How to run effective meetings as a designer

by Karthi Subbaraman

Only 50% of typical meetings are useful based on the meeting science insights from MIT Sloan.

Design meetings are not an exception to this. Poorly run meetings only get worse in a remote work scenario. As designers, we are not taught how to manage virtual or in-person meetings in school or in workplace. After burning fingers for more than two decades here are my learnings about managing meetings.

Follow this simple decision tree to run meetings right.

Step 1: Synchronous meetings (in-person or remote) are costly in terms of time, energy and resources. Doing a simple math will show the cost of a meeting.

For example: Assign an approximate hourly dollar value to people who may be invited to the meeting based on their role and seniority in the organization. By doing a basic arithmetic it shows how much it takes to run a specific meeting. Before inviting anyone to the meeting the math drill is important.

Based on the cost of the meeting calculated above, determine if the meeting is absolutely necessary. Calculate if the meeting outcome will outweigh the cost incurred in running a meeting.

Step 2:  If the answer is we need a meeting absolutely then determine what type of meeting is needed. Type A, B or C meeting?

A meetings are 15 mins status update meetings. Eg: standup, quick status or demo etc.

B meetings are 30mins decision making meetings. Eg: Show case design options, decisions made and rationale behind.

C meetings are 45 mins brainstroming meetings. Eg: A quick workshop on gathering inputs from stakeholders or interviewing participants etc.

Step 3: If the type of meeting is decided, then figure out how to invite minimal participants for the meeting. Do not over invite. If you use a RACI model then just invite folks in the R and A category only for a synchronours meeting.

Step 4: Update C and I category folks with asynchronous updates using an email and/or a loom video and/or meeting notes etc.

Step 5: Follow up on action items. If the action item is on the owner of the meeting, update the rest of the meeting attendees about the progress regularly till it is done, done, done not just done.

In addition to above five steps, it is important to start and stop the meeting on time, set tight agenda, use videos to avoid social loafing, faciliate the meeting with tools like MIRO or Mural, make everyone participate in the discussion, write meeting notes and action items as the discussions proceed.

Zoom fatigue is real. Poorly run meetings derail our productivity as a team. Recovering from a bad meeting takes additional time, energy and resources.

Running meetings right can result in many positive outcomes. As teams are struggling with the remote work challenges of pandemic, it is important to empathise with the cognitive overload and fatigue meetings can bring in.

🥂 to effective meetings!