Team meetings are critical to your success. Probably more than you realize.
A 2011 study found that “team meeting processes shape both team and organizational outcomes” inside and outside the meeting.
Said without the academic jargon: What happens in your team meetings dictates what happens in your team in a big way.
The above study found that not only were better meetings associated with higher team productivity, but having constructive meeting processes correlated with organizational success 2.5 years after the meeting.
Good meetings had major, long-term effects, and the opposite was even more true. Dysfunctional communication in team meetings showed negative effects that were more pronounced than the positive effects.
These findings align with our own more recent research that also shows meeting culture is tightly correlated with overall team culture, happiness, and employee well-being.
Long story short—research shows that the stakes for having great team meetings couldn’t be any higher.
If you want a happy, healthy, productive team at work, you need to have great team meetings.
To that end, we’ve put together for you a quick guide to running successful team meetings, including resources on what to include, how to run your sessions, and free example templates to download or copy.
Among our examples, we'll show you the agenda templates that three real-world businesses use to run their weekly team meetings.
“Give me an agenda or else I’m not going to sit there, because if I don’t know why we’re in the meeting, then there’s no reason for a meeting.”
—Annette Catino, chief executive of the QualCare Alliance Network
Researchers have found that people don’t universally hate meetings, despite popular memes and discourse.
Employees actually enjoy meetings when they have a clear objective, and when important, relevant information is shared.
That's why the meeting agenda is so important to being ready to go when the meeting starts.
To bring clarity to your weekly team meetings, create a standard agenda template like the example one we share here.
Common to weekly meeting agendas are a set of core agenda items that tend to be in any team meeting agenda template, regardless of whether that team is in marketing, product, sales, operations, or any other department.
Common team meeting agenda items:
Here are some tips as to when to write these topics into your agenda to help you get started.
Starting off a meeting by sharing wins from the week serves as an icebreaker to help get the team warmed up and talking, which is especially useful if you're on a virtual screen share or doing audio conferencing like with a conference call.
Sharing wins also starts the team meeting out on a positive note. It's also a great way to highlight the priorities and projects that the team is working on.
In addition, sharing team wins charges up team members with energy. 78 percent of employees surveyed in a recent study said that “being recognized motivates them in their job.”
Wins can be your own "humble brag," or kudos given to another team member. And these wins don’t need to be giant, world-changing moments, either.
In a sales team meeting, for example, a win doesn’t have to be closing a deal. It might be scheduling a call with a great prospect, learning something new, or even a new employee doing their first demo.
What are the priorities that your team is trying to accomplish? Great teams measure their success and chart it weekly to keep track of progress on their key performance indicators (KPIs). Meeting notes are a fantastic, recurring doc to log this data that keep everyone on the same page.
On our marketing team, for example, we share 7-day and 30-day metrics in the Review Metrics section of our meeting agenda. Because our metrics can vary quite a bit across a 7-day period, especially if there is a holiday, promotion, or another impacting factor, the 30-day numbers provide extra context.
We also let employees report on the KPIs they have the biggest impact on
“It helps to follow a document with specific things each employee needs to report on. That way, you can keep up with their KPIs and ensure they're being met. If they aren't, you're aware of the issue and can work to overcome it.”
— Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
This section may have the word “updates” in it, but I want you to think of this part of your team meeting as more like the “highlights and roadblocks” section.
But first, many times, status updates can and should be done outside of the meeting. Send project updates as an email or as a Loom video. Or you could discuss your projects' status in a chat thread in Slack of Microsoft Teams. You don't want your meeting bogged down with large status updates that sap the energy from all attendees.
As for slide decks, that's not the level of information sharing you want to be doing at a recurring team meeting, usually. Save the slide decks for one-off meetings where you have such an important peice of information to share, it's worth the cost of draining energy from the room.
