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Company Culture

How To Host An Effective Department Meeting: 13 Steps To Collaboration Success

Rebecca Noori

Department meetings bring your team together—they're a chance to brainstorm strategies, gather stakeholders to make tough decisions, and unlock creative solutions to problems. Without an effective team meeting, the Mission Control team behind Apollo 13 would never have improvised a way to fit a square peg into a round hole to solve the spacecraft's CO2 problem and ultimately bring the crew home alive.

But team meetings aren't usually as successful as this, and often they have a bad reputation. Research from the University of North Carolina suggests that:

  • 71% of senior managers attend unproductive meetings 
  • 65% believe meetings detract from regular work
  • 64% say meetings come at the expense of critical thinking 

Why? Companies miss opportunities to maximize the value of their department meetings, resulting in misaligned teams that impact business success. This guide will put your teams back on track with expert advice on how to host meetings, what and who to include, and how to keep team relationships at the forefront of your meeting strategy.

10 Signs Your Department Meetings Are Broken

Breaking with tradition is challenging if your company has always followed the same meeting approach. Need a nudge? Here are some tell-tale signs your meetings are stale and desperately need a makeover:

  • Meetings frequently overrun
  • Employees are burned out from attending too many meetings 
  • Meeting scheduling is a nightmare 
  • Meetings don’t achieve any meaningful outcomes 
  • Team members aren’t sufficiently prepared for meetings
  • Employees have their own agendas which don’t align with the team 
  • Meeting agendas lack creativity
  • Meeting leaders don’t capture any actionable items or follow-up tasks after each meeting 
  • Meetings seem disorganized, with no natural leader 
  • Employees appear disengaged during meetings

Ten signs your department meetings are broken.

13 Ways To Make Our Department Meetings More Effective

Productive meetings take planning, effort, and clear communication to ensure alignment across your team. Overhaul your meetings by considering these 13 essential points before you plug your next meeting into the calendar:

1. Ask If A Meeting Is The Right Use Of Time

Meetings can hamper productivity by eating into schedules and interrupting someone’s focus time. Harvard Business Review reported that meetings have increased by 13% since before the pandemic began in 2020. While many workers appreciate the interaction and collaborative opportunities, 67% believe excessive meetings prevent them from completing their work.

Nectar Tip: The next time you're scheduling a meeting, consider condensing the content of the discussion into an email, Slack message, asynchronous video message, or phone call instead. If you think you can do that, cancel the meeting.

2. Establish The Frequency Of Your Meetings

How often should you host staff meetings? Striking the right balance between connection and overkill is a challenge. Determine the frequency of your sessions by team size, how quickly you all must make decisions, and the nature of your work. For example, a team of engineers who need to make rapid production decisions might meet more often than a team of marketers focusing on long-term projects.

Nectar’s workplace connection study of 800 full-time US employees revealed that team meeting frequency varies greatly. Most teams meet weekly (42.5%) and monthly (25%.)

According to a survey of 800 full-time employees in the United States, weekly department meetings are most common.

It's encouraging that more than half of employees have the opportunity to connect with their peers at least once a week. But clearly, there's work to be done for the 1 in 10 employees who are never invited to discuss key topics with their colleagues.

3. Choose Roles For Your Meeting Attendees

Some companies may limit the volume of people who attend a meeting. Others focus less on numbers and more on giving attendees specific roles that enable an effective department meeting. Tim Toterhi, CHRO of Plotline Leadership, shared with us:

“Department meetings run smoothly when people know the rules of engagement. Specifically, whose yes means yes, whose no means no, and how ideas are to be surfaced, considered, and evaluated in the messy middle of a conversation. 
When you ask people to play a specific role, you simultaneously demonstrate an appreciation for their professional input and respect for their personal contribution. Whether it’s a subject matter expert, an employee rep, a budget holder, or even a devil’s advocate transparently placed to gut-check ideas in real-time, purpose breeds understanding and collaboration.
When decisions are made, all feel heard. And, by switching roles based on topic and team expertise, leaders get the bonus of on-the-job development.”

Some roles to consider include:

  • Leader or Facilitator: This person will set and maintain the meeting objectives, lead the discussion according to the agenda, address any bottlenecks, and wrap up with action items. A line manager may be a natural fit for this role, but a rotation of facilitators also works.
  • Subject Matter Expert: For meetings covering a specialist topic, invite your SME to provide an overview ahead of time and lead the discussion or Q&A session during the meeting.
  • Timekeeper: Be mindful of everyone's time by assigning a person to keep the discussion moving forward.
  • Notetaker: This person may record the meeting to distribute later or provide a written report of meeting minutes and action points to send to stakeholders afterward.
  • Devil’s Advocate: This interesting role ensures your team hears all sides of a topic or discussion. If your team is set on one course of action, your devil's advocate will remind the group to consider another angle first. The aim isn't to delay progress but to foster creativity and innovation.

