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7 Meeting Norms for Team Productivity & Engagement

Establish meeting norms for your team in 2024 to optimize workflow for maximum productivity and engagement.

By Mara Calvello  •   December 18, 2023  •   8 min read

You spend a lot of time attending meetings, and having good meeting norms can make or break the meeting’s overall productivity and efficiency. You never want the conversation to go off the rails, time to run long, or attendees to speak over one another—and setting these norms can help nothing like these situations take place again.

If your team doesn’t have established meeting norms, now is the time to set them. Let’s break down how!

What are meeting norms?

Meeting norms are the standards that a team or an entire organization sets around meetings that all participants and attendees should follow when participating in a meeting.  The standards aim to help establish guidelines for how everyone in the meeting should act and respond to others. 

Common meeting norms often address things like communication, expectations, participation, conflict management, decision-making, company culture, and time management.

Essentially, meeting norms are how you expect others to behave when they are in meetings.

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The benefits of meeting norms

There are several benefits to having good meeting norms amongst your team, with many centered around having clear and transparent communication in the workplace, especially when in meetings. 

Taking the time to discuss and establish expectations surrounding the behavior of all attendees ensures everyone understands how to respond to one another, participate in conversations, and engage in active listening. Having these norms will also encourage participation among attendees.

For example, if a meeting norm is set that attendees should never talk over or interrupt one another, team members will be more likely to take part in the conversation. This is especially important for new employees or lower-level employees who may be nervous or apprehensive about speaking up in meetings with higher-level team members.

General meeting norms to follow

No matter what type of meeting your team is holding, below are some common meeting norms to follow.

  • Be punctual: Teams should begin and end meetings on time. This shows respect for everyone’s time and keeps the schedule on track. This is especially helpful if attendees have another meeting right after or if the meeting is at the end of the workday. Being punctual also conveys to all attendees that you respect their time.
  • Come prepared: Participants should attend every meeting prepared, having reviewed any necessary documents, agendas, or reports beforehand. This gives attendees the chance to think of questions they may want to ask ahead of time or come ready with comments or concerns regarding a project while also ensuring the conversation is productive.
  • Have a clear meeting agenda: Have a well-defined meeting agenda distributed in advance so participants know the topics to be discussed and can prepare accordingly. Even if someone isn’t presenting, knowing what topics to expect helps set everyone up for success. Additionally, if a point on the agenda focuses on making an important decision, knowing this ahead of time can allow attendees to think critically about their decision before joining.
  • Participate actively: When the meeting host encourages everyone to participate, this ensures a diverse range of perspectives and ideas. This common meeting norm is especially important during virtual meetings, as having just one person speaking the entire time on video can make the meeting feel dull or lackluster.
  • Communicate respectively: Maintain a respectful tone, listen actively, and avoid interrupting others when they are speaking. When speaking up in a meeting, knowing how to keep your tone professional can ensure others understand the point you’re making and get a better idea of where you’re coming from.
  • Stay on topic: Keep discussions focused on the agenda items to avoid wasting time on irrelevant issues. This is especially important to keep meetings succinct, productive, and efficient. Plus, it could also result in meetings ending early or ahead of schedule, giving employees time back in their day. With Fellow’s browser extensions, you can access your meeting agenda directly from your video call or calendar event with one click, so you can check off items as you go.
  • Limit distractions: Discourage multitasking—such as using phones or laptops for unrelated work—to ensure full engagement. This may be challenging during remote meetings, when employees may be more tempted to browse the internet or reply to text messages or work messages, but let attendees know that the aim is to have everyone’s full attention. 
  • Maintain confidentiality: Depending on the type of meeting and the topics on the agenda, what is discussed in the meeting should stay within the group unless otherwise specified. 
  • Aim for decisive outcomes: Strive for clear conclusions, decisions, or next steps by the end of the meeting. This ensures the gathering was productive and a good use of everyone’s time. Otherwise, you run the risk of attendees leaving the meeting thinking the dreaded, “This could have been an email.”
  • Track action items: Assign and document action items, including the responsible parties and deadlines. These details will be especially important to have if there is confusion surrounding who is supposed to complete what work. A list of these action items should always be sent out after the meeting ends to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Foster inclusivity: Ensure that all voices are heard and that the meeting environment is inclusive and considerate of all participants. Attendees were invited for a reason–their opinions are wanted and valued, so be sure everyone is open to hearing different perspectives and ideas. 
  • Follow up: Distribute meeting minutes or a summary of decisions and action items to all participants promptly after the meeting. Following up with these details also creates a paper trail to be accessed later if there’s any confusion. Additionally, if someone could not attend the meeting, this follow-up email can get them up to speed on any conversations they missed. You can also automate this task by using a tool like Fellow’s AI Meeting Copilot, which automatically records, transcribes, and summarizes your meetings, allowing you to review all important decisions and action items in one centralized place.

