Time spent in meetings can seem like a total waste of time, energy, and resources. I’m sure we’ve all sat in that meeting that seemed to last forever. Nothing got done, and the time in the meeting seemed totally wasted. Hopefully everyone has also been in a meeting that was well done! What makes the difference between these two types of meetings? It’s a lot simpler than you think. With good planning, execution, and follow-up, your meetings will increase in effectiveness in no time! Here are nine keys for effective meetings.
1. Identify purpose and objective of the meeting
A meeting without a purpose is just about the most pointless thing ever. If you don’t know why you need a meeting, don’t have a meeting until you have a good reason too! Meetings take time out of everyone’s schedule, so make sure you make the most of this valuable time. The objective(s) of the meeting should be clear, and should be something that requires a meeting to carry out. If a couple of phone calls could carry out the same objective, it might be better to just make those phone calls and avoid an extraneous meeting!
Once you know the purpose and objective of the meeting, put this information into an agenda that breaks down what you will be doing during the meeting. The agenda should be specific, with the list of topics and clear objectives. Not only will this help you get a feel for how the meeting will flow, this document will be crucial in helping participants prepare for the meeting.
Remember to schedule a meeting only for the length it needs. Shorter is usually better, and will help to keep participants engaged. Pick a good location for the meeting as well, somewhere quiet and with enough space.
2. Invite and prepare participants
When planning a meeting, make sure to invite the right people. If you invite everybody just because, there will be many in the meeting who simply won’t have the tools or the reason to participate! Bring in those who will help to fulfill the purpose of the meeting, those who have the knowhow and responsibility to resolves such issues. Having a smaller meeting with only the relevant people will drastically increase participation and engagement, and will create a much more effective meeting.
When you have decided who to invite, make sure to let participants know ahead of time. Distribute the agenda, and make sure those who will be presenting or reporting on previous assignments know exactly what their responsibilities are. Make clear the start time and end time of the meeting, as well as the location.
3. Create an organized meeting environment
One of the most important things about an effective meeting is laying ground rules and making expectations clear at the beginning of the meeting. Designate a meeting leader or facilitator who won’t be afraid to be bold. This designation does not have to stay constant from meeting to meeting, but it should be someone who knows the purpose and objective of the meeting well. This facilitator should be able to make sure all voices are heard, and that no voice is heard too much. The facilitator also makes sure that the meeting stays on time, along with the minutes taker. The minutes taker should take notes of the meeting, and keep track of time.
The meeting should always start on time and end on time. This shows participants that you value their time and their work as well as their participation in the meeting. Meeting rules should be defined (for example, put phones on silent, and don’t use personal devices during the meeting) and followed. At the beginning of the meeting, the last meeting should be followed up on, with people reporting on what has been done and potential results. The current meeting objective(s) should then be referenced. Starting a meeting in an organized fashion like this creates a framework for an effective meeting, and is well worth the time it will take to do so.
4. Effective discussion and participation
After the meeting has been started in an organized fashion, the agenda is then followed in an effective manner. It is important to use visual aids (such as PowerPoint or another tool) if possible in order to be as clear as possible, and to help everyone stay on the same page. Cover only one topic at a time, and if a different topic is brought up, make a note to cover that later in the meeting or in a future meeting. If the meeting is long, breaks can be helpful to keep everyone sharp. As mentioned before, the facilitator should make sure no one dominates the discussion, and should make sure that those with important points or opinions are heard.
5. Make clear and specific decisions, designations, and assignments
As decisions are made, make sure that they are clear and specific. It should be clear what is to be done in order to execute the decision. There is nothing worse than talking about a lot of great ideas if you have no idea how to make these ideas happen! If you don’t know how a decision will be carried out, make sure to discuss that topic until specifics are determined. Give specific assignments and designations to individuals or departments with timelines and goals so that everyone knows exactly what is expected of them. The people responsible for these assignments should know what is expected, and when and how they will report on what was accomplished.
6. Summarize decisions and discussion at the end of the meeting
At the end of the meeting, decisions and discussion of the meeting should be summarized so that everyone leaves on the same page. The next meeting should be announced, assignments should be reiterated, and any concern should be addressed before leaving. This is also an excellent time to bring up topics to address in a future meeting in order to keep moving forward. This step in the meeting should lead to an easier and more effective follow-up.
7. Ask for honest feedback from participants after the meeting is over
After the meeting is over, make sure to get honest feedback from the meeting participants to get their perspective on how it went. Maybe you thought it was effective, but someone else noticed something you missed, or noticed a way to improve future meetings. It can be hard to accept this feedback sometimes, but you will drastically improve the effectiveness of your meetings by getting the feedback of those who participated in the meeting.
8. Distribute via email or other means a copy of the minutes from the meeting
As soon after the meeting as possible, a copy of the minutes should be distributed to all those who participated in the meeting. This will reinforce the decisions and assignments just made in the meeting, and will further ensure that all are on the same page with how the meeting went. This step helps eliminate confusion and solidify the meeting while it is still fresh in participants’ minds.
9. Emphasize tasks to be completed and reported on for individuals who received a responsibility so that everyone can be held accountable
This last step is important, as individuals who have received an assignment are followed up on so that they know exactly what they need to do, and how and when they will be held accountable for it. This helps to ensure completion of assignments, and makes sure there is no confusion on what needs to be done before execution of that task is initiated.
By following these steps, the meeting culture of your business will be changed in no time! Meetings will be shorter, more effective, and much, much less boring, and employees will feel more motivated to prepare for meetings and fulfill and report on assignments. These meetings, instead of being a waste of time or something that is just done, will become what drives your business’s progress! Good luck, and great meetings!