Meetings seem so routine and run-of-the-mill…until you have to lead your first one.
Maybe you’re a new manager running your first team meeting. Or you’re a junior staff member who’s been asked to run a meeting in your boss’s absence.
Regardless of your experience or job title, running your first team meeting can seem like a daunting task. How do I kick off the meeting? What if no one wants to contribute? Or what if everyone goes off topic and the meeting goes off the rails?
Yes, there are a lot of different variables to oversee during a meeting, but they can be managed with the right preparation and care. Here are some of the ways that you can make your first team meeting a successful one.
What separates a good team meeting from a bad one?
A successful meeting doesn’t just start at the designated meeting time. The work actually begins well before your meeting.
So before you even send out your meeting invitation, you’ll want to carefully plan out your meeting along with your desired objective and results. First, it will help to reflect on the team meetings you’ve attended in the past, both as a meeting leader and participant.
Reflect on the bad meetings you’ve had in the past. What was unproductive about them? Were there too many participants? Too few? Did the meeting seem disorganized? Or overly ambitious? See if you can put your finger on why those meetings were unsuccessful. This will help you figure out what to do differently when it comes to running your first team meeting.
Think about some of your successful meetings. These are the meetings in which you felt energized and engaged. You felt as if your contributions were important and being heard. Why do you think this meeting brought out the best in you? What are some of the elements you can replicate? For example, maybe a common denominator of these successful meetings was that the meeting leader started with an icebreaker. If that’s the case, then you’ll definitely want to find a way to incorporate icebreakers at your own team meeting.
What do you want to get out of this meeting?
We’ve all sat through boring meetings where the participants droned on and on. Or meetings where everyone seemed to be in conflict and nothing was achieved. So what can you do to make sure your first team meeting is productive?
One essential thing you can do is to define the objective of your meeting and your desired results.
Your meeting will be much more successful if it has an overarching objective. Without an objective your meeting will lose focus. You’ll cover a million topics without getting anything done. Or, you’ll end up covering a topic that could’ve been discussed over email.
Designating a specific objective and set of desired results, however, will give your meeting much-needed clarity and shape.
If you’re a new manager, then your meeting objective can be: connect with my team members. Your desired results can be: everyone gets a chance to speak; everyone shares one detail about themselves that’s unrelated to work.
If you’re running a marketing meeting, your meeting objective can be: gain consensus on the Q4 marketing strategy. Your desired results can be: define the quarterly goals and performance metrics for our Instagram marketing strategy.
And don’t forget to share your meeting’s objective with your participants. In this interview, author Priya Parker says: “Number one, don’t assume that the purpose of the gathering is obvious or shared. The biggest mistake we make when we gather is, we assume that we know what the purpose or the need is, and so does everyone else.”
So make sure to include your meeting’s objective in your meeting invite. This will help set expectations and allow your participants to prepare accordingly.
Prepare a “set list” for the meeting
Performers, comedians, and musicians will often prepare a set list for a show so that they know exactly what to do and in what order. A set list can be in the form of a bulleted list. It can be a list of talking points, agenda items, or discussion topics.
A set list also helps you manage your time better. So if your meeting is running over, you would glance at your set list and identify which items to compress or remove. Or if you have extra time, you would expand on a topic or discussion point.
If you’re a new manager running your first team meeting, your set list could look like this:
- Introduce myself and summarize meeting objective: 5 minutes
- Do a meeting icebreaker : 10 minutes
- Have everyone go around and introduce themselves: 15 minutes
- Explain my goals for the first month: 10 minutes
- Take questions: 10 minutes
- Wrap up and thank participants for their time: 2-3 minutes
A set list will help you organize your thoughts and provide a solid structure for your meeting. And if your meeting ever goes off track, it will help you bounce back and stay on course.
Make space for “side” meetings
Meetings are a great way to connect with team members and build camaraderie. But, oftentimes, much of the bonding and connecting is happening not at the meeting itself, but on the margins of the meeting.
And a crucial time for creating connection is during the pre-meeting. This is when people are trickling into the room and getting settled. They’re chatting with co-workers about their weekend or sharing updates about their work.
So don’t feel pressured to take command of the room right away. Let your meeting participants use this precious time to make small talk and connect with their co-workers.
Side meetings have both short-term and long-term benefits. Participants get to chat with their office colleagues, which puts them at ease, allowing them to engage during the actual meeting. And it will help build team spirit and connection in the long run.
Post-meeting assessment & growth
So you just lead your first team meeting. Congrats!
To help you get the most out of this experience, make sure to take some time afterwards to reflect on how it went. Read over your meeting notes to help you jog your memory.
- What is your overall feeling about the meeting?
- What would you do differently in the future?
- What would you replicate?
- When did participants seem the most engaged? When did their energy seem to wane?
With regular practice and reflection, your meetings will be much more effective and dynamic.
Written by JiJi Lee