The reason that updates are part of most weekly agenda templates is to provide a quick snapshot of the team’s activity. You’re getting that bird’s eye, whole-picture view. If there are roadblocks, you tap into the team's collective knowledge to think through solutions. You can highlight those challenges, get quick feedback, and see whether you need to bring other team members on board to help you solve your issue.
To reiterate: The key here is to streamline your status updates. Submit them in advance if possible, as bullet points in the agenda. Don't linger too long here.
On our agenda, this section is called “Topics for Discussion,” but don’t be confused. You don't just write any old topic. For recurring weekly meetings, you want to keep your discussions strategic and high-level.
Harvard Business School suggests you narrow your focus, picking 1-2 hot topics that are priorities for the team.
“As the team leader, you should solicit one to two hot topics per meeting from your team. I recommend you do this no more and no less than 48 hours before it is scheduled so ideas are timely and content is fresh. Topics should not be tactical—that’s what stand-ups and 1:1s are for. Instead, focus on strategic discussions.”
Good candidates for strategy discussions are topics where all team members might have a point of view or feedback to provide. These are challenges that require the collective might of all attendees to help with their solutions. People are one of your greatest resources. So, with so many brains in the room, there aren't any roadblocks that can stand in your way.
Want to be an effective team? Be a decisive team.
Maybe it should go without saying, but a discussion in a team meeting is usually only worthwhile if it ends in a decision. Otherwise, you’re kind of going in circles, wasting everyone’s time. Because when a discussion ends without a decision, it usually requires another meeting to be scheduled.
Research has found, unsurprisingly, that daily meeting load correlates with feelings of fatigue and workload. So if there’s an opportunity to solve an issue in your weekly meeting, then make the decision if possible. And if there isn’t, consider postponing the entire discussion until you have all of the information or people around that you need to make the decision.
In your meeting notes (or meeting minutes, a more formal way to refer to meeting docs) and in the meeting itself, it’s a great practice to highlight the actions that you’re going to take in the form of tasks or next steps. You can do this by:
If you don't have a due date, a good default is "before the next team meeting."
Action items must be a priority if you want good follow-through from your meetings. We put this on the agenda because often it requires a couple of minutes in the meeting to get right.
“Leave the last few minutes of every meeting to discuss the next steps. This discussion should include deciding who is responsible for what, and what the deadlines are. Otherwise, all the time you spent on the meeting will be for naught,” says Adam Bryant of the New York Times.
Every business is different. Different priorities. Different projects. Different team sizes. So, while most of the tips in this article will probably work for your company and your team, it doesn't make sense just to create one universal format for team meetings and declare it works universally for every type of team meeting.
Your agenda may be different than what you find in this post based on the needs of your business. (For example, you might take a meeting agenda template we have here but make it more formal.)
Below we have a variety of agenda templates in terms of types of businesses, team types, and levels of seniority.
Not all of the main agenda items that we highlight above are in each of these example docs. Rather than give you a single solution, we wanted to give you a range of potential meeting agendas that you could adapt to your company, depending on which format aligned most closely.
This team meeting agenda template is available in three types of docs. Two are as a basic template document, either a Word doc or Google doc.
You can also get this meeting agenda template in your free Hugo account where you can easily set an agenda or take notes/minutes, and assign and track tasks for any meeting in your calendar.
Get any template on this page:
- Word Doc (download)
- Google Doc (make a copy)
- Use in Hugo (meeting productivity software for teams)
Remember that an agenda doc can easily be turned into meeting notes or minutes just by filling it in with more information as the meeting goes on.
This sample agenda includes all the standard elements of a team meeting agenda without any flair or fluff.
Another take on the weekly meeting, this template gives more instruction to attendees on how to use the template and run their meeting successfully.
Run your team meetings with Trello's meeting style using this template, with instructions contributed by Jessica Webb, Product Marketing Senior Team Lead at Trello.
Rising Tide Brewing Company uses this meeting agenda template which focuses on team leads and discussions that need to be had to keep the company in alignment on a weekly basis.
