The notion of having better meetings has probably been brought up in a few conversations within your organization. This post is meant to help us all remind ourselves and our teams of how to improve our meeting process and execution, so we all get more of what we want out of our day, our work and our ability to serve our clients. If at this point, you are thinking, “No, I really haven’t thought we needed to improve”… read on.
- Have you ever been invited to a meeting and had no idea what the meeting was for or how you should prepare?
- Have you ever been invited to a meeting but didn’t quite know why you were on the invite list?
- Have you been in a meeting where you were wondering what the goal was, and how you would know when to leave the room?
- Have you ever been in a meeting where you were wondering what someone else’s role was in the conversation?
- Have you ever had a meeting where you left feeling dissatisfied and confused and with the dread that nothing would happen as a result of the meeting?
Likely the answer to one or all of these questions is yes. We likely all want better meetings. We want better conversations. We want to know that our time in meetings is well spent and that there are goals, outcomes and future actions that will be taken based on those meetings. We want to know that the meetings are contributing to our one true mission – to provide high quality service and technology solutions our clients.
A quick google search takes you to a plethora of recommendations on this topic. Thank you for the content writers of the following posts:
What follows is a quick compilation of the results that may help us all be better hosts, attendees and all around contributors to progress.
17 Ways to Have Better Internal Meetings
- Is this a follow up Meeting? Review “homework” from the last meeting. Not only does it remind participants what happened last week, it holds attendees accountable. Include relevant follow up information in the meeting invite and confirm there is understanding of requirements with each of the participants so you obtain what is needed from all prior to, and in, the meeting.
- Make your objective clear.A meeting must have a specific and defined purpose. Before you send that calendar invite, ask yourself: What do I seek to accomplish? Standing meetings with vague purposes, such as “status updates,” are rarely a good use of time. This “rule” is worth expanding on because it is the crux of a good meeting. An effective meeting serves a useful purpose. This means that in it, you achieve a desired outcome. For a meeting to achieve this outcome, or the meeting objectives, you have to be clear about what it is you want to accomplish. Too often, people call a meeting to discuss something without really considering what a good outcome would be. How do you decide on an objective? As yourself:
- Are you alerting people to a change in management or a shift in strategy?
- Are you seeking input from others on a problem facing the company?
- Are you looking to arrive at a decision on a particular matter?
- Do you want to generate ideas?
- Are you getting status reports?
- Are you communicating something?
- Are you making plans?
Any of these, and a myriad of others, serve as an example of a meeting objective. Before you do any meeting planning, you need to focus your objective. To help you determine what your meeting objective is, complete this sentence:At the close of the meeting, I want the group to...With the end result clearly defined, you can then plan the contents of the meeting, and determine who needs to be present.
- Consider who is invited.When you’re calling a meeting, take time to think about who really needs to be there. If you’re announcing a change, invite the people who are affected by the announcement. If you’re trying to solve a problem, invite the people who will be good sources of information for a solution. When people feel the discussed isn’t relevant to them, or that they lack the skills or expertise to be of assistance, they’ll view their attendance at the meeting as a waste of time.
- Provide an Agenda. Starting with your meeting objective, everything that happens in the meeting itself should further that objective. If it doesn't, it's superfluous and should not be included. To ensure you cover only what needs to be covered and you stick to relevant activities, you need to create an agenda. The agenda is what you will refer to in order to keep the meeting running on target and on time. To prepare an agenda, consider the following factors:
- Priorities – what absolutely must be covered?
- Results – what do need to accomplish at the meeting?
- Participants – who needs to attend the meeting for it to be successful?
- Sequence – in what order will you cover the topics?
- Timing – how much time will spend on each topic?
- Date and Time – when will the meeting take place?
- Place – where will the meeting take place?
- Get feedback on the Agenda. Once you have an agenda prepared, you need to circulate it to the participants and get their feedback and input. Running a meeting is not a dictatorial role: You have to be participative right from the start. Perhaps there is something important that a team member wants to add. Maybe you have allotted too much, or too little, time for a particular item. There may even be some points you've included that have been settled already and can be taken off the list for discussion. Whatever the reason, it is important you get feedback from the meeting participants about your proposed agenda.
