The average employee spends 31 hours a week in meetings: is it time the tried and trusted corporate status quo is beginning to stagnate? In contrast, the diverse teams and lean structures in young start-ups have been able to generate a dynamic new culture of dialogue from which the ‘old economy’ can profit from. We decided to survey a selection of bright German start-ups to reveal their tips on what makes a good meeting.
- A clear agenda: The preparation
The foundation for efficient meetings is laid before the weekly appointment begins: “we work with several online tools which share the agenda with team members before the meeting. This ensures we can come to clear decisions without running over time,” says Giuseppe Montana, founder of Gurmeo.com. Objectives should always be set to ensure decisions will occur from discussions. The motto: no reason, no meeting!
- A change of scene: The location
The right environments plays a crucial role in how start-ups meet. “The best cocktail for creativity consists of serotonin and dopamine. In other words, stress has to be eliminated,” according to Dr Hanno Deyle, co-founder and Managing Director of Third of Life – Your Sleep Company. After all, purpose-built meeting rooms are often nowhere to be found in start-up offices: “we always keep things outside the office, in parks and cafes for example,” says Paul Roiter, co-Founder or ticketing app Dingo. Jepp Alexander Meier, co-founder of the Danish fashion start-up Forét adds: “as a small business with a basement workshop, we love to seek out alternative places to hold meetings. Usually it’s somewhere surrounded by people, such as creative spots or lively cafes.”
- Room for ideas: The meeting hierarchy
When it comes to who pulls the strings in start-up offices, things are slightly different to large companies. At FoodPanda for example, the hierarchy is just like the office: open and flat. Anyone can pitch in with her or his ideas. Even interns have instigated important changes within the company. Rather than rigid and condescending meeting structures that inhibit discussion, start-ups leave as much room as possible for ideas to flow: “I write an agenda with key points then just shut-up. This way the team gets a chance to play around with ideas and reach decisions without restrictions,” says Lars Trunin, founder and CEO of the Estonian Publishing House Raudwara.
- A tight schedule: The optimum meeting-length
The average attention span of most adults with is a maximum of 18 minutes. It’s not surprising then that the length of most meetings can kill creativity. It is advisable to organize meetings in fixed time slots, to prevent discussions digressing from the topic. “I have a firm checklist of points which need to be discussed. Then I set out how long the meeting should run for, so we can divide time equally among each point. Discussion becomes more efficient and focused this way.” According to Lars Trunin.
- Get up from your desk: Try different kinds of meetings
Standing and walking meetings can also stimulate creativity rather than always being sat down: “In the morning we usually go for a walk and grab a coffee for an hour. We split up into small groups and discuss things while strolling in a quiet neighbourhood. After a walking meeting you arrive back at the office feeling awake and alert,” says Ian Cumming, Global Founder at the US start-up Travel Massive. ‘Sprint meetings’ are also an efficient way of structuring work. Don’t panic, this doesn’t actually involve running at full pace agendas in hand, rather it concerns set times periods with specific goals. This is often a tactic used by software development companies: “we have two week sprint cycles. Our planning meetings are long but all meetings thereafter are short discussions and troubleshooting about the sprint,” says Eytan Lerba, CEO of the app Wizit.
- Make direct decisions: Make meetings purposeful
In addition to answering predefined questions, concrete decision making should also be a goal in meetings. Dr. Hanno Deyle, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Third of Life, explains: “We make sure that every meeting participant can make a contribution and help make important decisions. This way we can start implementing decisions immediately after the meeting has ended and no time is wasted. Meetings for the sake of meetings is an approach that companies should abolish. Meetings are only worthwhile when there are direct issues or problems to be solved. They can then be acted-upon once the appointment is over,” continues Dr Deyle.
- Not everyone: Choose relevant meeting participants
“We work in multiple groups which focus on different tasks in order to keep meetings short and relevant,” says Romain Butti, PR and social media manager at Allryder. It seems large businesses can learn from this more efficient method by selecting the relevant team members, instead of routinely holding meetings with the same group. “Our meetings are divided between daily individual group meetings and weekly larger team appointments. In this way, maximum efficiency is guaranteed and the subject matter is always relevant for those there,” describes Matilda Lucy, Junior Content Manager at furniture store Pamono.