Discuss pressing issues facing the company as a leadership team so that the message presented to the company is unified. Find efficiencies across departments with a quick roundtable of updates.
For product and developer teams, the weekly team meeting is usually a sprint planning meeting. See how Rob Muise at Brute Strength Training tackles priorities and backlog grooming in his meeting agenda template.
Weekly team meetings are a special case versus ad hoc meetings because they’re a routine meeting that happens on a regular basis. That makes them more predictable, but it also makes them more vulnerable to becoming aimless and wasteful like many recurring meetings can.
To keep your team meetings energetic and productive, here are some tips, starting with setting a goal for such a nebulous meeting.
If you're familiar with our PANTS Test for meetings, you know that every meeting should have a Purpose (not to mention an Agenda, Notes, Tasks, and be Shared).
The stated purpose of a recurring meeting like this one may be a harder to pin down, but if you think about it, your goals for such a meeting are as follows:
With these goals in mind, if you find your team meetings aren't improving your relationships, aren't helping you make decisions, and aren't surfacing important topics for group discussion, then you probably have some thinking to do about how to better run those meetings.
While we believe you should write your meeting notes in a shared doc (versus having everyone take their own notes), it's still a good idea to have a specific person assigned to the job of taking down the meeting minutes.
Often one person will enjoy this responsibility and do it naturally, but if nobody steps up to the plate, rotating note-takers from session to session is also an option.
The best route to having an engaging team meeting is to get the team involved. That's right—if you're the host of your own weekly team meeting, you want to make an effort not to micro-manage every minute of the session.
Gartner suggests that a team leader talks during a meeting no more than 50% of the time.
Julia Austin, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School, takes the number down even further. “The team’s leader should not speak more than one-third of the time,” says Austin. “Your job is to guide the discussion and listen.”
Recalling the research cited at the very top of this article, giving team members some ownership of the meeting is a great way to empower them in their roles outside of the meeting too. It signals that, as a manager, you trust them with their responsibilities.
“Turn the tables and empower your team to run these meetings. Instead of you taking the wheel and running check-ins—like interrogations where people receive feedback—try handing the reins over.”
— Matthew Capala, Alphametic
Every team has its dominant voices, and there’s no harm in sharing opinions, provided space is made for all voices in the room.
You might think this tip is about introverts and extroverts, but the issue is a lot bigger than that, and it's important.
Research shows that women and minorities often see their voices are underrepresented in meetings. Even if you think that your team culture doesn’t have that kind of bias, it’s helpful to put habits into place to ensure that it’s not happening, even if unconscious or accidental.
Video meetings with screen sharing can exacerbate this issue because a person's lack of participation can easily go unnoticed for an entire video call.
Here are a few ways to encourage more equal participation from your team:
Go around the room. Sometimes when you ask a question, go all the way around the room and let everyone answer.
Call on people. Call on specific people to share their points of view. If you’ve heard from someone multiple times, ask them to step back so others can share perspectives.
Ask everyone to add to the agenda. Letting team members put discussion topics on the agenda helps make space for a topic without someone having to interject.
Diversity on a team is one of its most important strengths—diversity of skills, experiences, backgrounds, and opinions. If you want the best ideas to win on your team, you have to make space for them to come to light in the first place.
This tip could change your life forever so don't skip over it.
When you set a meeting to 20 or 50 minutes long instead of the standard hour or half-hour meeting, it makes people perk up and pay attention to how long the meeting is taking. A 45-minute weekly team meeting is another interesting option, even though it falls on a more standard time schedule.
Another variation on this is to end at 25/55 or 20/50 past. This gives anyone with back-to-back meetings time to actually make it to their next meeting on time.
Whichever technique you decide, I suggest you make your team meeting stand apart from your other meetings with an irregular meeting length, with 45-minutes or 50-minutes being the sweet spot for most teams that want a staff meeting every week that is long enough to review important business, priorities, tasks, and projects, but not so long that it could get boring and tiring.
