The Art of Running Effective Meetings
The average professional spends 31 hours a month in meetings. Many of us find that meetings can be full of talk, with little focus and no outcomes. If you’ve ever sat through one of those meetings, feeling like it’s a waste of time and a hit to productivity, then this article is for you.
Here is an easy-to-follow process for running effective meetings so everyone walks in knowing what to discuss and walks out knowing next steps.
Start by creating a detailed agenda based on what needs to be accomplished in the meeting. The agenda should be sent out prior to the meeting along with any supporting documents. This gives team members the opportunity to review and ask questions before the meeting. When you are arranging a meeting, take the time to determine who you need in attendance. Only include participants who have relevant expertise to the discussion items.
There is nothing more frustrating than spending fifteen minutes trying to get a conferencing system, telephone number, presentation equipment or a WIFI connection working for a meeting. Prepare the room ahead of time and test your meeting links to ensure everything is operational. Keep in mind, fifteen minutes lost by four people is an hour of lost time you can never get back.
Assign a note taker before the meeting begins. The minutes will serve as the written record of your discussion, decisions, and next steps. They’re also helpful for people who were unable to attend a meeting, but need to know what happened. Determine the location where the minutes and other meeting documentation will be stored. Minutes should be distributed within 24 hours of the meeting.
It is always a good idea to build in a few minutes for people to reconnect and catch up before jumping into the agenda. This works well for teams, but may not be appropriate for client meetings.
Take time at the start of the meeting to clarify why the meeting is happening and the objectives. Ask participants if there are other agenda items and prioritize the discussion. It can be very frustrating to not know the purpose of the meeting or be missing the right people in the room to provide the needed information.
People really do appreciate a meeting leader who is organized and starts and ends meetings on time. Display the agenda on a screen or whiteboard for others to see. This helps to keep meeting participants focused on the discussion. Research has shown that meeting productivity decreases significantly after sixty minutes so keep your meetings short. Even better, try to end your meetings early.
Track and assign follow-up and action items as they come up instead of waiting until the end. Don’t forget to include due dates for action items as well—this will keep teammates accountable and make expectations clear.
We have all been in meetings where a person derails or monopolizes the conversation. It is best to deal with this situation directly by saying, “We appreciate your contributions, but now we need input from others before making a decision.” You can also say, “It seems like we have changed focus; do we need to follow this idea or get back to the decision at hand?” As the meeting leader, it is your responsibility to facilitate the discussion so be ready to manage “the talkers’.
Summary and Next Steps
It’s quite common for people to come away from the same meeting with very different interpretations of what went on. Prior to the meeting adjourning, summarize the discussion, decisions made and follow-up items. This is also a good time to schedule a subsequent meeting.
Meetings are part of our daily work routine so strive to make your meetings productive and well attended. Running an effective meeting requires a common-sense approach and organization. Following these steps will help ensure you have your bases covered.
Contributed by: Amy Noel