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Better Meetings Make for Better Days

Better meetings make for better days, right? The team at FirstRound has 20 things you can use TODAY to up your meeting and team game.

Written by: First Round

“With the shift to remote work, most of the interpersonal interactions you have day-to-day are through Slack, email, Google Docs, and Zoom meetings. So it’s very possible that for many employees, their only face-to-face human interaction for the day is through a meeting. If that meeting is good, then their day is good. If that meeting is bad, then their day is bad.”

We’ve been mulling over this point ever since HashiCorp’s Kevin Fishner brought it up when he stopped by our podcast earlier this year. Even as some folks are returning back to a physical workspace, this sentiment is still more resonant than ever. Whether they’re in person or video conferencing, it’s hard to overstate the impact meetings have on an employee’s day-to-day experience at a startup — and yet lately, many of us seem to be having more bad meetings that are adding up to more bad days.

Whether it’s quips on Twitter about the endless slog of back-to-back Zoom meetings, or well-worn one-liners such as “This could have been an email,” you would be hard-pressed to find another component of the workday that bears the brunt of more jokes, complaints and general discontent. (This recent example from Salesforce’s Bret Taylor is a worthy entry into the canon.)

To help you make more progress toward the elusive goal of running more effective team meetings that don’t sap energy or waste time, we’ve combed through our archives to resurface best practices from some of the smartest leaders we’ve ever interviewed. 

Some of their advice offers up incredibly practical pointers around adjusting team meeting agendas or weaving in new questions; others center on reframing your own outlook so you can see these sessions in a new light. A few tidbits focus on how you can make existing meetings more effective, — or, thankfully, revisit and remove them all together. (But fair warning, one or two suggest adding new kinds of meetings that serve a targeted purpose.)

Spanning across team offsites, stand-ups and 1:1s with your direct reports, as well as more specific arenas like product reviews and board meetings, each piece of advice was selected for its focus on helping you approach your regular meetings with more energy and intention. Whether you’re looking for fresh ideas to reinvigorate a meeting that’s gone stale, or are hoping to start a newly recurring session off on the right foot, this roundup of tactical tips has got you covered. Let’s dive right in.


1. Set down your suitcase and revisit your wins to avoid the spillover effect between meetings

“Whenever someone tells me a meeting was challenging, instead of asking why I’ll ask what happened right beforehand. Usually that’s where the real answer is,” says leadership coach Katia Verresen. “Maybe they saw some discouraging data, or had a rough call. People go from meeting to meeting without thinking that one influences their performance or responses in another. We give ourselves zero transition time, and the result is emotional transference.”

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