Meeting norms for specific conversations

Your team may want to set meeting norms for specific conversations. Depending on the meetings your team holds, here are some norms you can set for all attendees to follow.

1Status update meetings

A status update meeting is just what it sounds like—when you gather with your team to discuss the latest updates on a project. These meetings can also be held with clients and customers. 

Some norms to consider setting:

  • Maintain brevity and focus: Keep updates concise and to the point. Each participant should only discuss critical updates relevant to the team, especially if there are a lot of attendees who need time to share information with the team.
  • Set time limits: Allocate a specific amount of time for each speaker to prevent overrun. Since status update meetings are typically short and sweet, this ensures everyone has time to take the floor and share what they’ve been working on.

2One-on-one meetings

One-on-one meetings are typically between a manager and one of their direct reports. Some norms to set for these are:

  • Have a personalized agenda: Allow both parties to contribute to the meeting agenda. These agendas should be as collaborative as possible, allowing both attendees to keep track of topics and questions they may have for the other person.
  • Maintain confidentiality: Ensure that discussions are confidential to promote honesty and openness. This is especially important if an employee is sharing with their manager that they’re struggling with a project or opening up about a personal issue that is impacting their performance.
  • Focus on development: Concentrate on personal and professional development goals to set up direct reports for success, especially if they are working towards a promotion or title change.

3Brainstorming sessions

Brainstorming sessions are when team members discuss, explain, map out, or come up with ideas to solve a problem or challenge they’re facing. Some norms for a brainstorming session are:

  • Foster an open and creative environment: Foster an atmosphere where all ideas are welcomed and no immediate criticism is allowed. Every idea should be presented, no matter how seemingly outlandish it may seem at the time.
  • Ensure equal participation: Ensure that everyone has an opportunity to contribute ideas. You never want just one attendee sharing ideas or hogging the time–the goal is to hear from everyone in attendance.
  • Document ideas: Have a dedicated person to document all ideas for future reference. This will be helpful to look back on in future brainstorming conversations.

4Decision-making meetings

A decision-making meeting is where participants come together to make a call on important business decisions. Consider norms like:

  • Set clear decision criteria: Establish and communicate the criteria for decision-making before the meeting so everyone joins ready to take part in the conversation.
  • Have a structured debate: Allow time for differing views, but keep discussions focused and structured. Having varying views and ideas is key to making the right decision.

5Problem-solving meetings

A problem-solving meeting is held to find a resolution among team members facing a challenge or disagreement. 

Some norms to set are:

  • Identify the issue: Clearly define the problem at the start of the meeting so everyone in attendance is on the same page.
  • Stay solution-oriented: Focus discussions on finding solutions rather than dwelling on the problem or placing blame on anyone taking part in the conversation.
  • Track action items: Conclude with clear action items and assign responsibilities for implementation.

6Planning meetings

Planning meetings are where all attendees come together to establish a plan for moving forward with a project or strategy. Implement norms such as: 

  • Set goals and objectives: Begin with a clear statement of the meeting’s goals and objectives to get everyone up to speed.
  • Establish a timeline and milestones: Discuss and agree on a timeline with specific milestones and deadlines.
  • Determine resource allocation: Decide on the allocation of resources needed to execute the plan, so attendees have everything they need to succeed.

7Team-building meetings

Team-building meetings are held to build bonds and boost morale amongst team members in hopes of improving communication and collaboration. Some norms to establish are:

  • Maintain an informal atmosphere: Create a relaxed environment to encourage openness and camaraderie to help foster better working relationships.
  • Leverage interactive activities: Include activities or exercises that promote team bonding and communication.
  • Encourage feedback and reflection: Encourage the sharing of feedback and reflections on team dynamics to get a better sense of what should be improved.

Parting advice

When your team sets and follows good meeting norms, every conversation starts and ends on a productive and efficient note. Conversations are clearer, better decisions are made, and attendees feel empowered to join and contribute their thoughts.

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