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7 strategies to run status meetings your team will want to attend
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7 strategies to run status meetings your team will want to attend

Understand the challenges of status meetings and get strategies to run more effective ones that are valuable for you and your team.

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You’re part way through your weekly status meeting when you realize you’re just reading through a spreadsheet, not adding any value people couldn't get by reading it on their own. Team members are mentally checking out and you feel like you’re wasting their time. 

People have a lot of meetings, so you need to make sure your status meetings are a valuable use of their time. That takes thinking outside the meeting box and getting creative about how you engage them. 

In this post, we’ll share tips on how to run more effective, engaging status meetings, including doing more outside of them, reducing them, or even canceling them altogether. 

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Common challenges and criticisms of status update meetings 

Status meetings are important to keep people aligned, but not everyone appreciates them. Here's a rundown of some common frustrations with them: 

  • Only serves the project manager. Although this isn’t true, there’s sometimes a perception that the meeting mostly benefits the PM to track progress. For others, it’s an annoying distraction from work. 
  • Lack of clear agenda or objectives. This can cause meetings to go off track, overrun, or be ineffective, contributing to the above complaint.
  • Irrelevant updates. Spending valuable time listening to team member updates that have nothing to do with your work is frustrating and causes people to check out mentally.  
  • Getting sidetracked. It's great to brainstorm and bounce ideas around, but if a couple of people go down a rabbit hole it can derail the whole meeting. 
  • The usual suspects dominate. When this happens, it can leave others feeling unheard—and like the meeting has little value for them.
  • Ill-prepared team members. There's always one person who shows up without a clue, so everyone has to wait for them to get up to speed.
  • Overrunning. Meetings that just. won’t. end. eat into your day, eroding time for actual work.
  • Unclear action items. Anytime people leave a meeting unsure of the next steps it's a missed opportunity to move projects forward effectively.
  • Tech hiccups. Whether it's difficulty joining a call or sharing screens, tech problems can derail even the best-planned meetings.

Bad meetings can be the ultimate productivity killer for the team. However, getting a handle on these issues will make your status meetings more engaging, efficient, and productive.

Here’s how. 

7 strategies for more effective status meetings 

Now you know the issues with status meetings, let’s see how to overcome them. 

1. Know why you’re holding the meeting    

Real time status meetings are a waste of time if they could have been an email or Slack message.  

Before you hit "schedule," ask yourself why you’re pulling everyone away from work. If it's just to share updates or information, maybe people could read through them on their own time instead. 

There are definitely times when a meeting is necessary, however, says Jordan Hirsch, CEO, Lead Trainer & Coach, FishTree, “That time together is really valuable when there's something to discuss… or it’s something that can’t be shared or discussed over chat, like changes to the project deadline, scope, requirements, etc. Things where you need to see people’s reactions and deal with their questions. If not, cancel it and do it async.” 

Another reason to get everyone in the room is to uncover blockers and match people with the help they need. If you regularly do this, it encourages people to start proactively approaching each other outside the meeting. So you can save group meetings for collective problem solving, communicating, strategizing, etc.

Switchboard room with notes and apps open.
Switchboard rooms save your work so you can share materials async before the call. Then, hop into the room to discuss them in real time.

2. Do more work async

Too much time is wasted in meetings just getting everyone on the same page, and using status meetings to gather updates isn’t a good use of anyone’s time. 

Instead, try moving some of the preliminary update stuff–sharing statuses and updates, reviewing the agenda or project report, etc.–out of the live meeting and into shared workspaces, email, or your project management tool. That way, people can check it out on their own schedule, jot down any questions, and come to the meeting ready to work. 

When you do more async, real time discussions are more focused and productive, tackling the big issues that require back and forth. You might even find you don’t need a meeting at all. Maybe a few quick follow-up messages can tie up any loose ends?  

Async working also gives your team more autonomy and freedom, which is empowering. Plus, when you do schedule a meeting, they’ll know it’s for a good reason.

Pro tip: Try this framework for more productive collaboration: 

Share asynchronously
: Docs, slides, code, etc. 
Review asynchronously
: Add comments or make video walkthroughs.
Discuss and decide synchronously:
Chat in comment threads or meet to talk together.

For example, you can share and save project materials in your dedicated Switchboard project room for people to review before the meeting. They’ll also be able to find them and refer back afterward without digging through email or Slack threads.
Switchboard room with project materials and apps open.
In Switchboard, everything stays right where you left it after the meeting.