Having roles for the different people who attend your department meetings helps keep them on task.k

4. Clarify Goals For Your Department Meeting

Establishing common goals for your team lets everyone know what to expect and holds them accountable for the outcome of the meeting. Your organizational goals might be:


Planning meetings such as marketing or product roadmaps, campaigns, or event planning generally involve the whole team and should have tangible outcomes.

Example Goal: Create a plan to launch a new product line in three months.


Team Building

Team building or social meetings invite informal discussions, which are essential for building rapport, fostering relationships, and allowing employees to learn more about each other.

Example Goal: Get to know your team members better and create a space where everyone feels psychologically safe to share their ideas.

Project Status Updates

Project update meetings are your chance to discuss budget, project scope, task assignments,  workflows, and initiatives. These meetings should also review any technical issues or potential risks affecting the project's success.

Example Goal: Discuss the progress of Project X and create a strategy to overcome any roadblocks.

Growth And Innovation

Growth meetings are for brainstorming, ideation sessions, and strategic planning. They might involve an outside speaker to provide cross-industry insights or a presentation from another internal department.

Example Goal: Brainstorm ideas about new products and services that will help your business grow in the next quarter.

Problem Solving

This type of meeting addresses a specific issue or challenge. Meeting attendees should come prepared with their findings, research, and ideas to solve the problem.

Example Goal: Find a solution to reduce customer complaints by 50% in the next two weeks.

Five major goals for your department meetings

5. Set A Department Meeting Agenda

In any department meeting, an agenda keeps your discussion on track. Jonathan Zacharias, Founder of GR0, also believes this simple step can be a game-changer in allowing your attendees to mentally prepare for the meeting. He told us:

“For better department meetings, set a clear agenda ahead of time so everyone knows what to expect. In doing this, you can also encourage participation from all team members and create a safe space for sharing ideas. Assign a task on your project management app for employees to add to the agenda or leave relevant comments. You'll quickly find that your team members will become excited about meetings when they have input.” 

In terms of planning, Matthew Ramirez, CEO of Paraphrase Tool, recommends sending the department meeting agenda out to all participants a few days beforehand, allowing them to: 

"Review the information and prepare any relevant materials or questions. This not only helps everyone come to the meeting with the same expectations and understanding of the topics but also encourages active participation and engagement in discussions."

Create Your Department Meeting Agenda Template

Your agenda could include:

  • A welcome and brief introduction to the meeting
  • The purpose or goal of the meeting 
  • A description of each agenda topic with its sufficient time allotment 
  • Who will present each issue (if applicable) 
  • Questions or discussion points for attendees to consider before the meeting 
  • The expected outcome of the meeting

Plan for a few extra minutes at the end of your meeting to review any action items or tasks you need to assign. Leaving some room at the end ensures everyone is on the same page and knows who is responsible for each task.

Nectar Tip: Schedule meetings for 25 or 55 minutes, allowing participants to have a 5-minute comfort break at the end if they're locked in back-to-back meetings.

6. Limit Distractions

Maintain focus in your department meetings to maximize the time available. Ben Lau, Founder of Featured, told us:

“One effective strategy for leaders to make department meetings more effective is to limit distractions, such as cell phones and side conversations. This ensures all participants are engaged and focused on the topics at hand.”

Typical distractions will vary depending on the location of your meeting and whether you have people dialing in from their home offices. Consider setting ground rules on the following:

  • Phones: Ask everyone to keep their phones off or silenced to hold attention to your current discussion.
  • Side conversations: Ask meeting participants to save their discussion for after the meeting. If you're running a virtual meeting, use the chat function to share resources and let everyone know you've seen their comments.
  • Respectful timekeeping: Ask everyone to arrive on time, but if someone arrives late, don't waste time by greeting them separately. Similarly, if someone needs to leave early, ask them to give you a heads-up so you can plan accordingly. 
  • Multitasking: Ask attendees to avoid blitzing through their to-do lists during meetings. Multitasking, such as checking emails or taking additional calls, reduces focus and productivity by 40%.

7. Create A Safe And Inclusive Meeting Environment

Meetings will only be successful if your team feels free to speak up and voice their opinions, ideas, and concerns. Ben Flynn, Marketing Manager at Manhattan Tech Support, believes in the power of inclusive environments to avoid employee disengagement and provide a comfortable space where everyone feels involved. He told us:

“Asking open-ended questions and aggressively soliciting feedback from all participants is one method to accomplish this. In my opinion, leaders should also consider tactics like round-robin brainstorming, in which everyone in the room takes turns offering their ideas.”

