Meetings are the cornerstones of the workday, but getting the cadence right can be tricky. Too many meetings will undermine productivity, while inadequate meeting frequency will result in losing track of workflows and important information.
However, when meeting cadences are done right, meetings become a powerful tool to keep everyone in the loop, boost work efficiency, and improve team morale.
If you’re looking for ways to find the best meeting cadence for your team, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll discuss the different types of meetings that suit each cadence, how to get them right, and what happens when we get them wrong.
What’s a Meeting Cadence?
Meetings are appointments where colleagues get together to have a discussion, and cadences refer to the frequency at which something occurs. Putting these words together, meeting cadences are the schedule that determines the number of meetings organized, the length of these meetings, and when they are held.
While meeting cadence requirements will differ depending on the type of meeting being held, you’ll also find that the team members participating in the meeting will have different scheduling needs, subject to whether their work arrangements are on-site, hybrid, or remote.
Benefits Of Choosing The Right Meeting Cadence
Selecting the right meeting cadence requires some effort and thought, but striking the balance between individual work and team meets will provide a host of benefits to your team’s overall productivity.
Enhanced Team Productivity and Focus
Setting up a structured and appropriate meeting cadence helps team members focus on their core tasks and reduces spontaneous ad hoc meetings. When team members know what to expect in terms of meeting commitments for the week, they can plan productive time blocks more efficiently and work around scheduled interruptions.
Improved Communication and Collaboration
The right meeting cadence fosters better communication and collaboration among team members, leading to smoother project execution and idea sharing. Spontaneous meetings are difficult to prepare for and not everyone can attend with short notice – the chaos often results in miscommunication and missing context which makes collaboration difficult.
A well-calibrated meeting schedule can facilitate timely decision-making processes, enabling teams to address challenges and make critical choices efficiently.
For example, if an issue pops up during a project that has regularly scheduled check-ins, the team members involved can address the issue and resolve it together during the next meeting instead of attempting to wrangle scattered, distributed individual workflows.
Increased Accountability and Alignment
The right meeting cadence can help ensure that everyone is aligned with a project’s goals and objectives, reinforcing accountability in teams and individuals.
For example, regular sync-up meetings for a big project help the team align around the same goal, preventing issues like certain team members working in a vacuum on unplanned or unnecessary tasks.
Reduced Meeting Fatigue and Burnout
A balanced meeting cadence spaces out meeting frequency, preventing meeting fatigue and burnout and ultimately contributing to higher job satisfaction and retention rates. Mindful meeting schedules reduce the amount of spontaneous meeting scrambling since team members know when they can expect to receive or provide updates, reducing overall work stress.
Consequences Of Wrong Meeting Cadence
An inappropriate meeting schedule can lead to reduced efficiency and effectiveness in the workplace, even contributing to interruptions in project workflows.
Meeting fatigue happens when the amount of meetings scheduled leaves participants with physical and mental exhaustion and they have no time to recover. The frustration and stress from having to attend unnecessarily frequent meetings contribute to burnout since team members have to fit individual work tasks into an already cramped meeting cadence.
Having an unsuitable meeting cadence makes it difficult to check in and address urgent issues quickly, causing further uncertainty and stress. A meeting cadence that is too infrequent for a big project means that decisions are delayed and team members are left out of the loop on important information.
Wasted Time and Resources
Meetings don’t just take up precious work time – they also occupy facilities and require some organization to run smoothly. Having the wrong meeting cadence takes up resources that can be better used elsewhere.
Low Morale, Increased Stress, and Burnout
Poorly chosen meeting cadences crowd the workday with redundant or unnecessary meetings when team members still have immediate and urgent tasks to complete. This situation contributes to increased stress and burnout, tanking team morale, affecting job satisfaction, and potentially causing increased turnover.
How to Pick Optimal Meeting Cadence For Your Meetings?
Before you schedule your next meeting, use this step-by-step guide to make the most out of your meeting cadences.
Step 1: Define Meeting Objectives and Goals
Start by clearly defining the objectives and goals of your meetings. Understanding what you want to accomplish with each meeting will help you determine how often they should occur.
For example, a daily meeting cadence is perfect for checking in on workflow progress for an urgent project or for keeping track of who’s working on what right now. Meanwhile, a quarterly meeting schedule is great for touching base with a team member on their overall work performance.
Step 2: Assess Work Nature and Team Dynamics
Consider the nature of your work and your team’s dynamics. Is the type of work you do fast-paced, with constantly changing requirements? Or does your team need more uninterrupted time to focus on creating a quality product? What is the size of your team and what kind of communication do they prefer?
A large team of developers will lose productivity if your meetings are too frequent or irregular, while a small marketing agency team will benefit from weekly or even daily check-ins to calibrate workflow and responsibilities in response to ever-evolving client needs.
Step 3: Gather Team Feedback
After meetings, seek input from your team members regarding their meeting preferences. It’s likely that they understand their availability, workload, and whether the current meeting frequency effectively aligns with their needs, and they can help you with these insights.