3. Only invite people who need to contribute  

A common mistake with meetings, says Hirsch, is "having too many people who don't really need to be there…. people start to feel like you don't respect their time, and it's a short leap from that to ‘You don't respect me, either, and I'm feeling a little burned out anyway.’ That can start to erode team cohesion and credibility."

Bottom line, only invite those directly involved in the project or affected by agenda topics. For example, if you're discussing the new UI, you'll want your UI/UX designers in the room but the backend team can probably sit it out.  

Benefits of this are: 

  • More focused discussion. With fewer–but the right–people, conversations are more targeted and productive.
  • Time savings. When everyone deeply understands what’s being discussed, you can skip explanations and move faster.  
  • Greater visibility and accountability. With only key stakeholders present, it's clearer who's responsible for what.

If you need to keep others in the loop, share a brief recap with the wider team in your Switchboard room afterward, highlighting any decisions made or input needed. Team members can then start a comment thread at any place in the document to debate or offer help. This strikes a balance between respecting people’s time and keeping them informed.

Switchboard comment thread on a PDF.
You can start a comment thread on any item in a Switchboard room so you’re always communicating in context.

4. Stay focused  

Every meeting should have a clear objective—which shouldn’t include taking up everyone’s valuable time running through every task on your spreadsheet. Moreover, you should know how you’re going to achieve that objective and measure the success of the meeting.  

To set yourself up for success:

  • Set a clear purpose. Are you resolving blockers? Aligning on sprint milestones? Whatever the focus, spell it out in the invite and agenda and share these beforehand.
  • Come prepared. When people know what’s expected of them, they can prepare and come ready to engage. 

Hirsch says, "It helps to be clear about what kind of meeting you’re having. People should know whether to be prepared to come and discuss a topic, bring a key piece of information… if they’re there because they need to learn something, answer for something, get help, etc… It takes more work on behalf of the meeting planner, but it pays off in people using that time for something valuable."

  • Create a prioritized project status meeting agenda. Focus on whatever has looming deadlines or is blocked first, and make sure every item is actionable. 

Alternatively, Hirsch suggests starting with topics everyone needs to be there for and letting people leave once the meeting is no longer relevant for them. This avoids them getting bored and derailing the meeting. It also gives you a reputation for respecting people’s time and running effective, valuable meetings.

  • Timebox agenda items. This encourages people to be brief and laser focused.
  • Be punctual. Start and end on time. No waiting for latecomers, no small talk once the meeting starts. 
  • Open by stating the outcomes. Then, review them at the end to check they were achieved. 
  • Table side discussions. Stick to topics that are within the scope of the meeting. If people go off-topic, politely suggest they continue after the team meeting. The meeting facilitator could say "Some great discussion here. I want to make sure it gets the attention it deserves. In the interest of time, should we set up some dedicated time for a deep dive?”
Switchboard room with notes and apps open.
With everything at your fingertips in your Switchboard room, it’s easier to stay focused.

5. Get everyone participating

Meetings shouldn’t be just one-way information sharing, or dominated by a few voices. Here’s how to make them into collaborative, interactive spaces.  

  • Start with a check-in. Hirsch recommends asking team members to classify challenges using colors. Red means “I really need to discuss it.” Yellow is “I'll get through it.” Green is “All good.” This allows people to open up beyond sharing updates and offers a temperature check of project team health.   
  • Mix it up. Not everyone loves speaking in front of a crowd, so allow for different thinking and communication styles by mixing in time for quiet reflection, writing, drawing, or breakout rooms to discuss in small groups. This ensures you're hearing and getting the best from everyone. 
  • Brainstorm solutions. Use techniques and tools like mind mapping or digital whiteboards to elicit ideas and get everyone involved. Don’t be afraid to ask for input at other times either. Just because you’re leading the meeting, you don’t have to have all the answers. 
  • Use visuals. Having your agenda, notes, or spreadsheet on screen during calls is distracting as people focus on processing words rather than listening. Instead, create visual representations of work, like Gantt charts, to tell a story and keep people engaged.  
  • Use interactive elements. Polls, Q&A sessions, emoji reactions, etc. all keep meetings dynamic and encourage participation from everyone.
Switchboard room with brainstorming materials and people.
Share materials in your Switchboard room beforehand so people can process them in their own time—and come to the meeting with ideas to share.

