How these Colorado startups craft meetings that don't suck

October 26, 2016

Ever slogged your way through a two-hour meeting, with deadlines looming and a far-too-empty coffee mug, only to realize the meeting could (and, let’s be honest, should) have been an email?

For many of us, meetings are the bane of our professional existences, taking up time, creating unnecessary conflict and even leading to more meetings to recap what happened in the last meeting. It’s exhausting, really.

Fortunately, a number of tech companies are just as fed up with the old way of holding meetings and are now taking more creative approaches, resulting in meetings that are educational, build relationships and are way, way better than an email. We caught up with four Colorado tech companies to see how their teams — from all-hands to design and sales — pull off meetings worth attending.


Teams: Design and development

Response from Andrew Cohen, Head of Design

How often do you have team meetings?

The design team meets weekly, but I also have bi-weekly one-on-ones with each team member.

What are the key components?

For the design team, we do a few things. Each person talks about their week: what went well, what didn’t, what excited them and what they learned. I give updates on sales in the pipeline, current project progress and any relevant team updates. The second half of the meeting varies week-to-week. Members can present their work and the team provides feedback. Sometimes we show something new we’ve learned, and other times we do fun, creative exercises.

How many people attend?

The full design team, which is six.

What was a challenge you faced in getting these team meetings going? How did you overcome it?

Getting in the habit of making them happen. As the team leader, I just make a point to set up an agenda earlier in the week. I reach out to team members to see if they have stuff worth talking about. If no one does, then I come up with some fun things to talk about and do.

What makes the meetings special?

I make sure the team is getting value out of the meeting. If we don’t have much to talk about, or people are out, we skip.

What makes your design culture unique?

The design team is a 50/50 split of three women to three men. This may not seem too crazy, but the reality is it’s quite rare to find balanced teams in tech.


Response from Chuck Preslar, Senior Software Engineer

How often do you have team meetings?

For our engineers, we typically hold team meetings twice a month.

What are the key components?

For these team meetings, I like to focus discussion on education: these discussions could involve new technologies and frameworks, or more advanced computer science topics.

How many people attend?

At Skookum, we've divided our engineering team into smaller units so that leads can be more familiar with each member’s day-to-day work and provide better focused career guidance. Team sizes do not exceed six total people.

What was a challenge you faced in getting these team meetings going? How did you overcome it?

As software consultants, each member of an engineering team can be tasked on different projects leading to conflicting schedules. While our individual client work is our core responsibility, we make a concerted effort to prioritize these team meetings. Prioritizing our team meetings was a decision made to safeguard our engineering culture of teamwork. It benefits each individual team member, which in turn will benefit the work they do with our clients.

What makes the meetings special?

The primary purpose of our team meeting is collaborative education, which is best done in person. We also try to make them entertaining. Work can be stressful, and this is an opportunity to alleviate some of that. Most of our team meetings lead to some good laughs while we learn together.

What makes your developer culture unique?

All in all, these team meetings help define our engineering culture and build camaraderie. One of the things I've always enjoyed about working at Skookum is how amazing it feels to come to work every day with not only the brightest people I know, but also some of my best friends.


Team: Sales

Response from Nate Kinet, Director of Sales for North America

How often do you have team meetings?

There are two recurring meetings every week. First thing Monday morning the entire sales floor gathers for a Monday Morning standup. From there, each sales team will have individual team meetings once a week.

What are the key components?

For the standup, we recap the previous week, highlight some top performers and discuss goals for the upcoming week. Sales reps who closed deals the previous week often share deal highlights for the rest of the floor to learn from.

From there, each mid-market team will have individual team meetings where they chat about pipeline and late-stage opportunities as well as rotating topics. We call the pipeline review session “opportunity roulette” where each rep goes up in front of their team and presents their “commit” deals for the week and their “upside” deals. The rest of the team will ask questions to validate where the deal stands and walking away from the meeting the team will have a goal set for the week. This creates accountability across the team as their “commit” is rolled up to upper management. Rotating topics include reviewing case studies, learning new product functionality, planning team outings, etc.

