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Listen, Think, React: How to Run More Useful Team Meetings

Digital learning professionals need to share insight and coordinate projects without wasting time. Use this simple method to run more useful team meetings.


You don’t create valuable digital learning opportunities alone. It takes a team. And where you have a team, you’ll probably need meetings. Regular check-ins keep teammates working together toward a common goal. But most teams don’t exactly look forward to them.

We’ve all wasted time in a group session that could have been an email. The kind of meeting where nothing important seems to happen. A group of people just talk over each other for an hour and then go back to work. Those experiences can kill productivity and damage team cohesion.

But have you ever been in a truly productive meeting? In those rare sessions, everyone stays focused and you wrap up feeling like you got something done. By the end, the team feels closer and more aligned, not to mention ready to meet shared goals. Wouldn’t it be nice to have more of those kinds of meetings?

The Method For More Useful Team Meetings

Before we talk about the solution, it might help to define the problem. Why is it so hard to run a productive meeting? For the same reason that it can be difficult to keep learners focused and engaged in a classroom. You’re gathering individuals with their own thoughts, concerns, ideas, and expectations and asking them to function as a group.

Sharing an agenda before the meeting and starting and ending on time can help you stay organized, but this standard advice doesn’t help you manage communication during the meeting. Agreeing on an idea or establishing a course of action can be hard enough when you’re interacting one-on-one. Every person you add to the mix makes consensus a little more complicated. And virtual and hybrid meetings add an extra layer of complexity. People may struggle to focus or even hear what’s going on. For many teams, communication is the real challenge.

When you facilitate effective communication, you run more useful team meetings. Follow these three simple guidelines and encourage your team to do the same: Listen, Think, React.

Step 1 For More Useful Team Meetings: Listen

As the person in charge of running a meeting, your job is not to push your agenda or have all the answers. Instead, your goal is to facilitate communication. With that in mind, resist the urge to open up a discussion by giving your opinion. If the group believes that you’re already committed to an idea or have a course of action in mind, they’re likely to just agree with you rather than sharing what they know.

That’s why listening is the first step and probably the most important thing you can do during a meeting. Give everyone a chance to share their thoughts, ideas, and feedback. Take notes. Pay attention to facial expressions and body language so you can hear what people may not be saying out loud. Listen with an open mind and attempt to understand the point of view being presented. Wherever possible, restate what the person said to make sure everyone fully understood their point.

If you’re running an online meeting, you may need to create some additional structure so everyone has a chance to be heard. Go around the virtual room and ask for input. For hybrid meetings, with some people online and others in person, you’ll have to make a special effort to include the virtual attendees. Ask them direct questions and wait for their responses. Check-in periodically to make sure they’re able to hear and see what’s going on.

Step 2 For More Useful Team Meetings: Think

Next, consider what was said and how it connects to what you already know. What questions come up for you? Who might have the answer?

If your initial reaction is “we can’t do that,” flip your thinking. Ask yourself, or the group, how could we do that? What people, time, and resources would you need to make that happen.

When someone brings up an issue or concern, think before you react. Ask questions to fully understand what the problem is. Find out what they’ve already done and if they have any ideas for what needs to happen next.

Remember that your goal is to understand, not to respond. Get comfortable with moments of silence during meetings. Everyone needs some time to think.

Step 3 For More Useful Team Meetings: React

After you’ve listened and thought, then you can react. Don’t feel pressured to say or do something immediately but do set expectations for when and how the situation will be addressed. Practice phrases like:

• Let’s give that a little more thought and circle back with some ideas on Tuesday.

• I don’t have that information on hand. Could you email me that question so I can pull data after the meeting?

• That’s definitely something we need to talk more about. Let’s put it on the agenda for next week.

By providing a timeline, you reassure the team that their ideas, questions, and concerns will be dealt with. But you also stick to the agenda so you don’t get sidetracked with conversations that aren’t relevant or only concern a few of the people in the room.

Listen, Think, React In Your Next Meeting

Whether you’re running a team meeting, a client meeting, or a project planning session, you can use your time well. All you have to do is listen, think, and then react. Of course, before you can have a productive meeting, you need a team. We can help you find the digital learning team or teammate you’re looking for. Contact Teamed today.

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