6. Document action items and next steps

There’s nothing worse, affirms Hirsch, than surfacing issues in a meeting only to turn up to the next one and find they never got dealt with. To avoid this: 

  • End every meeting by recapping decisions, action items, and next steps. This reinforces accountability and ensures everyone leaves with a clear understanding of their responsibilities. Frame this as concept checking so the focus is on whether you captured it correctly rather than you being the task police. 
  • Ensure every action item has an owner. If there’s no clear owner, ask the group who can handle it and what the next steps should be. Foster accountability and autonomy by allowing them to set deadlines, but don’t be afraid to challenge if they seem too conservative. Ask: “What would you need to accomplish it by X date?"
  • Share meeting notes promptly. As well as attendees, include any relevant stakeholders who couldn't attend. Meeting minutes act as a reference, keeping everyone aligned on next steps.
  • Follow up. The best-laid plans can go awry without follow-up so schedule quick check-ins to review progress on action items. 
Pro tip: Use Switchboard AI to save time summarizing action items and key takeaways from the meeting. Share these in your meeting room so everyone can refer back to them. You can also hop into the room to discuss them in context with individual team members anytime.
Switchboard AI menu options.
Switchboard AI helps with brainstorming, content creation, and note taking.

7. Use the right tools 

The right tech makes for smoother communication and collaboration. Here are a few suggestions: 

  • Online collaboration platforms. For virtual meetings, you need video conferencing features like screen sharing, engagement features, and meeting recording, etc. A meeting timer also helps you follow virtual meeting best practices like sticking to time limits. 

Of course, you can use standard video conferencing platforms for this but a collaboration platform like Switchboard also lets you keep everything–and everyone–organized by project and lets you do more async.  

  • Project management software. Spreadsheet to-do lists aren’t designed to give you a high-level view of task and project status. Try tools like Asana, Jira, or Trello instead. 
  • Interactive whiteboards. Digital whiteboards like Jamboard or tldraw (embedded in Switchboard) let you brainstorm and visualize ideas. 
  • Note-taking and documentation apps. Notion, Google Docs, et al. let everyone contribute in real time and access meeting notes afterward, so nothing slips through the cracks. 
  • Feedback and polling tools. Apps like SurveyMonkey or built-in Switchboard and Slack polls let you quickly gather feedback and make collective decisions without long discussions.

Remember, you don’t need to get all the tools on this list, just the ones that fit your needs. You’re aiming to streamline processes and meetings, not add complexity and expense with a bloated tech stack. 

Pro tip: Switchboard makes everything multiplayer, so you can work side by side on any app, file, or document in the room. No waiting while people share screens or switch tabs—just productive collaboration. If anyone misses the meeting they can catch up with the room recording. Plus, because everything stays right where you left it, you never need to prep the room again.  
Switchboard room with apps and people.
All your favorite apps work in Switchboard—with no fiddly integrations.

Sometimes, the most effective status meeting is the one you cancel 

Reviewing status reports is the worst use of a status meeting. People have a lot of meetings, so if you’re asking them to attend another one, you need to make it count—not do something they could do on their own time.  

To run more effective status meetings, share statuses, a prioritized agenda, and materials async so people can get up to speed beforehand. Have a clear purpose so people know what’s expected and can prepare. The right tools and techniques will help everyone participating and keep them on track so you can achieve your meeting goals.  

When you use Switchboard as the base of your tech stack, you get dedicated rooms that save your work and make everything multiplayer. That means you can share information beforehand and explore any item in the room side by side on the call, which makes for more productive async and real time collaboration. Who knows, you may even be able to cancel the meeting altogether and give your entire team back time for focus work. 

Move faster with fewer meetings.  
Switchboard rooms save your work and make everything multiplayer, so you can do more in–and between–meetings.  
Sign up free.

Frequently asked questions about status meetings 

What’s the purpose of a status meeting? 

The purpose of a status meeting is to keep team members aligned on goals and priorities. It offers the project lead visibility into what everyone’s working on, plus any blockers that could hamper progress. If there are important updates to share, that’s also done in this meeting. 

What are the benefits of status meetings? 

Status meetings are beneficial for tracking project progress, sharing information, spotting roadblocks, and fostering teamwork. They also allow for collective problem solving and decision-making.  

How do you prepare for a status meeting? 

You can prepare for a status meeting by putting together a prioritized agenda and distributing it–along with any relevant materials–in advance. This ensures everyone knows the purpose of the meeting and what’s expected of them. They can also get up to speed async and come ready to work when the meeting starts.

Stop, collaborate, and listen

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Move faster with fewer meetings.

Switchboard rooms save your work and make everything multiplayer, so you can do more in and between meetings.