How To Have an Effective Meeting
A good meeting can accomplish in five minutes what would take 37 emails, generate brilliant ideas, and build strong team relationships. That’s a good meeting, though, and all too often, meetings don’t go well—they drag on for an eternity, feel purposeless, or end without clear next steps.
It doesn’t have to be that way: with advance planning and a clear agenda and expectations, meetings can drive productivity (rather than wasting attendees’ time).
To make sure that your meetings are effective—and not a painful slog of boredom and frustration—follow these tips.
Planning should begin well before the meeting’s start time. Here are a few things to consider before sending out a meeting invite and whenever you receive a meeting request in your inbox.
- Is This Meeting Necessary? Before calling a meeting, be certain your answer to this question is a definitive yes. You might not want to hold a meeting if it could be easily replaced with an email or quick phone call. This applies, too, to repeat meetings. If you have a regular meeting to review progress on a project, or check in with a team, don’t hesitate to cancel it, or keep it short, if there is no news or updates to share.
- Curate the Invite List: Consider carefully who is on the meeting invite list, and only invite essential players. When you’re invited to a meeting, RSVPing yes doesn’t have to be your default response—if you believe you won’t be helpful, or aren’t necessary to the meeting, touch base with the organizer, and see if you can opt out.
- Curtail Technical Difficulties: Have you ever arrived at a meeting only to have the projector malfunction for more than 10 minutes? Avoid awkward pantomiming on video chat, connectivity problems, and weird beeps from the conference line by getting to conference rooms prior to the meeting to set up any technology.
- Come Prepared: If you’re at a meeting, you should know why you’re there: Are you brainstorming? Discussing a new project? Providing a manager with a status update? Whatever the purpose of the meeting, make sure you are prepared to engage. If you’re leading the meeting, make sure to send around the agenda well before the start time (ideally, a few days in advance, or at least by the morning of the meeting).
Begin and End Meetings Thoughtfully
If the planning stage went well, everyone at the meeting is a person who should be at the meeting, and all attendees are aware of the meeting’s purpose and goals. Still, it’s always good to state them at the start of the meeting. Attendees should use this moment to ask question if they’re unclear of the meeting’s scope. Save a few minutes at the end of every meeting to review what’s been discussed, and next steps — don’t skip this step, even if the meeting is scheduled just before lunchtime, and everyone wants to rush off.
- Make the Purpose Clear: At the start of the meeting, quickly review the meeting goals. You can say things such as “catch me up on everyone’s progress on the XYZ project” or “share news about the ABC initiative” or “brainstorm launch ideas.”
- Wrap Up: If there are next steps to take, mention them at the end of the meeting. One person, typically the meeting leader, should quickly review what was discussed. This can be very casual! You can say, “Thanks for the update on the launch, and don’t forget to send me your questions about the ABC presentation by EOD this Wednesday.” Send out notes with any next steps and deadlines.
Keep Meetings on Topic
Meetings can easily dissolve into fragmented conversations. To prevent this, participate actively, but also constructively: contribute only if you’ll add to the conversation, and keep your comments focused on agenda items.
- Take Notes: Make sure to take notes. This goes for everyone at the meeting; if you’re the meeting leader, consider sending out notes afterward, or asking someone at the meeting to take and distribute notes. After the meeting, if you’re unclear about anything in your notes, follow up with other attendees.
- Avoid Distractions: Consider banning cell phones, tablets, and laptops from meetings if you’re in charge of running the meeting, or are a manager. If you’re a meeting attendee, consider keeping your phone at your desk, in your pocket, or at least turned over. Do you really need to read that email during the meeting?
- Keep Discussion Productive: Meetings do serve a social purpose, and that has a real value. Still, don’t let the entire meeting dissolve into chit-chat. It’s easy to stop conversations from drifting to Game of Thrones; it can be harder to curtail work-related discussions that go beyond the scope of the meeting. The meeting leader and participants can all make the suggestion to table conversations for later, but the burden falls most on the meeting leader to keep the discussion closely tied to the agenda.
More Tips for Workplace Productivity: