Every day thousands of work meetings take place in businesses and organizations all across the globe. Meetings are an essential part of daily operations for businesses and are where many of the most critical business decisions and discussions take place. But meetings are also one of the most-complained-about aspects of work life for a variety of reasons.
According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, “Such complaints are supported by research showing that meetings have increased in length and frequency over the past 50 years, to the point where executives spend an average of nearly 23 hours a week in them, up from less than 10 hours in the 1960s.” It continues, “And that doesn’t even include all the impromptu gatherings that don’t make it onto the schedule.”
This raises many questions about how we should and should not conduct meetings. There is ultimately not an inherent flaw in the concept of a meeting. Rather, meetings fail because they are poorly planned and poorly executed (or both). This wastes precious time, energy, and—ultimately—money.
This does not need to be the case for your meetings! Here are 8 meeting management tips to help you address these frustrations and conduct work meetings that are more productive and effective.
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare
The first meeting management tip is to prepare thoroughly. Failing to prepare for a meeting is perhaps the single biggest reason why business meetings fail. So, before you hit send on that next meeting invite—stop and think through a few critical questions:
- Firstly, do you know why you are meeting? Express this in a single sentence if you can.
- Secondly, what are the decisions or actions that you want to result from your meeting. Write these down as well.
- Thirdly, is a meeting even necessary? Or could an email, a phone call, or some other form of communication accomplish the same purpose more efficiently?
2. ALWAYS have an agenda
Once you define your purpose and determine that you indeed need to meet, go ahead and write out your purpose and outcomes into a simple meeting agenda that can be shared with all participants on the meeting invitation. Sending out the agenda early is important, as it helps participants adequately prepare for your meeting. It also is invaluable in keeping your meeting focused and on track.
Pro tip: Be careful not to be too vague. Agenda points like, “discuss project” or “present slides” are not helpful. Be appropriately specific!
3. Invite the right people
It can be tempting to include anyone and everyone on your meeting invitations (and sometimes this is necessary), but doing so can be a massive drain on others’ time and energy. If you’re unsure if someone should attend your meeting, consider giving them a quick call or sending an email or chat asking them if they would like to be included. Another option is to use the optional attendees function on some calendar applications.
4. Be courteous about when you schedule meetings
Be very careful about when you schedule your meetings. In many companies, there are certain times of the day that are considered taboo for scheduling meetings. Generally, these are the first half hour of the day, at lunchtime, or in the very last hour of the day. Scheduling meetings during these times runs the risk of wasting time if one or multiple participants are running late or have to leave early. However, every organization is different, so schedule your meetings according to your particular organization’s DNA.
5. Start on time, end on time (or early)
It’s absolutely acceptable to let people mingle and talk for a moment or two at the start of a meeting, but it’s also important to ensure that you start and end your meetings as close to on-time as possible.
To help keep things on track, look for strategic ways to corral participants and start on time. For example, consider standing up and closing the meeting room door once all participants are in the room. You could also ask the person closest to the door to close it. Either approach will subtly cue participants that the meeting is about to start.
Or if your meeting end time is approaching, tactfully interject yourself into the discussion and notify participants that time is running out. For example, you could say, “This has been a great discussion, and I don’t want to cut it short, but we are running up on our time. Should we schedule a followup meeting to continue this discussion?”
It is also important to encourage participants to actively participate in the meeting to ensure you are utilizing everyone’s time most efficiently. You may even consider discouraging participants from using their phones during the meeting to avoid unnecessary distractions.
Pro tip: It’s ok to have short meetings! If you’ve already met your purpose for the meeting, simply share with participants that you’ve accomplished the meeting’s goal earlier than expected and that you are going to end the meeting early to give everyone a bit of time back into their workday. Your coworkers will appreciate this!
6. Take notes
It is important to take notes and capture any and all takeaways from your meeting, whether they are discussion points, action items, key decisions, or open questions. Sometimes it’s even worth typing your meeting notes on-screen for all to see. In addition to keeping the conversation focused, this has the added benefit of ensuring collective understanding and clarity regarding the meeting outcomes.
7. Direct the discussion
Sometimes—especially in brainstorming meetings—it can be easy for the discussion to wander off topic. At times, these digressions can be valuable, but more often they are not immediately feasible or helpful. At times like this, it is important to tactfully guide the conversation back to the appropriate agenda topic.
Whenever there is a point in your meeting where conversation is deviating far afield, consider tactfully interjecting yourself into the conversation and using one of these strategies to refocus the meeting:
- Capture the item in your notes as a future discussion item for a different time
- Suggest scheduling a separate meeting to explore the idea
- Respectfully state that the conversation is going off-topic and that you would like to steer it back to the agenda.
8. Follow-up with a message
Assuming you’ve kept good notes throughout the meeting, this step will be a breeze. Simply send out your notes to all participants at the end of the meetings. If there are particular follow-up items, add these to your to-do list or task manager to keep track of them. If there are follow-up meetings to be scheduled, go ahead and schedule these immediately to ensure you don’t run into future scheduling conflicts.
Conducting meetings effectively is both an art and a science, and it’s important to review your meeting performance regularly. At the end of each day, ask yourself questions about your meetings:
- Did your meetings accomplish their goals?
- What went well in your meetings?
- What could be improved?
By regularly honing your meeting management skills, you will maximize your meetings and build respect with your coworkers who know that you are a person who gets things done and respects their time.
Whether you are hosting an on-site meeting, syncing up with your remote team, or a mix of both—the right technology can help bring your teams together and conduct more effective meetings. Learn more today about how Clear Touch interactive touchscreen panels can transform your meeting efficiency.