“A meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost.”
It is true that most of the meetings running around the world might be not as efficient as it should be. We've all been stuck in a bad meeting, and we all know what a bad meeting looks like. There are ways to combat these problems. Running effective meetings is a skill that can serve you throughout your career. You can be the one that holds a meaningful and productive meeting for the people that also matter for the meeting. These tips and strategies can work to prevent everyone from any undesirable meeting.
Define the objective
This may seem like a regular basis requirement, but if you follow this rule, your meeting will start with a clear sense of purpose. You need to start with the magic word – the “why”, to keep the discussion focused and will help to measure the success of your meeting. The answer would be between these four answers: decision-making, aims for a conclusion that leads to action; information sharing, to spread awareness to a broader team; problem-solving, to gather advice and build a plan based on that knowledge; and discussion, to exchange perspectives on a topic.
Set an agenda
A meeting without the timeline of discussion or clear topics will rarely achieve anything. The agenda will help the attendees to have a clear vision of what the meetings will lead up to. This will bring up the second magic word – the “what”. The agenda could help you and the attendees to stay focused and keep the meeting on track. It can be summarized on a handout, written on a whiteboard, or discussed briefly outset. The purpose is to inform the attendees on why they have gathered and what they are supposed to be accomplishing.
Keep it short
Make your meeting agenda to be short, simple, yet fruitful. If your meeting agenda has just one item to be discussed, it’s fine!. Reserve five minutes at the end to summarize the discussions and agree on any next steps.
Invite the right people
Take some time to consider who should attend the meeting before you sending out an invitation. This thing will help you to organize the meeting effectively with only the people that you need to achieve the meeting objective. Make sure that the people who are important to your meeting are aware of their roles as well. By this way, you also help others to keep working on something that is more important than attending the meeting that might hinder their productivities.
Aside from sending an invitation stating the objective and the agenda for the meeting, you can also circulate materials that are relevant to the meeting at least one day before. This will allow them to prepare for the discussion and can become a reminder for them towards the meeting and its objectives. It will also make the meeting more effective and time-saving as the attendees already have the vision about the meeting and can know what should they prepare for the upcoming meeting.
With all the objectives and agendas in hand, your job on the meeting is to keep the track on it. As you have thought it through, crafted an agenda to achieve the goal, be mindful to not wander off the topic for too long or dive too deep into technical discussions. Take notes throughout the meeting to have a printout of your presentation. In that way, you can capture the main discussion points as they come up.
Start on time, end on time
Make sure you start the meeting right by making sure that everyone is coming on time so it can end on time as well. For it to happen, it has to be started with you. As the holder of the meeting, you have to be on time as well, so the attendees behind will follow the example. Ending on time is just as important as starting on time. It will help to ensure that you accomplish what is on your agenda and get people to work promptly.
Guide the discussion and manage disruption
Guiding the discussion and managing disruptions could be challenging, especially if you are not the most senior person in the room. There might be some opinions that are out of the agenda that you cannot avoid. To keep the discussion focused and meet your objective, you need to carry on with a helpful technique. Capture important points on a board and mark them for a follow-up meeting. By that, your attendees feel acknowledged and the meeting will not get disrupted.
Summarizes result, decision, and next step
You have planned to reserve five minutes at the end of the meeting to summarize the discussions and agree on any next steps. This discussion should decide who is responsible for what, and what the deadlines are. This is the answer to final decision that you have planned before as well.
Circulate the meeting debrief
As you already have your notes from the meeting with you, you can make it as debrief to be circulated among attendees. With this note, the attendees will be informed about the summarization of the discussion points, decisions made, next steps and topics that would be discussed for future meetings. You can also include the responsible person for some certain deadline that has been agreed upon the meeting. Make sure that you circulate the debrief within 24 hours when the momentum of the meeting is still going on.
Follow up on action items
Lastly, follow up individually action items that have been decided in the meeting. Track people who deliver and track those who don’t.
In conclusion, a fruitful and efficient meeting is not just handled when the meeting is running. You have to prepare it before time by setting the objectives and the agenda, invite the right people and do not forget to also circulate the materials that you want to discuss in the meeting. By that, your meeting will be not like any other topic-less meeting out there. When those steps are achieved, all you have to do in the meeting is to stay focus, guide the discussion and manage disruption, summarize the results, start and finish the meeting timely. After the meeting, circulating the meeting debrief will be very important to keep the result of the meeting in mind and to pinpoint the important keys and deadlines. Follow up on action terms individually and track those who have delivered and those who don’t.
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Bryant, A. How to Run a More Effective Meeting. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/guides/business/how-to-run-an-effective-meeting
Goff-Dupont, S. (2019, May 9). Running effective meetings: a guide for humans. Retrieved from https://www.atlassian.com/blog/teamwork/how-to-run-effective-meetings
Sinclair, N. (2019, July 29). The 11-step guide to running effective meetings. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02295-z