trust steers information flows within an organization.
  2. A second aspect is that of introvert and extravert team members and how both have different influences on the experience of trust within a team.
  3. And finally, the stage for trust, namely the actual work floor, is of influence for creating a safe and positive atmosphere. We’ll discuss the so-called “open workspace”.

Creating Trust | The roles team members play

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Karen Stephenson is an American professor and corporate anthropologist who does research into “the anatomy of networks”. Stephenson especially focusses on how information flows within a network. For instance, she helped U.S. Defense to identify the weak spots and key connections of the Al Qaeda terrorist network. But her research covers all kinds of networks: from family, to social, to office networks. With it she contributes to a better sense of community and even helps to monetize trust. In her theory, Stephenson defines three roles that are present within every team and that dictate how information flows [or not, with a lack of trust!]. Keep your own organization in mind, when reflecting on the following roles:

  • Hubs: The hubs are the social butterflies of your team. They know a lot of people, are talkative by nature and bring people together. Tell something to a hub and soon everyone will know.
  • Gatekeepers: The gatekeepers play an important role in passing on information to a next level or to block it. They can either use or abuse power.
  • Pulse takers: The pulse takers can be found on the edges of the network. They might not be the center of attention, yet they have sufficient overview, and enough relationships to get a good sense of the picture.
Karen Stephenson claims that innovative companies have a large sense of trust. There are many connections between the individual team members.

3 tips to make clever use of different team roles:

So what to do with this information in regard to your office meetings?

  1. Define the roles in your team: Take a minute and think of your colleagues: who is a typical hub? Could John be a pulse taker? Let it be clear that these roles are informal and not necessarily related to function levels [e.g. a receptionist can be more of gatekeeper than a CFO].When exploring these roles within your team, it might not come as a surprise that most of the speaking time is consumed by hubs. Now think of all the pulse takers among your meeting attendees; actively engage them by asking them questions, or by letting them pitch ideas.
  2. Spend a team session on roles: Why not spend a team session on defining these roles together with your team? It can be interesting to do so, because the knowledge of these three roles can be a strategic tool for controlling and building the communication within your team.With a clear team awareness about everyone’s role, you might find a new dynamic in your meetings and group interaction. Do gatekeepers speak up more easily? Can hubs count to 10 before replying? Make it a little challenge and see what happens. Experimenting is the first step towards innovation!
  3. Rethink your internal and external communication activities; communicating change traditionally is executed by the communication professionals within your team [hubs]. But in some occasions, there might be other colleagues in the office network that have a much stronger, strategic position within the network [pulse takers for instance]. Can you think of someone else to do the next communication job?

Creating Trust | Introvert and extravert employees

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The next trust aspect we’d like to explore is the difference between extravert and introvert team members. Whereas extraverts can often be found in the role of “hub”, introverts are typical “pulse takers”. Let’s zoom in on our introvert employees – one out of two or three of our colleagues!

Introversion is easily mistaken by shyness. But be aware, “introversion is more about how you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation”, says Susan Cain [an American writer, speaker and former Wall Street lawyer]. Introverts are quietly listening and reflecting. They need time to answer. They like substance over chitchat. They’re often overlooked during a meeting or even on a broader scale; when a new management position needs to be fulfilled. Yet, introverts create brilliant work, are thoughtful leaders and only speak during meetings when things are overthought. But, also here; trust is essential in the communication between both groups. Extraverts trusting the work of introverts and vice versa.

4 tips to engage extravert and introverts during meetings:

When organizing a meeting, keep in mind both type of employees and create a setting where both experience trust;

  1. Don’t rush: Take time for your meeting, but stick to the point. Rather spread a longer meeting over two dates, rather than quickly skimming over agenda items in order to fit them in.
  2. Introduce think breaks: Let attendees have a think-break, so that everyone can process information before answering;
  3. Limit group work: “Stop the madness for constant group work” [as Susan Cain puts it] – quality can also come from solo time and activities. There isn’t always a “need to discuss in pairs”!
  4. Facilitate follow up: Organize a clear follow up; what will be discussed, will be further investigated and processed? Introverts, especially, appreciate their input being taken seriously.

Creating Trust | Open or closed workspaces?

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Did you know that 70% of all U.S. offices use open workspaces? Since the mid 2000’s the concept was introduced by many Silicon Valley companies. There are many advantages to having an open workspace. The most important being stronger collaboration. Yet, there are also critical remarks to be made.

