Meetings are one thing that virtually every organization has in common. And yet, almost no one thinks they’re getting meetings right.
With too few meetings, it can be a struggle to stay aligned. But too many meetings make it hard to get things done and be the productive teams we all want to be.
And with so many meeting types, it’s hard to know what the right meeting cadence is for your team. Luckily, we’ve been thinking about this for a while — here are a few tips and guidelines to help you decide!
Related: Fixing bad meetings isn’t enough: it’s time to reimagine them
What is 'meeting cadence'?
A meeting cadence is the frequency, schedule, and duration of your meetings. Depending on the type of meeting, you might meet more or less frequently. Common meeting cadences include daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly.
It’s important to distinguish between when a meeting in real-time is necessary and when it'll be a big waste of time (e.g., “This meeting could have been an email”). It’s all too common for team leaders to schedule a meeting that could have easily been a quick status update via Slack or a shared online workspace.
Be mindful of your team’s schedules and determine whether you actually need a meeting.
As a general guideline, reserve meetings for specific cases and to create a consistent and manageable schedule around them. Unnecessary meetings interrupt the workday and cost your business money.
With the right cadence for your team meetings, you can have effective and productive meetings that boost business rather than inadvertently stall it.
Types of meeting cadences
Your team meeting cadence typically depends on your priorities and the purpose of that meeting.
- the size of the meeting;
- how many team members should be there;
- where the meeting will be held;
- and the urgency of the work you'll do during the meeting.
So before you arbitrarily select a recurring meeting cadence, consider which type of meeting cadence fits best with that meeting type and your objectives.
Daily meetings should be reserved for time-sensitive tasks and project management. Since these meetings occur more regularly, they're usually on the shorter side — no more than 30 minutes.
For example, if your marketing team is working on a big campaign, you might want to schedule daily check-ins to make sure every team member is on track with their tasks.
The idea is to gather and discuss challenges or roadblocks, give progress updates, and lay out your plans for the day. Note that this type of meeting is typically not the best option when project due dates are far away, as it can be disruptive and waste time that could otherwise be spent working.
Examples of daily meetings include:
- Daily stand-up meetings for project briefings or roadblock reports
- Sales team huddles or scrum meetings to share success stories or plan new targets
- Production or operation team check-ins to address any process issues
A weekly meeting cadence can be used to catch up as a team or meet individually with your direct reports. Like daily meetings, you can use this time to report on project progress, provide feedback, bring up any challenges, and refine plans or goals. These sessions might run anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or more, depending on the size of your team and the scope of the meeting agenda.
Examples of weekly meetings include:
- Sales pipeline reviews to review leads and adjust strategies
- Marketing campaign reviews to evaluate performance metrics
- Project status updates and questions
In some cases, a weekly meeting is still too frequent and becomes more of a time suck. But a monthly meeting would feel too infrequent, leaving you out of the loop or causing delays. In these cases, meeting bi-weekly gives you the right balance.
Examples of bi-weekly meetings include:
- Agile sprint planning to review the completed work and plan the next week’s work
- Check-ins on clients and account management
- One-on-one check-ins on progress or overall workplace wellbeing
Monthly meetings tend to be better for a staff-wide meeting or a larger project check-in. These are typically used to share general company updates, provide team updates to other teams, or educate on a new process. They’re also great for collecting feedback after a new product launch or campaign that needs time to run in order to gather data and analyze it.
Examples of monthly meetings include:
- Customer feedback meetings to address issues and improve
- All-hands meetings to keep everyone updated on business and strategy direction
- Training and development workshops
Quarterly meetings occur every three months. They’re best suited for longer goal planning and business review sessions of your team or company’s general direction. In some cases, these quarterly meetings are meant for larger groups or multiple teams to update each other on projects or discuss plans. It’s also a good time to bring any data or stats on how your team has been performing over the previous three months.
Examples of quarterly meetings include:
- Board meetings to discuss finances and major strategic decisions
- Roadmap update meetings for cross-functional teams
- Market research reviews and customer analysis
Annual meetings tend to be for very high-level discussions about business progress and an overview of plans for the next year. These meetings may occur with your team, your entire organization, or one-on-one with an individual team member.
Ideally, you use this time to celebrate accomplishments and highlight the great work that's been done over the past year. It’s also a way to get people excited about the year ahead and motivate and inspire your team.
