Meetings are often thought of as a place where people gather together to A) wait for everyone that isn’t on time, B) sit for an hour to listen to the 10 minutes that is relevant to them and C) generally lose the will to live. But they don’t have to be this way! Here are a few tips to help make them more productive and even (gasp!) enjoyable.
Tip 1: Don’t have a meeting. Why are you having a meeting in the first place? Is there a purpose? Does this have to be done through a meeting? Many meetings are just used to pass on information, which, at times, could just as easily be done via email. If there’s nothing to discuss, don’t have a meeting. Don’t make something up just because there’s a meeting booked.
Tip 2 : Set objectives. If you’re going to have a meeting, what’s it for? What outcomes are you hoping to achieve? Do you want decisions, actions or feedback? What do you want to have achieved by the end of it? If you don’t know the answer, don’t have the meeting. Once you do know the answer, make sure everyone else knows as well.
Tip 3: Provide an agenda. Yes, we all know you should have an agenda but how often does everyone see one before the meeting? How much input do other people have in determining the agenda? Don’t overestimate how much you can cover in the meeting. Keep it short and make sure every item has a purpose.
Tip 4: Assign preparation. If you want people to think about something before the meeting, let them know. Provide them with a couple of questions to consider that will help them focus on the key topics. This is a much better approach than springing something on people at the meeting and then asking for ideas.
Tip 5: Ask specific people to introduce topics, prepare information or do some research. This helps everyone feel involved and provides clarity about the purpose of the meeting.
Tip 6: Set times for each topic – and stick to them. Keep the meeting on track by allocating time for each item and closing the discussion when the time is up. Along with assuring a realistic number of items to discuss, this will make sure that everything gets covered. How many meetings have you been to where too much time is spent on the first few items and others are missed out or rushed through at the end?
Tip 7: Whenever possible, don’t allow “Any Other Business“ at the end of the meeting. This is just an invitation for people to raise issues which were not on the agenda and therefore not relevant to the meeting. If something needs to be included, it should have been on the agenda in the first place.
Tip 8: Start and end on time. Don’t wait around for people who are late. Some people don’t think twice about it because they assume you’ll wait for them or because, “meetings always start late.” Set the example. Begin the meeting on time and watch how quickly people begin showing up on time for your next meeting. And don’t let the meeting drag on past the time it was meant to finish. Nothing useful will get done and everyone will be aggravated.
Tip 9: Capture action items. Make sure, after every topic has been discussed, that everyone is clear regarding what needs to be done and who needs to do it. Recap action items at the end and circulate a summary after the meeting. If there are no action points – what was the purpose of the meeting?
Tip 10: Allow time for fun! Although I’ve stressed the importance of having a purpose, sticking to times, reviewing action items, etc., this doesn’t mean meetings always have to be deadly serious. In fact, meetings could be used to raise morale, encourage creativity or freely discuss and share knowledge in an informal setting.
Bonus Tip: Meetings about meetings? Possibly to share information about a previous client meeting, otherwise, the purpose better be life-altering.