For many of us, our calendars are packed with meetings throughout the day. That’s why it is so important that when we schedule and plan meetings; we take careful consideration into the purpose of bringing everyone together and what needs to come out of the meeting.
A few years ago, I wrote a blog post on how to plan effective meetings and the recommendations are still relevant today. As we have increasing amount of tasks on our to-do lists, it’s more important than ever to take time to properly prep yourself and the meeting attendees to effectively use everyone’s time.
Here are some tips to get you started.
Planning the Meeting
- Make an agenda – It’s fine to regroup on projects and hold meetings to touch base, but help keep the meeting on track by creating an agenda with topics to discuss and the desired outcomes. Send the agenda to everyone prior to the meeting so they have time to review and arrive prepared to join the discussion.
- Identify presenters – On the agenda, list who will be in charge of leading that discussion and make sure they are aware ahead of time. Don’t put someone on the spot during the meeting, but allow them to take time to prepare discussion points.
- Provide necessary background to attendees – The beginning of meetings often start with someone spending 5 to 10 minutes giving background on the purpose of the meeting. Especially if it’s a new project, try to send information to the attendees ahead of time so you can eliminate the need for a long explanation to kick off the meeting.
Conducting the Meeting
- Start on time – Don’t sit idle in the room waiting for those last one or two people to arrive to the meeting. Call the missing person or have someone who is not running the meeting run out to find them. It’s important to be respectful of everyone’s time.
- Take digital notes – Some people take notes during a meeting and some don’t. But notes are important to ensure that all parties know what is expected from them as a result of the meeting. If you have a computer in the room, it’s a great idea to pull up a document on the screen and capture notes and to-dos. Everyone will be able to view during the meeting and it can easily be sent out after the meeting is over. Possibly start with your meeting agenda and build your notes out based on the results of each topic’s discussion as you go along.
- Limit mobile phone/tablet use – Not many people head to meetings without grabbing their cell phone, but start the meeting by asking attendees to turn off their cell phones or put them away. If you are hosting a longer meeting, schedule a small break in the middle for people to check emails and voicemails.
- Take five minutes to recap – At the end of the meeting, take a few meetings to go over next steps and responsibilities. If a follow-up meeting is required, have everyone check his or her calendars and schedule the next meeting before wrapping up.
- Arrive on time or give a heads up – We know things come up that cause you to be late for a meeting, but try to let the meeting organizer know you are running late so they can begin without you.
- Review Documents – Take time to read any background information or documents that were sent prior to the meeting. It may answer questions that you were planning to ask during the meeting and will help save time.
- Participate – You were invited to the meeting for a reason, so plan on contributing. If it isn’t a meeting that requires your feedback or input, participate as an active listener. Put your phone, tablet or other projects away and focus on the discussion.
Everyone has good intentions when planning a meeting, but taking the time to plan ahead will result in an efficient and productive discussion. The planning phase is arguably the most important step in the whole process. Remember this- failing to plan IS planning to fail.
Are there any other tips to you’ve implemented at your company?