Meetings are essential to make informed decisions and make your team feel involved. Learn here some useful tips for effective meetings that will help your project keep on track.
When we work as a team, we face many challenges that can put the progress and the achievement of objectives at risk if not handled in the right way. In software development, where meetings are commonplace, — perhaps even more so than in other fields due to the dynamics of the projects and the industry — it is crucial that all team members collaborate to have effective meetings to bring the project to a successful conclusion.
In software projects, meetings are common, no matter the methodology used; however, these meetings often become boring, monotonous, and unproductive, as they usually are daily events.
An effective meeting is an opportunity to grow and learn new ideas, raise different points of view, and determine whether the actions taken are the right ones or should be modified. How do we have productive meetings that really engage people’s interests? How do we lead a meeting efficiently so that everyone takes something positive from it?
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Tips for effective meetings during the preparation stage
This is a very important stage since this is where we give shape and order to the meeting to be highly productive, focus on its objective, and keep it from becoming monotonous. Therefore, we must take the following into account.
- Allow time for people to prepare: Notify the team in advance so they can be prepared in case something is expected of them. It is important to verify their attendance and any physical or technological resources required for the meeting to be successful.
- Select the right audience: It is imperative to minimize the number of people attending the meetings and invite only those who are necessary and contribute to their purpose. Remember that the number of attendees multiplies the cost in hours, so it is key to optimize the meeting and invite indispensable people. Do not be afraid to exclude people. In some organizations, attending meetings is perceived as a value itself, but to fall into this would be a mistake.
- Establish the meeting’s objective and the agenda: It is essential to define the topics to be discussed and, if possible, the level of involvement of each participant. It is also extremely crucial to establish a schedule for the meeting — prioritizing the topics with an appropriate time frame — and send it to the attendees. When running a meeting, a key aspect is to avoid addressing different and unconnected topics as much as possible. If it becomes necessary to address other issues, it is best to plan separate meetings to avoid losing focus on why the meeting was called.
Likewise, it is imperative to identify the type of meeting we are going to attend:
- Informative: Its objective is to provide information on a specific topic or guideline. The moderator manages the participation, and attendees ask questions for clarification.
- Consultative: The moderator raises a situation and controls how the attendees present their point of view. Brainstorming is an example of this type of meeting.
- Analytical: It aims to review and find the solution to a given situation. The moderator presents a series of data and consequences of a topic and encourages the participants to find the actions to be taken.
- Time planning: It is vital to allow the right amount of time for each topic and establish a communication strategy, depending on the type of meeting. Establishing mechanisms for decision-making (e.g., voting) is key to ensure that the meeting will end having achieved its objective.
- Follow the “Good things, when short, are twice as good” rule: It is preferable to have shorter, effective meetings than long, meaningless meetings with little results.
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Effective meeting strategies during the development stage
- Ensure punctuality: Whether you are an organizer or participant, try to be punctual to avoid making people wait.
- Follow the defined agenda: Establishing an agenda with specific topics and times and following it as defined is crucial. Avoid exceeding the planned times.
- Close agreements and propose mechanisms for decision-making: Following the order of topics and priorities to be addressed, it is crucial to discard those aspects that are not so important and focus on the most pressing issues. In order to move towards a truly effective meeting, it is essential to maintain control and avoid arguments. Ensuring a positive atmosphere during the meeting is fundamental because it should be promoted as a space for sharing ideas and generating consensus. Using anecdotes will help attendees to relax.
- Establish a communication strategy: It is essential to ensure that all participants are considered, taking into account the particularities of each person.
Productive meetings in the closure stage
To consolidate the topics developed in a meeting is necessary to set up a closure meeting to establish the next steps. This is the moment where the meeting’s effectiveness is tested.
- If necessary, set aside some time for questions, answers, and clarifications during this stage of the meeting. Allow the team to have a space to express their thoughts and concerns so that the commitments to follow are clear.
- Keep a written, audio, or video record of the topics discussed and their assignments. The responsibility of each participant must be kept in these records. Do not forget to send or leave the meeting’s minutes in an accessible place.
- Always remember to follow up on tasks assigned, establish clear criteria for evaluating actions, and promote the execution of these tasks.
We can follow many effective meeting strategies when working on software projects, and all of them depend on many factors: the size of the team, how big the project is, the level of complexity, and the profiles involved in the project, among others.
It’s necessary to keep in mind that everyone’s commitment will play a key role in an effective meeting. An authentic and fruitful meeting will encourage communication, continuous improvement, success of the tasks, and productivity.
Knowing that in many cases there are people, such as leaders or managers, who spend most of their time in meetings, it is important to be mindful of the tips mentioned above, as they can help minimize wasted time and pointless gatherings. The meeting should be a means and a tool to help solve problems and streamline processes.
We have explained some tips for effective meetings in software projects. Do you have others we can put into practice to take our teams to the next level?
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