How to Lead a Successful Creative Team Meeting

By Robert Half April 4, 2017 at 9:30am

The average employee spends 31 hours a month in unproductive meetings, according to recent research collected by Atlassian. Here’s how to make sure the next creative team meeting you lead is beneficial to all involved.

We’ve all fallen victim to a bad team meeting that starts late, fails to cover the proposed topic and is dominated by the same voices. We leave wondering why anyone was there in the first place. The fact that meetings have a reputation for being epic time-wasters can make planning and leading staff gatherings all the more stressful and challenging.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I’ve found the key is to invest enough time in proper planning. Here are some pointers that managers can use to help set up creative team meetings for success.

Understand the purpose of the team meeting

The salary cost of unnecessary meetings for U.S. businesses is a whopping $37 billion, according to the aforementioned Atlassian report. So, before you schedule a meeting (including longstanding ones), determine why you need the meeting in the first place. For instance, is it to make a critical group decision? Do you feel it’s necessary to have a team brainstorm? Do you want to present and discuss a new business strategy or direction? Or are you having it out of habit?

Forcing yourself to go through this process will help you identify if you truly need the meeting. You will likely find that some of the things you want to accomplish can be handled quickly via email or a chat tool. When you identify that a meeting definitely is in order, the next step is to think about the amount of time you need and the right people to invite. Each participant should either have valuable input to offer or a stake in the outcome of the discussion.

Figure out the best format

Now that you’ve decided on your meeting participants and the duration, you need to pick the format. Despite the ease of video or conference calls, sometimes having people meet face to face is critical. The format will depend on the topic to be discussed, the number of participants, the location of those participants and any timing sensitivities. If you want your telecommuters or key freelancers to be physically present try to give them ample notice.

Circulate a clear meeting agenda

It’s always good practice to clearly convey the purpose and format of the meeting to your team in your meeting invitation. Sending out an agenda (and any supporting materials) in advance is a win-win. You’re setting expectations so there are no surprises, while also giving people adequate time to prepare, which will make for a more focused and efficient gathering. It’s also smart to share a meeting reminder the day prior or set your calendar invite to automatically remind those attending.

Read about the seven elements of a highly creative work environment.

Think through the logistics and tech support

If you are hosting a video or conference call make sure you know how to use all the equipment. If you have any doubt about the technical requirements ask for help in advance. There’s nothing worse than a meeting that goes sideways due to a last-minute technical hiccup. If you’re gathering in person, secure the most appropriate meeting space for the number of attendees.

Stay on track

Starting and ending your creative team meetings on schedule not only demonstrates good time management and respect for attendees, it focuses your time together and makes for a more productive gathering. While a little side chatter is normal, don’t be afraid to tactfully rein in tangential conversations if they’re eating up valuable minutes.

Also, as the leader of the meeting it’s crucial to set a good example. Putting your phone, or anything else that could distract you, to one side speaks volumes to the participants.

Quarterback the conversation

Be as inclusive as possible. When hosting a meeting it's important to get the views and thoughts of many participants, not just your most opinionated creatives. Create openings for less-outspoken team members to contribute to the conversation. They often have innovative ideas but might not be inclined to jump into discussions without prompting. Be prepared to ask individual participants directly for their input.

Read how one award-winning firm inspires creativity in employees.

Recap the discussion and next steps

Sharing a recap of the meeting and action items, even if it’s just a quick email with bullet points, is incredibly valuable. A thorough, well-organized recap is an effective way of spotlighting the outcome of the meeting and what’s needed to move that outcome forward. Capturing ideas and to-do lists helps prevent misunderstandings and holds people accountable for the action items for which they are responsible.

Making the extra effort to prepare for your meetings will not only help avoid glitches, it will make the time you spend together as a creative team as productive as possible. Your team will appreciate your efforts more than you know.

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