Your Guide to Running an Effective Meeting
By Taylor Varco
Does it ever seem like you spend too much of your work time in meetings? Its true, certain meetings are a necessity of doing business, yet most employees will tell you they consider meetings a waste of time. There’s the meeting that drones on forever, the meeting everyone fidgets with their phone, the meeting someone from another department hijacks, or worst of all, the meeting everyone is wondering “Why am I even here?”
Instead of leaving your employees feeling unaccomplished and confused, there are ways to run your meetings that leave them feeling energized and excited about their work. Follow these tips to stop wasting time and start making the most of your meetings:
Is holding a meeting necessary?
Why have a meeting in the first place? There are plenty of important matters that can be satisfactorily conducted by a single person, resolved with an email or phone call, or more effective by simply spending 5 minutes with a group of people individually.
Identify the purpose and goal of the meeting.
Ensure you have a clear desired purpose and outcome of the meeting. Once you have that identified, make a list of related discussion points and questions for the team to answer to form an agenda. If your meeting will be re-occurring, create a meeting template to keep your meetings structured.
Consider your invite list.
Take some time to think about who really needs to attend your meeting. If you’re announcing a change, invite those who it will affect. If you’re trying to solve a problem, invite those with good sources of information. People will only be engaged if they feel the content is relelvant to them.
Share background info & the agenda ahead of time.
Sharing information in advanced saves time required to explain and allows you to dive right into the purpose. It also helps if you give your attendees some homework ahead of time so they come prepared and ready to discuss their ideas.
Start and end on time.
As the meeting organizer, it’s your responsibility to keep track of time. Always start your meetings promptly, and you’ll be surprised how many colleagues make an extra effort to attend because they feel their time is being valued. In general, 60 minutes is the longest time workers can remain engaged.
Keep the discussion on topic.
It is also your responsibility to keep the discussion focused on your purpose. It’s likely the conversation will veer in off-topic directions, if that happens, politely stop the person speaking and add the topic to a “parking lot” list of items to circle back on. When you send your follow-ups, include the list as items for people to tackle later.
Assign an active note taker.
Your notes will be the follow-up written record of your discussion that include next steps and information for those unable to attend. It’s best to have someone else take notes, while you are busy ensuring the meeting runs smoothly.
Make action items as you go.
Instead of waiting until the end, assign action items as they come up. Be sure to discuss due dates and ensure expectations are clear.
As a leader, speak last.
There is great value in allowing your employees to speak first before sharing your own opinion. You’ll gain insight into how they view the situation and build trust by allowing them to be heard. When leaders speak first, they tend to sway the discussion. Instead of forcing your viewpoints, listen actively to what everyone has to say.
Once the meeting is adjourned, your notes will already be complete and those with action items will have their marching orders. While it takes a little extra prep time, the benefit of hosting a more effective meeting is extremely rewarding for everyone involved.