5 Tips for More Effective Meetings
Have you ever been in a meeting where everyone talked in circles and ended up right where you started?
How about a meeting that seemed productive while it was happening, but after it was over, no action was taken?
In this post you'll learn a few simple things you can do to have meetings that help you make decisions, respect everyone's time, and get things done.
Let's get to it!
1. Set clear goals
Setting a clear purpose helps attendees stay focused on the goal and defines a finish line for the meeting.
If you're the one setting the meeting, write down a quick sentence or bullet list that defines the purpose of the meeting. Make sure to be clear and specific.
"Talk about upcoming workshop" is not a good goal.
"Choose a venue, event date, and outline a rough agenda for workshop." is much clearer.
If you're sending out a meeting invitation, drop it in the notes part of the invitation so that everyone can see it before the meeting.
Once the meeting starts, state the purpose of the meeting out loud to help set the direction and the focus of the meeting.
If someone else called the meeting then ask a question at the beginning of the meeting that helps clarify the purpose of the meeting.
Something like "What are we hoping to walk away with at the end of this meeting?" or "Just so I'm clear, what's the goal of today's meeting so I can help move things in the right direction?" or "What decisions are we hoping to make during this meeting?"
2. Keep it small
When I set meetings I like to invite as few people as possible.
If you have a lot of people in a meeting its likely that a good portions of the meeting will be irrelevant to many of those people. Also, with more people there are often more sidebar conversations can distract from the purpose of the meeting.
If you need to have many points of view represented, choose one point person to ask questions and represent the opinions and concerns of the group. This small amount of pre-work can greatly increase the efficiency of a meeting.
3. Avoid conference calls
I don't know about you, but every time I get off a conference call, I feel exhausted!
Straining to hear everyone and not having the ability to see facial expressions or read body language makes it difficult to listen and communicate clearly.
Conference calls make it easier for people to check out or be distracted when they should be focused on the meeting.
But there are often times when it is necessary to meet with people remotely, so what's the best option?
Video chat/conferencing is a great alternative to in-person meetings. At Knapsack we use a free service called appear.in.
With video chat you get the advantage of being able to see facial expressions and body language, even though you're not in the same room. This really helps keep everyone engaged and focused on the goal of the meeting.
4. Put away the smartphones
While I wouldn't recommend you tell someone from another organization to put their phone away, this is one of the most simple things you can do with you own team to keep everyone on track.
Institute a company-wide policy to keep your phones put away during all meetings (internal and external). This will help your team stay present and engaged with the matter at hand.
5. Clearly define action items
Even more important than the meeting itself, is what happens (or doesn't happen) afterward.
After every meeting be sure to clearly define action items, who is responsible for each, and when they need to be completed by.
"Book the venue and start advertising soon" won't cut it. Instead, a short action item list like this would be much more effective:
• Joy will reserve the workshop venue by Tuesday
• Wes will design the advertisments by Wednesday
• Ben will have a draft of the workshop agenda by Friday
Send out the list to everyone after the meeting with any other relevant notes, and you'll be well on your way to more effective meetings.
How do you make your meetings effective?