8 ways to stand out in your stand-up meetings
Whether you call them stand-ups, scrums, or morning circles, here's some secrets to standing out and helping everyone get the most out of them.
Jul 11, 2023 • 6 Minute Read
- IT Ops
- Software Development
- Developer Experience
- Professional Development
- Software Delivery Process
- Product & UX
- Learning & Development
Do your daily standups drag on longer than a debugging session? Do you find yourself daydreaming about your next epic adventure while your teammates drone on with irrelevant updates? Do you often think, “That’s time I’ll never get back”?
It’s happened to all of us! Whether you call this event daily scrum, daily stand-up, or morning circle, these daily events can either be super productive or a total waste of time for everyone involved. In this blog, we’ll unlock the secrets to becoming a stand-up superstar, helping you and the rest of your team get the most from this daily meeting.
1. Stay relevant to your entire team
Picture this: you're in the middle of your stand-up, trying to keep your eyes open while your teammate rambles on about their favorite cat meme. Don’t let that be you!
Daily stand-ups should be relevant to all attendees. Are they developers? Is the scrum master there? How about the product owner? Any testers? Obviously not all of your updates will apply to all participants, but show a little bit of love to everyone in attendance.
For example, maybe it’s something like:
I completed the backend API endpoints for user registration and login (for developers)
I still need approval from Compliance on the third-party service for email verification (for scrum master)
I’ve shared the test plan for review (for the testers)
The overall login flow should be ready for user review and feedback tomorrow (for the product owner)
As you’re coming up with items to include in your report, be sure you’re thinking about all the different roles on the team.
2. Stick to the point (and save stories for later)
Your update should be like a well-crafted software update: clear, concise and packed with only the details that matter. There’s plenty of time for stories and deeper conversations later, but the actual standup meeting should be super focused.
The daily stand-up meeting agenda is for team members to report three things (with recognition that this can and does vary):
What have you done since the last meeting?
What will you do before the next meeting?
That’s it. Three things. Get to the point.
Remember, the original idea behind people standing for stand-up is that it would encourage brevity. But even if your daily meeting doesn’t (or can’t) involve standing, brevity is still a virtue in this setting.
3. Prepare to share and ask to lead
Related to the points above, spend just a few minutes thinking about how you’ll respond to the stand-up questions. It doesn’t have to take a ton of time, but jot down some bullet points of what you’ll cover when it’s your turn, with an eye/ear to how you’re adding value to the team. Also gather data if you need it. This will make you more efficient during the meeting, and it also helps prioritize things in your own mind. (And let’s be honest, sometimes yesterday feels like a long time ago, and trying to remember what you did can be difficult when you’re put on the spot.)
Also, no matter your role, volunteer to lead the meeting occasionally. This is a good way to raise your visibility on the team, show leadership and facilitation skills, and it will force you to pay closer attention to what’s happening on the team.
4. Only offer in-the-moment solutions if it will take 30 seconds or less
An important goal of stand-ups is to foster better collaboration across the team, and give insight into what everyone’s working on. Inevitably, one team member will be stuck on something that another team member can solve. By our very nature, we’re problem solvers, and it’s tempting to dive right in and fix problems during the stand-up call or meeting. But if your solution takes longer than 30 seconds to discuss, then “take it offline” (as they say) so it doesn’t derail the rest of the meeting.
5. Listen to your team with intention
It should go without saying that listening in any kind of meeting is important. Otherwise, why have the meeting? But some of the traditional ways to show you’re listening—like asking follow-up questions, paraphrasing what you’ve heard and so on—aren’t always appropriate in a stand-up call or meeting because it would break the rules above about staying focused and short. So how can you still seem engaged?
Here are some ideas:
Nod and smile. A tried-and-true way to show engagement.
Show some virtual love. If your standup is done through tools like Zoom or Teams, use relevant emojis, reactions, a thumbs-up or GIFs to show you’re following along.
Maintain eye contact, even if it’s virtual. And check out more ideas for better virtual communication.
When it’s your turn to talk, reference things that your teammates said earlier. Or have a discussion after the meeting, referring back to something they said.
6. Show up for your stand-ups and be on time
How to be a standout standupper? First, show up! This should be obvious, but we’ve probably all worked with someone who regularly misses stand-ups. While scheduling conflicts will occasionally come up, this should be a protected time on your calendar, at the same time every day, and something that’s simply a daily habit. Missing too many can cause lack of alignment with the team, missed opportunities for collaboration, and you might also be delaying others who have dependencies on you.
And also, show up on time! Because the meetings are short and timeboxed, every minute counts. If you show up 4-5 minutes late, that delays the whole meeting, which then has a snowball effect on the rest of the day.
7. Be unafraid to raise blockers and concerns
This one will strike fear in the hearts of junior technologists—and introverts! It’s so tempting to report that everything is going along swimmingly. You’re on top of things, all your code works perfectly, and you’re doing an amazing job. Uh-huh…riiiight!
Sometimes that is true, but often there’s a problem lurking or even staring you right in the face that you’re embarrassed or afraid to bring up. It happens to all of us; don’t stress. You spent the entire day yesterday debugging a few lines of code and now you’re behind schedule? Stakeholders are throwing scope creep at you? You’ve detected some quality issues in the code base? There are unreviewed PRs, long-running PRs or high-activity PRs that need attention?
As difficult as it is, you should report things like this immediately. Simply hoping they’ll go away is rarely the solution. The sooner they’re out in the open, the sooner they can be fixed.
8. Be positive and look for ways to inspire
Nobody likes a “Debbie Downer” who’s always dwelling on the negative and dampening the overall mood of the team. So be the opposite of that (a “Positive Polly”?). That doesn’t mean you sugarcoat when things are challenging, but keep an attitude of “we’re an awesome team and we can figure this out.”
Humor also goes a long way. Kick off the meeting with a lighthearted joke or humorous anecdote related to the project. Use memes, emojis or other visuals to make things fun and engaging. And if you need to show diagrams to illustrate or summarize points, this course might help.
Also make it a point to call out teammates for their great work and say “thank you” for all the awesome work that is surely happening across the team.
Let’s wrap it up. We’ve discussed several tips to level-up your stand-up game and maximize its effectiveness: stay relevant; stick to the point; prepare to share and ask to lead; only discuss solutions only if they’re quick; listen with intention; be there and be on time; and raise blockers and concerns. Finally, throw in some positivity and humor, and you’re on your way to being a standup superhero!
If you enjoyed this article, check out these courses on Pluralsight to continue your journey: