Have you ever left a meeting wondering what was accomplished? How often do you attend a meeting only to have it start five to ten minutes late because several team members aren’t present? Do the meetings you attend lack direction and an agenda?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. We all struggle from time to time with preparedness and effectiveness, so I have developed a few pointers that will likely help with planning and executing a successful meeting. Most of these concepts are not revolutionary, but are important principles that may have recently fallen by the wayside with busy schedules and deadlines.
I have adopted the following quote in both my personal and professional life as a way to remind myself just how essential planning is –
Failing to plan is planning to fail.
While this may seem like a simple concept, it is critically important to the overall effectiveness of meetings. Here are a few ways to plan ahead for meetings:
- What is the agenda? Before scheduling the meeting, create an agenda. Know what topics need to be covered and what types of outcomes you expect. In this agenda, clearly identify who is responsible for what line items to ensure accountability. Assuming you are using some sort of calendaring system (Outlook/Exchange, Google Apps, etc), make sure this agenda is inserted as the body of the meeting request. This way attendees may print the agenda or they can view it from their smart phone or iPad, keeping in mind how excessive use of handheld devices may be perceived.
- Who should be present? Based on the agenda, you should have a good feel for who needs to be present. If there are people who only have a small role or contribution, plan your agenda to have them positioned early and allow them to leave when their part is done. This won’t apply to all meetings, but try to be mindful of it.
- What is the job number? If your company bills time incrementally, make sure to include the job number within the meeting request. Don’t make people waste time digging for it.
If you receive a meeting request that is missing one or several of these components, tentatively accept the meeting and reply with a request that these items be included prior to accepting. Hold your teammates accountable!
Now that you’ve properly planned the meeting, make sure to conduct the meeting based on the agenda. How are we going to accomplish this? Keep reading!
- Expect punctuality from ALL participants. Don’t sit around waiting for one or two missing people. If you notice required attendees are not present, call them. If they don’t answer, send a runner. Don’t wait 5 or 10 minutes to do this. Wasted billable time accumulates quickly if you have people sitting idle in a room waiting for others to join.
- Take digital notes. Why switch to digital notes? Well, as soon as the meeting is over, you’ll find that some take good notes. Some take bad notes. Some take no notes at all. Taking digital notes ensures that all participants will have access to the topics and take-aways. All parties should know what is expected from them as a result of the meeting. These notes can become a rolling repository for all meetings related to a certain project. Save them in a project folder on a server and make sure to send all participants a link to where the notes are stored.
- Schedule your next meeting. Use the digital notes you took as the foundation for the agenda for your next meeting.
Clearly, none of these principles are necessarily revolutionary. However, I can assure you that utilizing these strategies will help you and your team plan and execute effective meetings and in turn, reduce wasted time and frustration.
What are some strategies your company uses to facilitate effective meetings?
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