Wouldn’t you love it if all of your meetings mattered? If things actually got discussed and done? If they started and ended on time? Meetings can be a time suck. Lackadaisical planning and preparation can mean that everyone leaves the meeting feeling disheartened and annoyed with having wasted time that they feel could have been better spent. So, how do you hold a meeting that best serves the needs of all involved? Consider these tips:
First, decide if you truly need a meeting. Not all meetings are created equal. Even if you have a standing meeting scheduled for each week or every other week, evaluate each time if you truly need to have a meeting or if you could communicate via email or messaging instead of holding the meeting. Only hold a meeting if it is truly required. (Slack is a great tool to supplement meetings with online group messaging.)
Who should be there? Keep it small if possible. The more people you add, the more potential there is for bureaucracy. Keep the meeting to key decision makers and those who will be responsible for implementation. That being said, don’t get too small – a little discussion and disagreement are usually essential elements for creativity. Plus, you want to make sure that the people on the ground are fully aware of their responsibility. If you have a management team that isn’t great at communicating critical information to their team, make sure key team members are there (and get that manager to training!).
Pick the right venue. If what you need is to bond more with project team members while you lightly discuss some issues facing the group, then make it a lunch meeting that sets the tone and encourages friendly discussion. If you need a serious discussion, quickly, with a small group, set it in a small private conference room with few distractions and a door that locks so you don’t get interrupted.
Create an agenda – one person should be responsible for setting the agenda. Decide on the main goal for the meeting, then ask for agenda items from attendees ahead of time. Let them know you might not be able to cover all their concerns during the meeting in order to keep the meeting focused. However, if they contribute an item that you can’t add to the meeting agenda, follow up with them in person, via email, or let them know you will incorporate that item into a future meeting agenda. (Microsoft Office Provides lots of templates for meeting agendas if you need some inspiration.)
Send the meeting agenda out at least two days prior to the meeting. Give people a chance to look over the agenda items. Encourage them to be familiar with the goal and discussion points so they can come prepared with their input. Set expectations of attendees.
During the meeting…
Start off by reiterating the main topic/goal.
Go through the meeting agenda items.
Be conscious about the time – respect the time of others and don’t go over the slotted timeframe. If there are items you don’t address in the meeting, send a follow up email or set a follow up meeting to conclude. (Pro tip – set an alarm on your phone that goes off 5-10 minutes prior to the scheduled end of the meeting. Then you won’t be watching the clock and you’ll give attendees ample time to complete the most crucial next step…)
Spend the last 5-10 minutes going over action items and responsibilities. This is critical. I cannot tell you how many meetings I’ve been to without an official note taker (which is a very difficult job!) and where individuals are responsible for taking their own notes. Don’t assume everyone knows what they are doing and when they need it done by. Go over every important action, who needs to complete it, and by when.
Send a follow up summary within a day or two with the main takeaway from the meeting and the action items with responsible parties listed.
If you follow those guidelines, your meetings will be meaningful, you’ll have attendees who are prepared and know what is expected of them, and you’ll get action items completed in a more efficient timeline.
Thank you for reading, I hope you found this list helpful! If you liked it, please “like” this post and leave me a comment about a meeting you’ve recently enjoyed!