Team feedback allows you to facilitate an environment and meeting cadence that lets them to do their best work. For example, some meetings can be done away with or made asynchronous because the project requires more individual focus and less active collaboration.
Step 4: Research Industry Standards
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel – research industry standards and best practices for meeting cadences in your field, as this will provide valuable benchmarks and insights to help you make an informed decision.
For instance, daily standups in Agile normally have participants plan the next 24 hours during a meeting that lasts no longer than 15 minutes.
Following industry standard meeting formats can be handy for calibrating meeting cadences since they were likely formulated after trial and error. You can always adjust and adapt them to better suit your team’s needs later.
Step 5: Test and Adjust
As you get into the flow of your meeting cadence, experiment with it to better align with your assessments and feedback. You may not find the perfect schedule at first or your team’s needs may change over time, so be open to adjusting as needed to ensure that it serves your team’s goals and remains effective.
Common Meeting Cadences
Here, we’ll cover some examples of common meeting cadences so you can find what’s right for your team. Ideally, a recurring meeting should be shorter the closer it is to the next meeting.
Daily cadences are great for small teams of 10 people or less, where the purpose of the meeting is to check in, provide work updates, and discuss any issues that might be preventing progress.
Meetings that work great with daily cadence:
- Daily standups
- Daily reflections
- Daily team check-ins
Weekly or Bi-Weekly
For more involved work status updates, a weekly or bi-weekly meeting cadence is enough to keep everyone in the loop. This cadence is also good for larger, more distributed teams as it takes up fewer work hours overall.
Meetings that work great with weekly cadence:
- Department team meetings
Monthly meetings work best for instances where work requirements or circumstances don’t change frequently, or when the participants or projects involved have goals that may not be as urgent but are still important.
Meetings that work great with monthly cadence:
- Leadership meetings
- Company-wide updates or announcements
Quarterly meetings are great for long-term goals and high-level views, where they function as a checkpoint for feedback and strategy assessment. They are usually more substantial and involve reporting, analysis, and discussion.
Meetings that work great with quarterly cadence:
- Town hall meetings
- Strategy meetings
- Performance evaluations
- Skip level meetings
Annual meetings usually involve big-picture views in evaluation and planning, taking place at the end of the year. They’re most commonly used to reflect and review the efforts of the past year.
Meetings that work great with yearly cadence:
- Compliance reviews
- Budget reviews
- Annual planning meetings
Case Study: How Optimal Meeting Cadence Helped Zapier
With more than 250 team members distributed across 23 countries, it was difficult for Zapier to implement standups across time zones. These meetings would often go past the 15-minute mark, leaving participants overwhelmed and worn out by the time they were done.
Work productivity was also dropping since team members had to take time out of their day to attend the scheduled daily standup meeting, interrupting workflows and time meant for individual tasks.
The daily meeting cadence was still relevant and necessary to fulfill its intended purpose, but Zapier opted to shift from a synchronous meeting format to an asynchronous one. This way, everyone could still take part in the meeting by providing and receiving work status updates, but it would be done at a time that best suited each participant.
Here’s how they did it: They combined Geekbot’s meeting facilitation features with Slack’s response threads, where Geekbot would automatically prompt team members with questions about their workday at a scheduled time.
Once a team member’s daily standup entry was completed, it would be published in a dedicated channel for everyone else to see. Other team members could then hold conversations about that specific daily standup entry in its response thread while the rest of the team continued about their day.
Over time, it was clear that this was the solution Zapier needed to save the team from the chaos of trying to coordinate synchronous daily standups with a globally distributed team.
Not only did they free up resources like time and energy that could be used elsewhere for team members, but they also used tools like Slack and Geekbot that would automate the process and facilitate the meeting, reducing the friction involved for employees and leadership alike.
Geekbot’s integration with Slack meant that Zapier team members could quickly and easily access team communications when needed, as they would be stored in a central but separate channel from typical work interaction.
Slack’s integration with essential apps like Google Workspace, GitHub, and the like also meant that transferring information relevant to daily standups would be a simple and speedy process.
Zapier’s flexibility in adjusting to the needs of their team helped them find a solution that would successfully accommodate their work schedules while still keeping everyone in the loop in an easily accessible way.
While both synchronous and asynchronous communication would have worked for a daily standup, Zapier’s unique needs and the information-giving nature of daily standups meant that an asynchronous meeting format with workspace tool integration and automation was a much better solution for them.
Frequently asked questions
How to prevent meeting overload or too few meetings?
To prevent overload, ensure that each meeting has a clear purpose and contributes to team goals. Regularly assess the necessity of each meeting and adjust the cadence accordingly. Avoid unnecessary meetings and promote efficient communication outside of formal gatherings.
What are common meeting cadences for teams?
Common meeting cadences include daily stand-up meetings, weekly team or project updates, bi-weekly progress reviews, and monthly strategic planning sessions. The specific cadence should align with your team’s objectives and workflows.
How can I determine the ideal meeting cadence for my team?
The ideal meeting cadence depends on your team’s needs and goals. Start by evaluating your team’s communication requirements, project timelines, and individual work styles. Experiment with different schedules, gather feedback, and adapt to find the right balance.