Have you ever felt confused after leaving a meeting, unsure what the point of it was or whether anything was accomplished? Unfortunately, most meetings leave the attendees wondering if it was necessary at all. Done right, a meeting should leave you feeling productive, efficient, and with a clear action plan for how to move forward.
To make meetings more effective, follow these simple rules:
No Agenda, No
Always provide a concise written agenda on discussion topics in bullet form to all the attendees. Don’t hesitate to provide background information to give context to the discussion points. Ensure that all attendees understand the agenda and have received it at least one day before the meeting takes place. Let attendees know to contact you ahead of time if they would like to add discussion topics to the agenda.
If you ever get a meeting invite like this:
Figure 1: Example of a bad meeting invite
Email the sender and ask for an agenda so you can prepare for the meeting.
Thank You, Come Again
If you’re organizing a meeting, ensure you invite only those who are absolutely required to attend. This will ensure that decisions are made and everyone can move ahead with their day.
If you’re invited to attend a meeting, make sure you know who else is going to be in that meeting and be prepared.
You Snooze, You Lose
Time is of the essence, and life is too short to wait for people who don’t bother to arrive on time. Start the meeting on time and stay on track to finish on time.
As an attendee, always arrive a few minutes early, especially for conference calls to sort out any technical difficulties prior to the start of the meeting.
That’s Great, Let’s Chat About It Later
As the meeting chair person, it will be your responsibility to manage time. As you might know, meetings can be side-tracked by ‘passionate’ individuals who have a lot to contribute; though their contributions might sometimes be of a digressive nature. Here are a few quick tips to manage these situations efficiently:
- Set the pace from the get-go and explain to attendees the need to focus on the discussion topics outlined in the agenda.
- Progress through each discussion point successively and stay within the allocated time for each discussion point
- If someone digresses, address their concerns by saying that you can chat about it after the meeting, to be considerate of everyone’s time
End with Clarity and Responsibilities
At the end of the meeting, make sure to summarize each actionable item and clarify each attendee’s role in completing them. A meeting is deemed truly effective if attendees leave with a feeling that something was accomplished and the next steps are clear.
Everybody Loves CliffNotes
As the organizer of a meeting, your job isn’t over after the meeting has ended. Memory is fickle but email is forever. Send an email summarizing what was discussed during the meeting, and who is responsible for each action item.
Schedule the next meeting, and carry on with your day 😉
Have you used any of these tips to run a meeting? Any tips you would like to add? Let us know in the comments below!
*Bonus* The magic number 3
Aim to have a maximum of 3 key objectives or deliverables at the end of each meeting. The resulting actionable items will automatically pave the path for the next steps for the team to undertake. I recommend 3 because we have a psychological affinity for the number 3:
- 3 blind mice
- 3 musketeers
- Triple threat
If you’d like to read more about the psychology of the number 3, here’s a link to a cool article that goes into more detail on the subject.