Effective Meetings 101: Lessons from Zoom, Shazam, Asana

Juraj Holub
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The average meeting goer spends 31 hours in unproductive meetings in a single month. Ironically, we try hard to be productive and save minutes in so many areas. But when it comes to meetings, we often fail.

We approached team leads from three global companies to share their insights into running effective meetings.

Shawn Qureshi, Video Collaboration Strategist – Enterprise Accounts, Zoom
Ruth Penfold, Director of Talent Acquisition, Shazam
Joshua Zerkel, Head of Global Community, Asana

So let’s dive right in. What’s your secret to running an effective meeting?

Shawn: First, have clear objectives outlined and defined for every meeting, internal and external.

Second, leave attendance optional. If a person feels they will add value and the group will benefit from their attending the meeting, then they will. 

Third, understand what is valuable for your attendees. Who are they? What are their business drivers? Internal or external, put yourselves in their shoes and view things from their perspective.

Ruth: Be specific — have an agenda and try to stick to it. Always have an action plan at the end of it. Also, consider a ‘stand up’ style meeting, even in non-technical teams.

Josh: Have an agenda. Come prepared. Start and end on time.

There are companies that make a latecomer sing, others impose a $5 fine for running too long. How do you make your meetings work?

Shawn: Taking from our CEO, Eric Yuan’s philosophy, I make it a point to not attend meetings in which I cannot personally add value in. Meetings which we do attend should have a clear objective and some sort of decision made when concluded. This drives accountability.

Ruth: We don’t do any of that. If you build an environment that is based on respect, then that alone should be enough to carry you through and encourage good meeting behaviors.

I think starting the meeting on time is fair, as latecomers can easily catch up.

I’m not sure I’m a fan of the forfeit-based tactics you mention. I’m sure they are meant to be light-hearted, but I think you tread a fine line between fun and just alienating people further.

For the leader in the scenario, my preferred strategy would be to approach the situation on a 1:1 basis and look for the right ways to improve behaviors that way if needed.

Josh: Firstly, make sure that you have a clear agenda with a goal, talking points, expected prep (hopefully minimal), and clear follow-up action items with owners.

Secondly, model good meeting behavior by starting and ending on time (or early, if the meeting wraps up before the scheduled ending).

Finally, turn down meeting invites where it’s unclear why I’d be there or what the meeting is for.

You all have a different background. What meetings do you host or participate in on a regular basis?

Shawn: Being in Sales, I most often ‘host’ various discovery meetings and product demos with prospective clients. There are also several team meetings in which I participate, syncing up with my fellow sales reps to strategize on account planning, and taking a pulse on our effectiveness.

Ruth: 1:1’s with my team, team meetings with the wider team, meetings with business leads, all hands.

Josh: I host 1:1’s and regular team meetings. In addition to that, I attend company all hands, larger marketing team meetings, and team lead meetings.

Which one do you consider the most important? Why?

Shawn: Personally, I consider the team meetings and internal strategy sessions most important, because they serve as an opportunity for us to hold ourselves accountable and we can measure what efforts are producing efficient results.

Ruth: 1:1’s are far and away most important on an individual level. It’s the time that leaders truly get to listen to what is happening in their team and take any actions necessary to make sure everything is the best it can be. If we don’t allow the space for that conversation, we will never get to hear it.

Josh: Each is important in its own way, but probably the most important as a manager are 1:1’s.

Technology has transformed practically every business area. How does technology bring value to your meetings?

Shawn: One example of technology bringing value to my meetings is the use of a note-taking tool that intelligently transcribes my video meetings, as well as my phone calls, allowing me to be fully present and focused on the topic and participants. A form of recording transcriptions is also a new feature of Zoom.

Ruth: By bringing our global community together. We couldn’t exist in the way that we do without it. It can also do the reverse though, as people can easily become distracted by an open computer or a phone flashing away in front of them.

I’m a fan of focusing attention on the time needed and putting that stuff to one side.

Josh: When it works well, it lets me build a connection with my remote colleagues, partners, and vendors. Also, the ability to share and show content and resources is useful. 

Bonus: Ruth, you’re putting a lot of effort into all-hands meetings at Shazam. What is their main benefit for the company?

Ruth: All-hands meetings are incredibly important for a business like Shazam. We have 8 locations globally, and it’s the one time when we get as many of us to be in ‘one place’ at one time.

We use them as a time to discuss where we are as a business, what we are doing well, and what our onward focus might be. We also celebrate the new Shazamily members (new joiners and babies!) plus any anniversaries or milestone events.

Thank you all, for your insights. We can’t wait to meet you in person! 

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