In 2005 Jungsoo Kim and Richard de Dear from the University of Sydney conducted extensive research into differences in employee experiences between those working in an open workspace and those working in private offices. They compared 303 offices. Noise, disruption and sound privacy were the most frequent mentioned negative experiences in open workspaces. At the same time, the ease of interaction was valued most. Interestingly, that aspect was not experienced differently by private office workers.

In short and according to the researchers, the open workspaces are not necessarily the engines of collaboration. For extravert hubs it might work better than it does for introvert pulsetakers. Don’t forget also that the currency of friendship is sharing confidence. Funny enough, this is less easy to achieve in an open workspace. So, it seems there’s no one-size fits all and it comes down to finding what works best for your team.

4 tips to engage with your team in different office spaces

When you want to foster interaction in your team then an open workspace seems like the logical step. Yet, when keeping in mind all the different roles we discussed [introverts, extraverts, hubs, gatekeepers and pulsetakers], you’ll need to do some clever thinking of your floor plan so that everyone feels comfortable and experiences the trust to share or to work quietly;

  1. Spread seats for different roles: Seat your hubs in the middle, then your gatekeepers and let the relatively more quiet spaces belong to the pulsetakers.
  2. Create your quiet spaces: A place to focus, to maybe even re-charge; ready for more and better interaction! Solitude is a crucial ingredient for productivity.
  3. Go out! Studies show that business trips boast creativity, social cohesion and interaction in the team.

Conclusion | Meetings with trust

When there’s trust in the workplace, there’s trust to connect. Space for positive team member relationships from where innovative ideas are born. Keep in mind your team’s DNA and in what kind of setting they feel most trusted. Foster a culture where it is good to ask questions and keep it personal. To make it a bit more concrete:

  • Discuss statements [agree/disagree] in which the word “I” is used. E.g. “I believe our team communication style is effective”. Give your introvert team members a think break, let your gatekeepers speak up.
  • Facilitate anonymous feedback to get to the core. Sometimes it doesn’t matter who says what, but the fact that an issue is addressed by itself is positive. Don’t ask “who said that?”, but ask “who likes to elaborate on this issue”? Maybe initiate such a talk during a team field trip – in a relaxed setting.
  • In very strategic meetings it is helpful to know that anonymous is anonymous. Sendsteps technology is ISO compliant and used by Fortune500 companies because of its data security settings.

In short, cultivate an atmosphere where employees’ questions come from a desire to grow and learn. As employer, you can create a perfect setting with proper insight in factors that build trust and with the intention to grow and innovate as a team. Meetings that express trust!


 

Anonymous audience feedback? 3 Ways to enrich meetings!

Anonymous feedback

In an era of tranparent company cultures, anonymity isn’t always considered an asset. Still, it can facilitate trust and with it a starting point of a more open way of communicating. At Sendsteps we’re regularly involved in the setup of meetings in which anonymous feedback is considered: a must.

3 Reasons to welcome anonymous feedback

There’s multiple occassions in which it is whise to allow your audience to contribute anonymous:

1. Strategic discussions | Measure sentiment:
Decisions with a great social impact need proper change management. Imagine a reorganization in which multiple employees will lose their job. Prepare your management (the carriers of the difficult message to the rest of the team) by measuring the sentiment and to reply to anonymous feedback. This makes it easier to steer expectations during the more complicated phases that your organization can go through at times.

2. Co-creation sessions | Erase hierarchy:
In co-creation sessions you’ll need trust to share ideas. An idea can easily be judged on its feasibility or on its sender. Especially within organizations with a strong hierarchy it is more challenging to share ideas. Especially the crazy ones! By allowing anonymous input during your brainstorm,  all ideas make an equal chance. No matter if the idea is coming from the CEO or from the receptionist!

3. Team coaching | Stay objective:
Foster an open conversation around themes like work satisfaction, effective collaboration or leadership by allowing anonymous feedback. Challenges between two departments can much easier be discussed if issues are clearly formulated on the presentation screen; No need to ask ‘who said this?’, rather ask ‘who want to elaborate on this comment?’. Or first ask your team to rate their job live. And then via Sendsteps. There can be a discrepancy between the live and the anonymous digital input: a great starting point for a dialogue with your team!

Your next anonymous feedback session?

Sendsteps audience response system allows you to setup an interactive PowerPoint session. Simply add multiple choice and open questions in your slideshow. Questions that address the subject that you like to discuss and on which you’d like to receive anonymous feedback. By default all the input received is anonymous [but this can be changed via your dashboard settings]. Do you dare to start the experiment?