Many of today’s creative professionals face an interesting dilemma. They’d like to work from home more frequently but, at the same time, prefer to communicate with their teammates during in-person meetings. Talk about trying to be in two places at once.
More than two-thirds of industry professionals (69 percent) who responded to The Creative Group’s Creative Workplace survey said they’d like to work from home or another non-company site more often than they currently do. And yet nearly half of respondents (49 percent) said the most effective method for communicating with their colleagues is in-person meetings.
Of course, creative pros can do both: embrace remote work and place a premium on in-person interaction with their teammates. Being in two places at once can be simulated if you’re willing to substitute “in-person” for face-to-face interaction via video conferencing. To make the most of virtual meet-up time, creative professionals — and especially leaders — must master one crucial skill: knowing how to run a meeting effectively.
Employees surveyed in our research said that 25 percent of the time spent in meetings is wasted time. Just think what you and your creative teammates could accomplish if you got back just some of that time each month? Or, at the very least, imagine the progress you’d make if you turned pointless meetings into highly productive ones? You can put an end to this wasted time for good simply by learning how to run a meeting.
Below are some tips for making that happen, including insights from two creative industry leaders: Moira Cullen, vice president and global creative director at method products pbc., a pioneer of premium planet-friendly and design-driven home, fabric and personal care products, and Eddie Opara, partner at Pentagram, the world’s largest independent design consultancy. They both share their views on why it’s important to ensure that your creative team communicates and collaborates effectively — whether you are meeting in person or virtually.
How to run a meeting with a clear purpose
Before you even schedule a meeting, determine why you need to get together in the first place. For instance, should you convene 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 just holding the meeting because it’s what you do every Wednesday at 10 a.m.?
Learning how to run a meeting effectively starts with identifying if there’s an actual need for the meeting. More than likely, you’ll find that some of the tasks you want to accomplish can be handled via email or a chat tool.
That said, sometimes there is simply no substitute for in-person communication and collaboration among creative team members. And if you rely on tech too often to conduct your creative meetings, you risk numbing or dialing down human interaction, which is essential to the creative process, explains Cullen.
Cullen says that preserving the human connection, to the extent possible, in everything creative teams do — including meetings — can have a positive impact on design. “The soft power of influence, for example, is a really powerful way to move people in design. You can pull people into the experience,” she says. Designers are at risk of losing touch with those “human factors” if they reduce their own person-to-person interaction in the workplace, she adds.
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Sort the logistics
Once you decide a meeting 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. And after you decide all that, you need to pick the format.
The meeting 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 remote freelancers to be physically present, be sure to give them ample notice. And if it’s too difficult for far-flung team members to make it to your meeting, make sure their virtual participation is as seamless as possible. (See the next step!)
Check your tech and secure your space
If you’re hosting a meeting via video or conference call, make sure you know how to use all the tools. If you have any doubt about the technical requirements, ask for help in advance. There’s nothing worse than a meeting that goes awry due to a technical hiccup.
And don’t forget to provide participants dial-in or connection information in advance of the meeting. Also, remind remote attendees to test their own video and audio connections prior to the call.
Another tip: If you’re getting together with your team in person, be sure to reserve a meeting space that’s suitable for the number of attendees (and comfortable enough for the duration of the gathering).
Create and circulate a meeting agenda
Part of knowing how to run a meeting is recognizing the importance of the meeting agenda. You need to convey the purpose and format of the get-together in the invitation to your team.
Sending out a brief but clear agenda and any supporting materials in advance is a win-win. You’re setting expectations, while also giving people adequate time to prepare. That will make for a more focused and efficient gathering.
Read about the seven elements of a highly creative work environment.
Mind the clock
Another step in the process of learning how to run a meeting effectively is to improve your time management skills. Starting and ending your creative team meetings on schedule demonstrates respect for attendees’ valuable time 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.
Help ensure that meetings start on time by sending a reminder the day prior to your meeting, or set your calendar invite to automatically remind those who will be attending. That will give everyone the chance to reconfirm that they’ll be attending as well — or let you know if they might arrive a little late.
It’s also crucial for creative leaders to set a good example for meeting etiquette. For instance, putting your phone, or anything else that could distract you, away speaks volumes to the participants. It will also encourage them to do the same, so everyone is fully focused on the meeting.
Encourage participation — from everyone
Be as inclusive as possible during your meeting. It’s important to get the views and thoughts of many participants — not just your most opinionated creatives.
Also, provide opportunities 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. And be prepared to ask individual participants directly for their input.
Opara says creative leaders should be willing to be inspired by great ideas coming from any team member because it can inform their own work — and help them maintain a fresh outlook on projects. “I am always learning from my team, including while I am teaching them,” he says. “I think it’s important for creative leaders, no matter how experienced they are, to constantly remind themselves to keep learning. Why? Because that’s what helps them stay relevant.”
He adds that encouraging team members to speak up and share their ideas can also help them to refine their soft skills, which are important for long-term career success.
“The term ‘soft skills’ makes it sound as if those skills aren’t valuable,” says Cullen. “But they have incredible value. Effective collaboration and communication are so important for moving people around an idea or a certain initiative or strategy. Also, the courage and strength to speak up and share ideas, and really explore those ideas, are important to the actual day-to-day part of making things — more so than any technology you might use in the process. A creative team needs strong communicators, influencers and discerners to move an idea or project forward.”
Don’t fail to follow up
Sharing a recap of the creative team 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 reinforcing 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 their action items. Your busy colleagues will appreciate this extra effort more than you know.
Knowing how to run a meeting helps to ensure team productivity. So many creative professionals today want to work remotely. And creative organizations increasingly find they must tap talent from far and wide for their projects. Both trends make getting together for meetings more complicated. So, it only makes good business sense to never waste a moment of meeting time with your teammates, whether you’re sitting at the same table, or communicating through video.