Once people are on the job, they soon discover that meetings are a big part of their life. Whether it’s a daily standup, a quarterly recap of company KPIs, or a brainstorming session, if there’s business, there will be meetings.
Since business people spend so much time gathering together, it’s important they get the most out of what they’re putting in. Here are six tips for having better meetings.
1. Set a meeting agenda:
Before any meeting, you should develop an agenda. This begins with stating the meeting’s purpose. Will you be brainstorming topic ideas for your content calendar? Developing a project plan for a new marketing campaign? Making a final decision on new project management software? Your attendees deserve to know.
By setting a meeting agenda, you give participants a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished in the meeting. Next, plot out how you’ll accomplish it. Include the topics that will be discussed, by whom, and for how long. List any action items and questions that need to be answered.
Then send the agenda to participants ahead of time in a Google doc or other joint file and request their input. This enables attendees to ask any questions they have or note obstacles they might be facing. When these issues are successfully addressed in the meeting, participants will gain the answers and assistance they need to accomplish business goals.
Meeting agendas help teams stay on track and achieve their objectives, so take the time you need to create a useful one. A meeting agenda template can help you get started.
2. Be prepared:
Setting a meeting agenda is one step toward helping teams stay organized, but it’s not the only one. Meeting prep is essential for both the organizer of the meeting and the attendees.
Before your meeting, decide on who is bringing what to the table. Assign tasks like creating charts, doing preliminary research, or contacting the client. Each participant must do their job in order to have a successful and effective meeting.
Meeting leaders should arrive early to make sure any visuals or presentation materials are good to go. Few things are more frustrating to meeting attendees than sitting idle while an organizer fusses with PowerPoint or struggles with an audio connection. When a meeting leader is organized, team members will notice and be motivated to do their own preparation.
3. Start on time:
Time is money, especially when you’re asking for the time of several well-paid individuals. A 30-minute meeting set back by just five minutes decreases efficiency and effectiveness. Starting late will tax the patience of attendees who could be elsewhere using their time more productively.
In order to combat this frustration, create a culture of punctuality. Give attendees a set time to arrive and stick to it. If the meeting time comes and one person isn’t present, start the meeting without them. When they show up five minutes into the proceedings, they’ll learn to arrive earlier next time.
Of course, you can help attendees keep track of your meeting time by sending calendar invitations. Participants will know when the meeting starts and ends, and automated reminders will give them the prompts they need to arrive on time. When sharing the event, including the meeting agenda in the calendar invite so attendees will have it at their fingertips.
When meetings start late, everyone’s time is wasted. Establishing a culture of punctuality with these simple practices will help team members stay on top of things and be more efficient.
4. Keep meetings brief:
Long meetings are the worst. People don’t like them because it’s hard to stay engaged, and their time could honestly be better spent elsewhere.
To keep meetings short, only invite the people who are truly needed. With more people come more extraneous comments, questions, and distractions. Your meeting agenda can play a role here if you’ve specified who will be speaking on which topics and for how long. The agenda both identifies the right participants and helps you keep a rein on time.
When you send the meeting agenda to participants, encourage them to review it and come with ideas and solutions. This saves time as people can share thoughts they have prepared beforehand instead of thinking out loud and on the fly. This approach also leads to better and more creative ideas, since participants have had more time to think them through.
Lastly, schedule meetings when people have the most energy. Holding meetings right after lunch will result in sluggish participants. If you meet when everyone is energetic and ready to participate, your meeting will move along at a quick pace.
5. Keep everyone engaged:
Keeping everyone engaged in meetings is vital. When people are engaged, they bring more to the joint enterprise. Fortunately, there are many ways to encourage team members to participate. Have attendees take turns at the whiteboard, say, or take spot polls on an issue where you’re seeking a decision.
The most basic method is simply to ask attendees questions and seek their opinions on the matters at hand. Many people love to talk, and getting everyone’s input will encourage a diversity of perspectives.
How about people who are a bit quieter? You need your introverts’ contributions, but you don’t want to put them on the spot. For these individuals, it’s best to give them a heads up on what they’ll need to speak about. This gives them time to prepare and makes the situation less stressful. When they do share, be encouraging and show gratitude for their contribution.
6. Follow up:
Equally important is to follow up with participants. Once your meeting has concluded, send participants a recap of what was achieved and what issues got tabled for the moment. Reviewing the meeting reminds participants of what they need to do, as well as the goals for the team. This ensures everyone is on the same page, building unity and efficiency.
When leaders follow up, participants learn that the work they are doing is important. Following up can also act as a friendly reminder. Say a participant needs to contact the client before the next meeting. A few days before the second meeting, sending a quick email asking them how it went can have a big impact.
If the individual has yet to contact the client, the email serves as a reminder. If they have contacted the client already, the email enforces the idea that the work they’re doing is important. In the latter case, it also gives you an opportunity to praise them and thank them for their work. Either way, it’s a win-win.
Meetings are a part of nearly everyone’s lives, so it’s vital to get the most out of them. These tips will help teams improve the effectiveness of their meetings and lead to better business outcomes.