Teams struggling with communication or interpersonal dynamics can use icebreaker questions at the beginning of a discussion to get everyone warmed up and energized. Check out these 101 icebreaker ideas for inspiration.  

8. Define Clear Communication Rules On Disagreements

Part of creating a safe space involves setting firm communication boundaries, especially regarding disagreement. Andrew Dale, Technical Director at CloudTech24, offers his perspective:

“Disagreements are an inevitable element of any group conversation, but leaders must be prepared to manage conflicts and keep the discussion on track. One method to accomplish this is to acknowledge differing points of view and promote debate while establishing ground rules for respectful dialogue.
For example, the leader could request that participants stop interrupting one another, speak one at a time, and refrain from making personal attacks.”

However, Nadzeya Sankovich, Senior Journalist for Health Reporter, prefers to avoid disagreements during meetings. She shared her experience with us:

“I've learned that steering clear of disagreements and chaos in meetings hinges on fostering a culture of collaboration. I've found it invaluable to coach my team to approach discussions with an open mindset, listening to diverse perspectives before forming conclusions.
During a recent editorial meeting, we faced a contentious decision regarding story prioritization. Instead of allowing the room to dissolve into factions, I implemented a 'round robin' approach. Each team member had a chance to voice their thoughts and potential solutions, promoting a sense of unity and mutual respect.
This strategy effectively kept disagreement at bay, engaged everyone present, and steered us clear of chaos. Cultivating this collaborative culture takes time and patience, but the payoff in productive, harmonious meetings is well worth it.”

Whether you prefer to encourage healthy debate or avoid contentious issues, setting the rules before your meeting begins is essential.

Disagreements are hard to avoid in department meetings, how you handle them matters. Set communication standards to ensure everyone is respectful.

9. Model Active Listening

Being respectful of all meeting participants means actively listening to their contributions and not interrupting anyone or dismissing their points. Active listening is a critical skill that meeting leaders can model to encourage everyone present to follow suit. Skip this step, and your meeting can descend into chaos. Co-founder and HR Head Jefferson McCall shares how this works at TechBullish

“One of the key strategies we used to make our department meetings more effective is to promote active listening and clear communication among our team members. We encourage everyone to come prepared with their ideas and suggestions and then take turns presenting them in a structured and concise manner.
During the presentation, other team members are encouraged to ask questions and provide feedback to ensure they fully understand the message being conveyed. To promote active listening, we use methods like summarizing what was said or repeating the key points to ensure everyone is on the same page.”

10. Know When To Intervene

Disagreements can and will happen, even if you've set ground rules and demonstrated exceptional interpersonal skills. Your team members may feel passionate about the direction of an upcoming project or be impacted by company decisions such as layoffs that affect their workload or departmental budget. Ideally, employees will express themselves while being respectful and collaborative. But some signs that your meeting is becoming argumentative include:

  • People raising their voices or interrupting each other 
  • Participants going off-topic or attempting to take over the conversation
  • A sharp decrease in cooperation or collaboration 
  • Offensive language, including swearing, name-calling, or insults that amount to workplace bullying
  • Quieter members of your team not having a chance to speak up

When you recognize these signs, it's time to intervene. Speak up and calmly remind everyone of the ground rules, or suggest taking a break to cool off. If it becomes clear that the meeting isn't productive or respectful, consider ending it so everyone can take the time to reflect on how they can better participate in future sessions.

Natalia Morozova, Partner, Cohen, Tucker & Ades Immigration Law Firm, warns:

“As the department leader, do not allow these discussions to get out of hand. You can do this by politely interrupting people when it's time to move on to the next topic. As a last resort, you may have to mute people if they are acting inappropriately, which you can do if you are the host of a remote meeting.”

11. Incorporate Praise And Recognition Into Your Meetings

At the opposite end of the communication spectrum, meetings are a fantastic opportunity to praise your team. Nectar's recent employee recognition survey highlights the power that positive feedback has on motivation and productivity in the workplace:

  • 83.6% of employees feel that recognition affects their motivation to succeed at work 
  • 77.9% of employees would be more productive if they were recognized more frequently 
  • 81.9% of employees agree that recognition for their contributions improves their engagement
  • 40% of employees rank managers as the group that has the most impact on them recognition wise

Beth Smith, Life Coach and Owner of Thriving With Resilience, reveals: 

“I always call out the stars of a particular project and document their names in the minutes of the meeting. When the minutes go out in an email, everyone sees who was given a shoutout for outstanding work. Ensure you recognize everyone on the team. I have found that "Thank You" goes a long way and helps to build morale. Show your team that you see them and appreciate their hard work.”