Examples of annual meetings include:
- Performance reviews to discuss achievements and set goals for career development
- Yearly business reviews to discuss how things are going and plans for next year
- Strategic planning retreats to set long-term goals and develop new initiatives
Whether you follow these examples or do some variation of your own, the important thing is to experiment with these meeting types and cadences until you find what works for your company.
How to choose the best meeting cadence for your team
To choose an effective meeting cadence for your team, you’ll need to consider a few different factors. The first — and likely most important — question to consider is whether your team members already spend a lot of time in meetings. Too many meetings can contribute to burnout and a lack of time for focused work.
Here are a few steps you can take to make sure you’re choosing a meeting cadence that's beneficial for your team without adding stress or taking away from valuable work time.
1. Assess your team’s needs
Start by figuring out what items are high-priority and should be addressed during meetings. Do you have a challenging project you’re working on that needs brainstorming, or do you just want to check in on the progress of tasks?
Then, consider the logistical needs of your team environment. For example, with an in-person team, it’s easier to keep tabs on your team’s performance and work ethic than with a fully remote team. You might not need as many meetings to keep everyone in the loop and hold people accountable for their work. Remote teams can set up weekly or daily video calls to give progress updates. However, if your team members work across time zones, setting up frequent meetings might be tricky or disruptive for their schedules.
Related: Supercharge teamwork with visual collaboration | Mural + Microsoft Teams
In both cases, asynchronous communication should still be used to make sure everyone can do focused work and get things done.
2. Define the purpose of the meeting
A clear purpose for every meeting is a critical step in setting up an effective meeting cadence. Start by establishing your end goal for this recurring meeting. What do you want everyone to take away from each meeting once it’s over?
Once you have an answer to this, you can consider what material will be covered during the meeting. This will help you determine how often you might need to meet.
For example, say your goal is to brainstorm, create, and run a marketing campaign for a new product launching in two months. This is a relatively short time frame, but not short enough to warrant a daily meeting. A weekly meeting is likely the best option, with potential for a more frequent cadence as you get closer to the launch date.
3. Consider your team size and attendees
The size of your team can also impact what meeting cadence works best. Small teams tend to need less frequent meetings, while larger teams may need more communication and status updates. However, whether you lead a small or large team, not every meeting requires that all team members be present.
For example, you might host a meeting exclusively for your leadership team, which all managers attend, but their direct reports don't. If that’s the case, maybe the leadership meetings happen bi-weekly while a meeting with everyone else occurs monthly.
4. Determine the meeting duration
Next, you’ll need to figure out how long the meeting should be. Making sure you have enough time to cover everything without taking up too much time is a fine balance. If you decide you need an hour or more, you’ll likely need a less frequent meeting cadence. If you decide it only needs about 30 minutes, you might want a more frequent cadence.
To figure out how long the meeting should be, create a meeting agenda to see the extent of what'll be discussed during the meeting. You could even consider running a mock meeting by yourself or with a colleague and timing it to see how long it takes.
Make sure you include a discussion of action items or next steps at the end — an important part of the meeting that can take up some time.
5. Get team feedback
Before officially setting a meeting rhythm, share what you’ve learned and what your tentative plan is. Ask your team for feedback or any thoughts about this proposed meeting schedule. For example, one-on-one meetings have increased in their frequency over time. Yet, by the same token, almost 30% of those one-on-ones are regularly canceled — a clear indication that meetings are getting booked too often.
Some of the biggest challenges that people attribute to meetings are that they:
- Interrupt workflows
- Consist of off-topic conversations
- Have no set time-frame
- Have an overall feeling of chaos
- Don’t result in concrete action items of takeaways
When you get your team members involved, they can explicitly share these types of concerns with you so that you can make choices to prevent them. With their helpful feedback, you’ll make a better decision around cadence and anything else related to your meetings.
Infuse flexibility into your decision-making
Part of the problem with a meeting cadence that isn’t suited to the task is that your team members end up feeling annoyed and frustrated. This doesn't make for productive meetings. In fact, even when employees complain to their managers about wasted time, many managers still don’t reduce the frequency or structure of meetings.
Having a flexible mindset, regardless of what meeting cadence you choose, is what makes Agile teams successful. Adjusting your schedule, choosing new tools, or experimenting with new processes is all about what works best for your team and their changing needs.
Whether you choose to use templates to increase productivity and efficiency during meetings, or try out a new meeting cadence every so often, maintaining flexibility in your approach is key.
Not only will it reduce the negativity surrounding the norms of your meeting culture, but it'll also help you discover a meeting cadence that helps everyone thrive.