Here's something we can all agree on: no one — including managers — likes sitting in boring, pointless meetings. In fact, a Harvard Business Review poll found that 71% of senior managers consider meetings to be generally “unproductive and inefficient,” while 62% said they fail to “bring the team closer together.”
Boring, ineffective meetings squander valuable time, energy, and focus that could be spent growing and developing your business. To run an effective meeting, you need to be prepared with a framework that fosters engagement and templates to keep them on point. Here are 10 of our favorite meeting topics and templates you can use to spice up your next meetings.
1. Ice breakers and introductions
Effective teamwork is only possible when you know the people you’re working with. Ice breaker and introduction meetings are a proven way to kickstart better team communication, enabling cohesion, and providing space for your team to be more human.
Ice breakers and introductions don’t need to be fancy — or even formal, for that matter. They’re simply spaces for your team to interact and get to know one another. One meeting could center around identifying everyone’s favorite books (using our Team Bookshelf template) or create a space for goofy team sketches (like our Selfie Sketch template). The possibilities are endless, and increased team unity leads to stronger, more cohesive work.
Related: 20 Virtual Meeting Ice Breakers for Remote Teams
2. Ongoing projects
The two most direct benefits of ongoing project meetings are ensuring team alignment on projects and business goals and identifying what else needs to be done. A more subtle — albeit impactful — benefit is the opportunity for team members to voice where they are in their project and solicit help for any sticking points or roadblocks they’re facing. Regular, ongoing project meetings help individuals partner with other team members to overcome hurdles together.
To run an effective ongoing project meeting, provide time for each team member to voice how they’re feeling, what they’re working on, and request help if they need it. At the end of each meeting, summarize your findings, identify and organize sticking points, and ask team members to provide direct feedback on each other's project contributions.
The Ultimate Team Standup template is designed for meeting leads to quickly visualize project progress, team member buy-in, and areas that need more attention.
Related: How to Make Daily Stand-Ups More Effective
3. Performance reviews
Performance reviews get bad press, but regular performance review meetings hold tremendous benefits for both team leaders and employees. These meetings let you dig deeper into current systems, processes, and team output to identify what’s working and what needs improvement.
Approached in this way, performance reviews help foster a culture of accountability and improvement among businesses and teams.
Take the edge off of performance review meetings by using the Traffic Light Retrospective template. You can hold these meetings in a 1-on-1 format with individual team members or with your team as a whole. Start by checking in with your team or employee, then break the meeting into four parts:
- Start: What activities or processes should the employee or team do more regularly?
- Stop: What activities or processes are not beneficial to the team and need to stop?
- Continue: What activities or processes are helpful and need to continue?
- Appreciate: What do you appreciate about the employee and/or the team?
4. Team wins
Employee and team recognition — both public and private — boosts morale and motivates employees to improve their job performance. When you take the time to celebrate wins in the context of a team meeting, you help entire teams develop a strong sense of ownership over projects and tasks.
At a minimum, schedule team win meetings once per quarter to ensure team and employee progress is recognized and rewarded. Set up a time where your team can celebrate completed projects and current progress on a task or goal.
For an even greater boost in team morale, keep track of all of your team win meetings with a single Team Retrospective template to see how much your team has accomplished throughout the year. (And why not throw some digital confetti to celebrate?)
5. Quarterly goals
Quarterly goal meetings help keep your team aligned on business objectives and focused on key performance indicators (KPIs).
And having business goals isn’t just a formality. Teams that regularly set and pursue goals see a 28% increase in same-year operating margin — making goal-setting an important function for every business.
Running a quarterly goal meeting will look different depending on where your team is at in the goal-setting process.
If this is your first quarterly goal meeting, set aside time to identify one to three S.M.A.R.T. goals — goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
If you’ve already set goals, then split your meeting into three parts: stating the goals, reflecting on and measuring your progress toward your goals, and, if needed, evolving the goals for stronger results.
Keep all of your quarterly goal meetings in a single page or template (like our Quarterly Business Review template) to consistently track your progress and watch as your goals are achieved.
6. Future headlines
If you’re struggling with setting goals for your business, ‘future headlines’ meetings are a fun way for teams to reverse-engineer what they need to do to achieve success.
Use the Future Headlines template and invite team members to imagine the future of your business and the headlines they’d like to see in the news, trade journals, or blog posts. But don’t just limit yourself to the positive headlines; think of worst-case-scenario headlines as well.
Once you have a list of positive and negative headlines, brainstorm what needs to be done to achieve (or avoid) those headlines. Those action steps then form the basis for your business goals.
7. Product planning
Product planning meetings let business leaders, managers, and teams define exactly what their product offers, how they offer it, and a roadmap for product or service release. When organized in a template (such as our Product Requirements templates), these meetings lay the foundation for a single-source-of-truth document for each product.
Take these four questions into your next product planning meeting:
- What is our product? This helps you describe what it is and what it does.
- Who is our product for? This question identifies your target audience.
- Why are we creating it? Here you explain your business goals and the value proposition behind your product.
- How are we distributing it? Here you establish how you’ll get your product out into the world.
Collectively answer these questions to help your team have a foundational understanding of each of your products.
8. Backlog refinement
Your team always has projects to work on, but which ones should you focus on first? Holding a backlog refinement meeting gives your teams a chance to lay out all the projects and tasks that need attention, then better prioritize those tasks. These meetings help keep teams aligned and on task — especially in regard to the projects coming down the pipe.
To run a successful backlog refinement meeting, first identify all the projects and tasks your team needs to tackle. Then give team members the time and opportunity to break down each item into smaller sub-tasks. This lets teams see which projects will require more or less work and helps distribute project workload among team members. Finally, allow team members to determine the priority order for each item and arrange your backlog accordingly. If your team has a large backlog, our Backlog Refinement template easily helps you keep track of this process.
9. Customer insights
In a consumer-centric market, businesses need to know their customers inside and out to provide the best product and service possible. Customer insight meetings allow teams to assess the customer data a business has collected — such as demographics, purchase behavior, or customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys. Armed with this data, you can better understand customers and brainstorm ways to meet their wants and needs.
Use our Customer Insights template for a fun and creative way of observing and assessing your customers. In a meeting, designate 30 minutes for team members to observe your customers — reviewing direct feedback, social media interactions with your product and business, or purchase behavior. Then, regroup to share observations and designate action items that build on those insights and improve the customer experience.
10. Work Life Impact Play
For employees and teams to be successful, they need proper internal and external support. Work Life Impact Play meetings give business leaders and team managers direct feedback on what kind of support their team members need in order to be at their best. These meetings examine how team members feel about their home office environment, their disposition toward work requirements and workload, and how well they feel they’re supported.
To run a Work Life Impact Play meeting, give each team member three quadrant-analysis graphs, each one labeled home office, role requirements, or support networks (or just use our Work Life Impact Play template!). Then let each team member place themselves in the appropriate quadrant for each graph. Do they share a home office space and have significant household responsibilities? Do they feel like their work role requires complex processes and provides limited social interaction? After everyone has participated, let your team spend time collectively reviewing each person’s graphs and brainstorming action items that can help support other team members.
Never fall asleep in meetings again
Make your meetings more collaborative and visually engaging. With MURAL’s Free Forever Plan, you can access hundreds of meeting topic templates and team exercises to help you spice up your meetings and unlock team insights and productivity.
These pre-made, fully customizable digital whiteboard templates give your team the flexibility to visually collaborate and interact — all in one space. Ditch the messy handouts, uneven staple jobs, and empty ballpoint pens.
Get started with MURAL today.