It’s important to digest the ideas and suggestions made within each before moving on. But in trapped back-to-back meetings, it’s like putting food in your mouth all day and never swallowing.
—Juliet Funt, author of A Minute to Think
Also see our article on how long and how often to hold 1:1 meetings for more tips on meeting scheduling.
One meeting tip you don’t hear often enough is to add a ritual or ceremony to your team meeting. The sharing of wins we suggest on the agenda fills this to a degree, but we suggest you go even further with it or personalize it to your own company.
At Hugo, we created a peer-to-peer award called the Hugo Hero. At each team meeting, someone is nominated to be the Hugo Hero based on something they did at work that upholds our core values as a company. That person gets to apply a custom emoji to their name in Slack, showing they are the hero. At the next weekly team meeting, the Hugo Hero passes along the mantle to the next person.
Legend has it that, in the early days, Amazon would always have one empty chair at the table during a meeting to signify “the customer.”
Other teams have their "Moment of Zen": a roundtable reflection on what each person learned that week.
It’s not on my resume, but I have another job title at work. If, for some reason, we need to kill time for a minute in a meeting, it’s my job to start the small talk or kick off a little discussion.
What my job really is, is to make sure that we’re not all just sitting around awkwardly staring at each other before the session.
Before a meeting starts, you want everyone to be engaged with each other, not their phones or laptops. So, if your team has someone who likes to chit chat, make their role official.
Above, we have advice for your team meeting agendas, but as you go through the article, heed this overall advice as well. Because the meeting agenda is just the basis for your meeting. On top of that is all the communication that actually occurs. Especially if you're on a video conference call, this is important information.
Research by Quantum Workplace is very insightful on two of the bigger areas where team meetings go wrong:
So take a moment to:
If you run out of time in a meeting, follow up after in group chat like Microsoft Teams or Slack to make sure there are no miscommunications.
Remote work is hardest for new employees. When you work remotely, there are no casual chit chats over lunch or by the coffee pot. Virtual meetings are often one of the only opportunities to pick up on the team dynamic and culture.
So when you have new remote attendees, be conscious of the invisible barriers from screen to screen in your virtual meeting. Take extra time to acknowledge them and draw them into the conversation.
The tips and advice in this article are designed for team meetings within a department or project. These are usually meetings of 3-8 people that happen on a weekly cadence.
A similar but different recurring meeting might be an all-staff meeting (sometimes called an all-hands meeting) or a board meeting. While all-hands and board meetings are definitely important, they have additional considerations.
A board meeting, for example, is likely more formal and isn't going to happen every week. If you need help with the agenda for your board meeting, we have multiple templates to download:
Likewise, with all-hands meetings, here's an excellent format for acing that all-important staff meeting.
You've got all the tips and meeting agenda templates. What could possibly be left?
Well, your agenda may need some tweaking. And not just now, as you get started. Agendas should be adapted over time as you receive feedback from your attendees on how the meeting is going.
Of all the research on meeting practices we reviewed when writing this article, one bit of advice stood out for having productive meetings.
Managers should consider overtly asking about how attendees feel about meetings as a way to identify areas for improvement.
So yes, you can use this guide to create the sample meeting format that you’ll use for your team meeting agenda each week. But every so often, stop and ask your team (and yourself) — how is this going?
Over time an agenda can balloon. New sections and creep in. Or the addition of new team members can result in what are effectively multiple teams sharing the same weekly team meeting. So reach out to attendees and ask the hard questions.
Because we run our meetings in Hugo, we can use a Rate This Meeting form component at the bottom of our template, allowing everyone to score our weekly meeting every week. When looking back at that data, if the average score is starting to slip, that usually means something is out of whack with how we’re running the meeting, and it’s time to return to the overall format and see what needs to be tuned up.
To run a great meeting, keep the team aligned, and the agenda short, specific, and action-oriented.
Learn the secrets to setting up your team for success.