- Understand the technology. If you are using GoToMeeting, Join.me or any other meeting hosting service, make an effort to include that information in the invite. As the host, you are responsible for starting the meeting on time and making sure the meeting runs without issue. So, practice. Know the meeting technology and how to use it, in the room in which it will be used, prior to the meeting. If you are unclear on how to use the technology, there are helpful links on both GoToMeeting.com and Join.Me sites:
- Be on time, be prepared and participate. Time is a precious resource, and no one wants their time wasted. With the amount of time we all spend in meetings, you owe it to yourself and your team to streamline the meeting as much as possible. What's more, time wasted in a meeting is time wasted for everybody attending. For example, if a critical person is 15 minutes late in an eight person meeting, that person has cost the organization two hours of lost activity. This topic also deserves more attention, because without preparation and participation, meetings can feel like a waste of time. With an idea of what needs to be covered and for how long, you can then look at the information that should be prepared beforehand. What do the participants need to know in order to make the most of the meeting time? And, what role are they expected to perform in the meeting, so that they can do the right preparation? Participants should come prepared to discuss the topics on the agenda. Meaning that participants have received the agenda and have been told what's expected from them personally. If it's a meeting to solve a problem, ask the participants to come prepared with a viable solution and schedule the meeting far enough in advance to allow them the opportunity to think it through. If you are discussing an ongoing project, have each participant summarize his or her progress to date and circulate the reports amongst members prior to and in the meeting. Assigning a particular topic of discussion to various people is another great way to increase involvement and interest. On the agenda, indicate who will lead the discussion or presentation of each item.
- There is no judging in brainstorming. Focus on capturing ideas before filtering and critiquing them.
- Bring solutions, not problems. Brainstorming solutions to roadblocks in the middle of a meeting not intended for brainstorming wastes precious communication time. If you can’t bring proposed solutions to the table, save it for the meeting where roadblocks are included in the agenda or bring it up in private conversations.
- Have some degree of skilled facilitation. Assign someone who can keep participants focused on the agenda items and can navigate prickly interpersonal issues so that the meeting is effective instead of dysfunctional.
- Share the stage. Nothing derails a meeting faster than one person talking more than his fair share. If you notice one person monopolizing the conversation or one person not participating, ask for their ideas and thoughts. Or, call him/her out. Say, “We appreciate your contributions, now we need input from others before making a decision.” Be public about it. Establishing ground rules early on will create a framework for how your group functions.
- Stick to the agenda. Create an agenda that lays out everything you plan to cover in the meeting, along with a timeline that allots a certain number of minutes to each item, and email it to people in advance. Once you’re in the meeting, put that agenda up on a screen or whiteboard for others to see. This keeps people focused. If you have responsibility for running regular meetings and you have a reputation for being someone who starts and ends promptly, you will be amazed how many of your colleagues will make every effort to attend your meetings. People appreciate it when you understand that their time is valuable. Another note on time: Do not schedule any meeting to last longer than an hour. Sixty minutes is generally the longest time workers can remain truly engaged.
- Start on time, end on time. Be on time as an attendee. And, if you are hosting, be there early. Run the meeting on a timeline. Use your agenda as your time guide. When you notice that time is running out for a particular item, consider hurrying the discussion, pushing to a decision, deferring discussion until another time, or assigning it for discussion by a subcommittee. An important aspect of running effective meetings is insisting that everyone respects the time allotted. Start the meeting on time, do not spend time recapping for latecomers, and, when you can, finish on time. Whatever can be done outside the meeting time should be. This includes circulating reports for people to read beforehand, and assigning smaller group meetings to discuss issues relevant to only certain people.
- Ban technology.The reality is that if people are allowed to bring their phones into the room, they won’t be focusing on the meeting or contributing to it. Instead, they’ll be emailing, surfing the web, or just playing around with their technology. Eyes up here, please.
- Take notes. Someone has to take notes. It does not have to be the host. Someone that understands the objectives of the meeting may be assigned the note taker so the host can be free to facilitate the meeting. What notes need taken? At the end of each agenda item, quickly summarize what was said, and ask people to confirm that that's a fair summary. Then make notes regarding follow-up. Note items that require further discussion. List all tasks that are generated at the meeting. Make a note of who is assigned to do what, and by when. At the close of the meeting, quickly summarize next steps and inform everyone that you will be sending out a meeting summary.
- Attendees should walk away with concrete next steps or Action Items.We love Action Items here, but we’re not the only ones. From Apple to the Toastmasters, the world’s most successful organizations demand that attendees leave meetings with actionable tasks.
- Follow up. If you were the host… After the meeting is over, take some time to debrief, and determine what went well and what could have been done better. Evaluate the meeting's effectiveness based on how well you met the objective. This will help you continue to improve your process of running effective meetings. It’s quite common for people to come away from the same meeting with very different interpretations of what went on. To reduce this risk, email a memo highlighting what was accomplished to all who attended within 24 hours after the meeting. Document the responsibilities given, tasks delegated, and any assigned deadlines. That way, everyone will be on the same page. If you were a participant, and you have follow up items from the meeting, be a good team member and make sure you complete the follow up items on time, or report back to the organizer any challenges you may be encountering that may derail the original timeline agreed to.
Be part of the solution and “Be the Difference.” It takes initiative, consistency and attention to detail to both host and attend successful meetings. What type of meeting will you have? One that leaves attendees wondering why they had to have a meeting, or one that leaves attendees feeling energized and ready to tackle next steps?