Similarly, Joe Li, Managing Director of CheckYa, explains how to invite meeting participants to share updates so you can collectively reward their success: 

“Honor exceptional workers, project teams, and accomplishments, or share gratifying client comments. A job well done gets recognized, which raises morale. Invite colleagues to share updates on their current tasks, priorities, triumphs, and difficulties at work by scheduling time for this purpose.”

Create a culture people won't want to leave with Nectar.

12. Keep Department Meetings On Schedule And Productive

No one wants to feel stuck in endless meetings. Back in 1976, Antony Jay’s advice in an HBR article read, “If meetings have a tendency to go on too long, the chairman should arrange to start them one hour before lunch or one hour before the end of work."

Instead of eating into workers' personal time, modern-day advice is to plan the meeting appropriately so it stays on track. Roy Lau, Co-founder at 28 Mortgage, told us:

“Use time limits for agenda items and encourage efficient discussions to prevent meetings from running over. Set clear expectations regarding time constraints and assign a timekeeper to monitor progress. Come prepared, stay on-topic, and table lengthy discussions for follow-up meetings.”

13. Decide How Your Meetings Will Conclude 

At the end of your meeting, make clear decisions and assign action points. You might use one of the following systems to do so:

  • Voting: Each person will vote on the outcomes of the meeting.
  • Consensus: Reach a consensus by enabling open discussion. Encourage people to challenge each other’s ideas.
  • Leader authority: The meeting leader will make a final call on decisions and the next steps.
  • Panel/Rotation: Assign a panel of representatives to make decisions on behalf of the team. Alternatively, rotate the decision-making responsibility between meeting attendees.

How Do Top Companies Host Successful Department Meetings? 

Top companies are constantly refining their meeting approach to maximize efficiency, reduce staff burnout, and produce exceptional company results. Check out how these top organizations handle department discussions:

Amazon Uses A Two-Pizza Rule

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is famously skeptical of meetings, believing that just one person with a bad attitude can drain a room of its energy. Bezos sticks to a strict "two pizzas" rule to keep Amazon meetings in check, meaning there should never be more people than you can feed with a couple of 14" pizzas. Pack any more people into the meeting, and Bezos believes productivity starts to wane.

Netflix Holds Purposeful Meetings

Netflix's Company Culture page documents its approach to scheduling meetings with a clear purpose in mind. The company prepares an agenda and determines what to discuss in a synchronous real-time session compared to offline conversations such as email. Meeting time is set aside for shared learning experiences rather than approving tactical decisions.

Buffer Differentiates Between "All Hands" And "Town Hall" Meetings

All Hands and Town Halls are two types of large group meetings organizations use to make announcements, share company updates, and answer questions. Buffer differentiates between the two by using All Hands for CEO and leadership team presentations on strategy and direction, while Town Halls are for Q&A. The company runs its All Hands meetings monthly, incorporating fun elements such as lively celebrations and icebreakers to keep everyone engaged in a remote team.

Shopify Cancels Meetings With Three Or More People

In early 2023, Shopify's leadership team told its employees that every recurring meeting with three or more people would be automatically canceled and must not be reinstated for at least two weeks. Instructions from Shopify's COO and VP of Product Kaz Nejatian were to be "really, really critical about what you're adding back." Further solidifying Shopify's stance on meetings being "a bug," the company also mandates that Wednesdays remain meeting-free.

Gitlab Holds Annual Meeting Cleanup Days

Another company cracking down on bad meetings is Gitlab, which holds an annual meeting cleanup day on or close to February 14th. All employees use this checkpoint to examine their calendars and focus on the value and frequency of recurring meetings. Team members should feel empowered to: 

  • Cancel appointments or change the cadence if current discussions don't offer sufficient value 
  • Remove themselves as meeting attendees 
  • Ask peers to rethink their approach to effective department meetings

Keep your remote team connected and engaged with Nectar

Build Team Rapport With Nectar 

Meetings are essential to bring your entire team together, whether face-to-face or in a virtual setting. Nectar offers several tools to support these gatherings by encouraging positive peer-to-peer bonds.

Our Recognition tool enables colleagues to give meaningful shoutouts to each other, inviting frequent praise into your company culture. Nectar’s Challenge tool is ideal for incentivizing your teams to work towards common business goals, and our Milestones feature reminds everyone about significant anniversaries and birthdays, so you'll never forget to give someone a special mention in your next meeting. 

Start improving team rapport today by booking a Nectar demo.

Actionable workplace tips & insights for fellow people lovers

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