If you ask members of a startup about their team meetings, one common thread of thought you will come across will be, “I think it was a total waste of time” or “I could’ve completed three client calls in this time”. More often than not, team meetings are seen as unproductive and rarely adding any value to the business. However, this is true only when the meetings are unplanned and unprepared for. On the flip side, most businesses today are adopting startup meeting hacks to boost productivity.
What are startup meeting hacks you ask? Well, as the millennial generation has quick fixes to all problems, unproductive meetings are no different. Invariably, seed to unicorn startups today are adopting numerous hacks to make meetings a value add than simply a tick in the box.
Start with an Agenda
One of the major reasons for an unproductive startup meeting is the absence of an agenda. Generally, the whole team meets without having any concrete topic, challenge or development to discuss, i.e. goals are not defined. In the absence of a clear cut agenda, conversations digress from one topic to another and people start multi tasking. In fact, 92% of people multitask in meetings, undermining their productivity. Therefore, it is very important to have a proper agenda in place. It might even be a good idea to circulate the agenda before hand to help people prepare for the meeting. A pre decided agenda will prevent people from multitasking and in fact help them concentrate on the topic at hand.
Additionally, most organizations with highly productive meetings state that simply deciding the objective and talking points are not enough. It is wise to also put the onus of responsibility for every action item on different team members. This way the productivity of the meeting becomes a collective responsibility. Eventually, everyone starts contributing to it.
K.I.S.S (Keep it Short & Simple)
Another reason that might make a startup meeting unproductive is it being unnecessarily long. One common trend going around these days as a part of startup meeting hacks is to keep it short and simple. This means that the meeting should not go on for hours and hours without coming to an end. If you ask yourself, for how long can you concentrate in a meeting, your answer will likely fall in the 30-45 minutes category. Therefore, having short meetings makes sense.
On the one hand, short meeting agendas are simpler to make, and the relevant stakeholders can manage to take out a short duration for the same. On the other hand, bite sized meetings can bring together only those who are important to the topic at hand. An all encompassing meeting can be painfully long, along with being monotonous and losing people’s interests. In case you have a large number of topics to discuss, divide them into small pieces. Following which you can have several meetings to discuss each issue individually, rather than doing everything in one go!
Scribe all the Way
You would also see startups where meetings are a super hit in the moment, but don’t amount to anything substantial in the long run. Wondering why that happens? Well, the phenomenon of ‘out of sight, out of mind’, might be at play. What happens is that during the meeting, everyone is high on energy and a number of goals and strategies are set. However, in due course of time, people tend to forget what was actually discussed. Therefore, it is very important for any startup meeting to have a scribe in place. The role of a scribe in simple. To note down all the action items and important points that are discussed during the meeting. The famous ‘flip charts’ are where all scribes put in the important notes.
One of the best startup meeting hacks is not only to scribe during the meeting, but also share the pointers with everyone. This translates to sending to everyone the minutes of the meeting with the person responsible across each line item. Not only will the person responsible remember the task at hand, group circulation will also ensure accountability. So, to boost productivity in your next startup meeting, scribe, scribe and scribe!
Mix it Up
Next in line that makes a startup meeting unproductive is the location. The same old meeting room, every week can get on anyone’s nerves. In fact, studies have shown that the physical space has a great impact on productivity. Therefore, one of the startup meeting hacks that people recommend is to mix up the location. It will obviously be subjected to your team size, and meeting agenda, but you can try different locations. Even within your office, you could ditch the meeting room and have the meeting in the common area or the pantry. Not only will the new location break the monotony, it will also bring about new ideas and boost innovation.
However, make sure that in an attempt to mix things up, you don’t end up choosing a location that is too distracting to work in. Pick a quiet place which adds freshness to your thoughts, but doesn’t block your mind from functioning. It might be worth a try to conduct your next team meeting in a quaint cafe near your office space. In fact, you could turn it into a team lunch too. What better place to boost team engagement, right?
Pick the Right Days
If you didn’t believe it earlier, believe it now, there are right and wrong days for a startup meeting. Monday early morning meetings rarely work, because being attentive after a weekend is something everyone despises. Also, days on which your client traffic is the highest are also out of the question. Therefore, one of the startup meeting hacks you should adopt is to schedule meetings for days which are generally unproductive.
Now, obviously, there is not a specific day of the week when all startups are unproductive, Thus, you will have to tailor your days to your specific business domain. However, in general, afternoons, especially, the monday ones, can be a good time for a team meeting and set the stage for the week. Friday evenings are a bad choice because weekend just blows away any constructive progress made.
Rotate the Leader
Finally, the last amongst the many startup meeting hacks is to keep rotating the leader. For a simple understanding, the leader of a meeting is someone who steers the startup meeting towards the defined role. He/ she is also responsible for ensuring that others don’t digress from the agenda. However, most startups make the mistake of making the same person lead every meeting. This has two downsides. On the one hand, the same person feels the pressure every time and burns out. On the other hand, others eventually become just passive receivers, adding no real value.
Thus, a sure way to make a move out of this vicious circle would be to have different people lead different meetings. Not only will this ensure that everyone is ‘awake’ during the meeting because they might have to lead the next one, and give a context, it will also break the monotony. Therefore, it is always important to have a leader navigate the meeting to ensure sticking to the agenda. Even better is to have a different leader every time to spice up the discussion.
Leading Startup Meeting Hacks at Recro
Like any startup, we at Recro, have had our share of unproductive meetings. However, now the tables have turned. By implementing these startup meeting hacks, our productivity is off the roof. Wondering how we did it? Write to us, and we will be happy to share our secret sauce!