5 Meeting Formats to Keep Your Team on Track Without Wasting Precious Hours

Martina Cicakova
People having a meeting in the open collab zone of the new office.

People spend 31 hours on unproductive meetings a month, a recent study has found. Half of all meetings are considered a waste of time. And it costs businesses $37 billion in salaries, only in the U.S.

One of the reasons is that 75% of people don’t have formal training in running meetings. The same goes for knowing which ones to hold with your team from the plethora of meeting types and formats.

To help you decide which meetings can help your team work together more effectively, we asked our team members about the types of meetings they run, and why.

Here are the five most popular meeting formats we use at Slido with tips on how to run them.

Daily stand-ups

To build team awareness and work together more effectively, many companies run daily stand-upsThe aim is to get a quick on-point status check and bring everyone in the team up to date with key projects.

True to their name, at these meetings people stand up not to get too comfortable. It’s a reminder to keep the meeting short and spend no more than 1 minute per person. 

In turn, each team member shares his or her updates on the work completed, tasks for the day and obstacles he or she might need help with. It’s a great way to check if the planned work is on track. Voicing the updates also increases people’s accountability for their tasks.

As a globally distributed company, some of our teams hold daily stand-ups with half the people joining online via Zoom; others share quick updates every morning via Slack.

For the remote colleagues, ask the facilitator to set up a call in advance to make sure the meeting starts on time. To avoid confusion about who should speak next, address the people online by name and invite them to speak when it is their turn.

How-to tips:

  1. Set a fixed place and time. As the meeting is short, make sure you start on time.
  2. Appoint a facilitator who keeps an eye on the time and prevents the discussion from drifting off into too much detail.
  3. Use the round-robin approach where each person shares his or her updates in turn. This way, each person knows what to do and who’s next.
  4. Identify and address the areas where people might need input or help from the team.

Weekly 1:1s

To help you build trust with each of your team members, dedicate a regular chunk of time to having recurring weekly 1:1 meetings.

As our Head of Engineering Lubo Drobny explains: “The aim is to build trust, offer support, review learnings and challenges, and get honest feedback. It’s a safe platform for discussing sensitive topics and personal frustrations people would otherwise not be comfortable to voice in team meetings.

Some team leads use 1:1s to check progress on tasks and projects, others focus on the personal rather than the operational. “I want to know if the person’s happy with their role, how they feel about work, where they need help and check if they are learning something valuable for them,” says our Head of Engineering.

To help the employees feel a sense of autonomy over their work and time, let them own the agenda. Use the space to give immediate guidance and feedback and focus on asking questions and listening attentively. 

A man and a woman talking during a 1:1 meeting
Weekly 1:1s will help you build trust, offer support and get feedback from your team members.

Our software engineers sometimes prefer a structured format. They spend 10 minutes on checking progress on the last meeting’s action items, 10 minutes on the team lead’s points and 10 minutes on what the direct report wants to discuss.

As a general rule of thumb, 30-60 minutes is a reasonable length although we try to keep it under 30 minutes, if possible. Kicking off the week with 1:1s on Monday when the mind is fresh will set the pace for the days ahead.

How-to tips:

  1. Set a weekly fixed time, put it in the calendar and stick to it.
  2. Share a document to note down the main talking points before the meeting.
  3. Break the ice at the start and connect on a personal level before diving into the meeting. You can ask about the person’s hobbies, plans or weekend happenings.
  4. Dedicate enough space for questions or last-minute issues that might pop up.

Weekly Team Updates

Similar to weekly 1:1s, we also hold weekly update meetings on the team level. It helps us keep everyone informed about the progress on tasks and discuss issues that need clarifying.

The meeting has a fixed time in everyone’s diary. Some smaller teams hold 30-60 minute weekly updates to share each person’s updates, solve problems, collect feedback and align the team around the weekly priorities.

Our bigger teams of 20+ people divide the responsibilities and share their updates in a presentation. They only take 15 minutes and have a clear structure that covers KPIs, weekly priorities, important announcements, and updates.

During the meeting, people take turns to share their updates on key projects. There is always space for questions and resolving important issues.

“For some people, these meetings are also about the social aspect: being part of something bigger and creating a sense of belonging,” says our Head of Engineering.

How-to tips:

  1. Appoint a facilitator who leads the meeting and keeps the discussion on point.
  2. Review the key performance indicators from the past week.
  3. Invite the team members to share updates on key projects and raise any issues they want to discuss.
  4. Leave space for any additional issues or questions.
Team meeting in one of the transparent meeting rooms.
Use weekly team updates to keep everyone informed about key projects and discuss issues that need clarifying.

Monthly Retrospective

Improvement goes hand-in-hand with learning from your mistakes and sharing the learnings with others. To help you review how your team works, set up monthly retrospective sessions.

As our Head of Engineering puts it, “It’s about learning by doing. Retrospectives are a great tool to help our teams reflect and learn how to continuously improve.”

Read: Your 7-Step Guide to Running An Effective Team Retrospective Session

A few days before the session, collect people’s thoughts on what went well, what needs improvement and what people learned before the meeting. We use Slido survey and share it on Slack one week in advance.

But collecting views is just the beginning. The biggest value is in the discussion. Facilitate the conversation and get people to elaborate on their answers. Ask follow-up questions if people’s submissions are too vague to pinpoint specific learnings and actionable items.

To help the other teams learn and grow, our developers also hold ‘Team of Teams’ monthly retrospectives. Each team sends a delegate who presents the best of its retro and shares the key points.

Just make sure that retrospectives don’t become the only problem-solving platform for your team. Keep the discussion with your team ongoing and use retrospectives just to share learnings with the rest of the team.

How-to tips:

  1. Create a survey on and share it with the team in advance.
  2. Appoint a facilitator to keep the discussion on track and engage remote team members actively.
  3. Review the answers together and use follow-up questions so people elaborate on their points.
  4. Capture the main discussion points and actionable items, and assign owners of the next steps.
  5. Share the outcomes and learnings across the teams to help each other grow. We use Slack and Confluence for cross-team sharing.

Quarterly strategic meetings

After three months of hard work, it’s useful to look back at the ups and downs that the team had faced to help you plan ahead. To review progress towards team goals, some of our teams hold quarterly strategic meetings.

Dedicate 1-2 hours every three months to check the extent to which the objectives were fulfilled. You can use this space to review the obstacles the team overcame and share the learnings with each other.  

These meetings bring great value as they allow us to step outside the box and bring to the table fresh ideas before we set new priorities and decide on the projects for the upcoming months.

Ultimately, it’s a useful tool to get your team aligned and set a plan for the next three months.

How-to tips:

  1. Appoint a facilitator who drives the discussion and keeps an eye on the time.
  2. Kick off the meeting with a retrospective.
  3. Compare objectives with key results and review the team’s progress toward its goals.
  4. Identify areas that need improvement and discuss ways of addressing them.
  5. Set the team priorities for the upcoming quarter.

Wrap Up

Get inspired by these five meeting formats that will help your team work more effectively. Track progress on the key projects, learn from each other and provide space to set and review priorities. Leverage these tips to increase productivity, build trust and get your team aligned.

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