How many people attend?

The entire Denver office attends the Monday morning standup, and the individual team meetings have six reps and a sales manager.

What was a challenge you faced in getting these team meetings going? How did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge is always coordinating everyone’s schedule. Managers make it a rule to not schedule sales calls during the weekly meeting. It always helps having the meetings on the same day and same time every week.

Everyone knows that the standup starts promptly at 8:30 a.m. on Monday so people make sure they aren’t late because the entire office will see them walk in.

What makes the meetings special?

The team meetings build camaraderie across the office and help foster a team environment. We have a saying that “Sales at Trustpilot is a team sport,” and being able to share wins and knowledge across the team as well work collaboratively in meetings helps foster that belief. People come to work every day to be successful in their roles and make money but also to win as a team. Our team meetings get people to work toward a common goal.

What makes your sales culture unique?

The people. A lot of sales floors are cutthroat and it’s every man / woman for themselves. While everyone at Trustpilot wants to be the best individually and be No. 1 on the leaderboard, there is a general desire across the floor for everyone to be successful so the company succeeds and we all win.


Team: Consulting development

Response from Scott Michalik, Architect — Microsoft Solutions Practice

How often do you have internal team meetings? How about client meetings?

Official internal meetings, with the entire company, happen every month.

What are the key components of each?

For official internal meetings, information dissemination. There is a set of slides to cover, which usually includes personnel changes, financials, upcoming company events (celebratory trips, review cycle, insurance open enrollment, etc), sales and potential sale updates, etc.

How many people attend each?


What was a challenge you faced in getting these team meetings going? How did you overcome it?

Some people see the corporate meetings as a waste of time and money. Taking 300 consultants away from billable work is quite expensive. To overcome that, we make sure the information is valuable, and the dead time kept to a minimum.

What makes the meetings special?

Because we’re a consulting company, it’s very easy to lose the connection to our employer and instead create relationships with our clients. These meetings help to remind us that our company is more than just official emails and a paycheck.

If there are any issues or questions, they are raised real-time in front of the whole client-consultant group. That typically derails the original purpose of the meeting, but it is always useful.

What makes your developer culture unique?

It’s hard to say what makes us unique without knowing about other dev cultures. One thing that I appreciate is the way we divvy up tasks and functionality based on skill sets. Typically, we lean on each person on the team to be an expert in their areas — regardless of their title. So it’s a very real situation to have a first-year consultant be the project expert on our Angular Routing implementation and have the architect come to them when it needs to be updated or tweaked.


Team: All-hands

Response from Gavin Matthews, Director, Privacy, Security, and Enterprise Integration

How often do you have team meetings?

We have daily standups across the team, a weekly Monday meeting to jumpstart the week and plenty of self-organizing meetings across different functions. We also come together quarterly as a company.

What are the key components?

We try to run Agile meetings, so the key components are respecting time and working agreements, setting an agenda, tracking progress and logging outcomes, asks and owners. It is still a work in progress, but this format results in a more clear, cohesive meeting.

How many people attend?

Anywhere from small teams to the entire company!

What was a challenge you faced in getting these team meetings going? How did you overcome it?

Setting the time and making it stick. Even with the meeting on the calendar, it becomes hard to keep the team engaged and present. You can overcome this by being consistent, starting and ending on time and constantly adding value.

What makes the meetings special?

Generally, there has to be an agenda and an outcome. This keeps the participants effective and collaborative. Meetings also get at collaboration in a way that emails just cannot do.

What makes your company culture unique?

Our culture is constantly shifting and growing each week, making it a great place to plug in and make the company you want to see. We experiment a lot with new approaches and ideas to build the team and culture daily, and that helps create a unique company.


Photos via featured companies. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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