A study published by the Journal of Applied Psychology shows how meetings can frustrate collaborators: “people high in accomplishment striving, who tend to be highly task and goal-oriented, were most negatively affected by meetings. The more meetings these individuals reported attending, the worse they felt about their job and the lower their feelings of well-being at work.”
However, in principle, a meeting should not be frustrating but rather useful! It’s a space that allows you to gather ideas, move projects forward, update topics, and find answers.
So, in today’s article, I would like to share with you ten tips on how to organize and lead an effective meeting.
1. Prepare beforehand
In his book Business @ the Speed of Thought, Bill Gates said, “Good meetings are the result of good preparation“.
Indeed, for your meeting to be productive, you must prepare. Even if your to-do list is packed and the idea of preparing a meeting seems daunting, the more work you put in beforehand, the better your meeting will be. Meetings that are properly prepared and planned will engage your attendees, and in turn, result in a more productive and successful meeting.
When planning your meeting, a good place to start is identifying the purpose of the meeting and what topics need to be addressed.
To do this, before the meeting, ask your attendees if there are any topics they particularly want to discuss.
Then ask yourself these five questions:
- What do you want to achieve from this meeting?
- What information do you need to share, and/or does a decision need to be made?
- Are there any priorities? What absolutely must be covered in this meeting? In what order will you discuss each topic?
- How much time will you allocate to each topic?
- Who else is involved, and what is their role in the meeting?
By asking yourself these questions, you’ll have a clear plan and end goal for your meeting before it’s even started. This will help you manage your time more efficiently, allowing each topic to be properly discussed, and avoiding any off-topic discussions.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, always keeps a notebook with her. Here, she writes the agenda and what topics need to be discussed for every meeting she holds.
Once you’ve identified the key topics of your meeting, send a confirmation by email with the agenda, date, and time to everyone attending. This agenda will also give participants a clear idea of what’s expected from the meeting and allow them to prepare beforehand if needed.
2. Ask for input
“You have a meeting to make a decision, not to decide on the question”– Bill Gates.
To help a meeting run efficiently, send any documents you’re going to discuss prior to the meeting. This means your co-workers can ask questions beforehand and avoids any unnecessary discussion, allowing you to focus on the purpose of the meeting and ultimately boost productivity.
The purpose is to engage employees so that they have an active role in the meeting. Ask them to think about solutions and ideas beforehand.
3. Avoid inviting too many people
I know many of us, myself included, have been in a meeting and wondered why you were invited in the first place?
It can be frustrating for employees to have to attend meetings that aren’t particularly relevant to them, so be sure to only invite those directly involved with the topic of the meeting.
However, there are exceptions to this, such as inviting interns or new collaborators who could learn from topics being discussed.
By only inviting a select group of people, everyone who attends will be able to give relevant input and will result in a more productive and engaging meeting.
4. Be assertive; be confident, show leadership
Remember that you’re the one leading the meeting. You are ultimately in charge of the discussions, which topics are raised, and which ones aren’t.
Don’t be afraid to be assertive. Create a meeting atmosphere that’s pleasant yet focused. If you are not confident in your abilities, other people won’t be either. If you think a meeting should be run a certain way, make sure you set the pace and structure of your meeting to reflect this.
5. Be inclusive
Even if you’re assertive, it doesn’t mean you can’t be inclusive. Feeling included and listened to is fundamental for employees’ growth, dedication, and efficiency.
So, to ensure your meeting is as productive as possible, be sure to involve everyone. Ask open questions, get people involved and make them feel like their contribution matters.
However, to get your attendees to contribute during discussions, they must first be made to feel comfortable doing so. If you talk at people rather than with them, they will start to disengage and ultimately lack creativity. Make sure your meetings are collaborative, and everyone gets a chance to share their opinion without fear of judgment or interruption.
6. Start by stating the objective
It is important to keep your attendees attention. Remind everyone about the purpose of the meeting and what topics need to be discussed, specifying the ideal outcome by the end of the meeting. For example:
“The stakes for today’s meeting are XX. We’ll talk about X X X X X, and at the end, we have to agree on XXX or find a solution to XX. “
7. Follow a timeline
It’s important to start and finish your meetings on time. Lead by example, if you arrive late, others will assume that they can do the same. Be punctual and insist others are as well.
Additionally, set a reasonable length of time for your meeting. Deciding to host a 3-hour meeting is counterproductive as your participants won’t be able to stay focused for such a long time. Furthermore, you will spend as much time on a task as you have available.
However, if you can’t avoid hosting a long meeting, be sure to take regular breaks to help maintain productivity.
Respect your participants’ time. If you reach the end of your meeting and you haven’t covered everything, you need to reschedule another meeting instead of overrunning.
Additionally, if certain topics haven’t been covered that are only relevant to a select few participants, ask if they can stay on for longer while the others go back to work. If this isn’t possible, see if it’s something that could be discussed at a later date.
8. Take notes
Take notes, or ask someone to do so. It’s a good idea to write down key information from your meeting, i.e., actions that need to be taken and group decisions that have been made. This gives you a record of the outcome of your meeting and allows you to look back over it if needed.
Notes can also work as a way to track your progress on projects or objectives. By keeping records on each meeting you have about a particular project, it allows you to track your progress and see if you’re hitting objectives set in previous meetings.
You can then send the report to the attendees and anyone who couldn’t make the meeting, ensuring that everyone is kept up to date.
9. Reformulate regularly
Reiterate, and if needed, reword your attendee’s comments to avoid any misunderstandings. The purpose of your meeting is to achieve the desired outcome, so be clear, concise, and factual. You want to leave the meeting knowing that everyone feels clear about what’s been said and their objectives going forward.
10. Concluding the meeting: Call for action
At the end of your meeting, thank everyone for their time and attention.
Bring your discussion to a close by summarizing what has been decided, objectives going forward, and any deadlines that have been set. For example, steps, plans, deadlines “So, in today’s meeting we agreed on XXX. The next goal is to reach XXX by 2/01/2020”.
Finally, one of the most critical parts of any meeting is the call to action. Set SMART objectives to ensure your meeting ends with a clear plan. Agree on the actions that now need to be carried out and who is responsible for these actions going forward. Everyone should leave knowing what they need to do when they need to do it and feel confident in their ability to do so.
I hope this article has helped you understand how you can easily turn unnecessary and ineffective meetings into a time that promotes productivity and decision making.
I previously mentioned the importance of a call to action when concluding a meeting, so to end this article, I will leave you with this call to action:
What steps will you take to make your meetings productive and efficient? How will you encourage and motivate your participants and ensure everyone feels like part of a team?
“What you do has a far greater impact than what you say.” – Stephen Covey, author, and educator.