7 Tricks to Running an Effective Meeting
Meetings have a terrible reputation. They are often written off as a complete waste of time—a relic from corporate bureaucracy that modern companies could do without. And yet, they can be incredible useful, insightful, and effective if managed properly. We’ve put together a list of ways you can lead a successful meeting in which all attendees walk away with a firm sense of purpose and an appreciation for the scheduled teamwork time. Scroll through to learn how to never waste another meeting moment again.
Effective meetings have the shared goal of purpose. Whether it’s a goal of making a decision or brainstorming ideas, effective meetings involve engaged discussion and teamwork. In order to promote active conversation, ban technology and ask everyone at the table for their opinion. This is the time for team members to propose ideas and for others to play devil’s advocate. It’s also the time for managers to make decisions based on the feedback at hand. Encourage transparent, open discussion at your meeting, and you’ll undoubtedly get insightful data.
Be specific with your meetings. Successful teams never mix the administrative with the tactical with the strategic, argues Pat Lencioni, the author of Death by Meeting. Short meetings are most effective. Call a 30- to 45-minute meeting with a specific theme and a clearly identified goal. If something of value comes up in the meeting that relates to another theme, record it and schedule another meeting for follow-up.
You should always prepare a meeting agenda with time estimates for each subject matter. Print out your agenda and keep it in front of you as you manage the meeting. If you want to be extra prepared and inclusive, send an email to every team member invited to the meeting asking if they have any concerns that they would like brought up at the meeting. Perhaps you won’t have time for all of them, but you can at least designate time for some of the most important concerns of your team.
You should always end your meeting with a recap of what was discussed. Lay out action items for each person in attendance, and make sure there is a deliverables schedule. That way each person walks away from the meeting feeling like something was accomplished and that they have an immediate next step to fulfill and a timeline for when to do so. State these action items verbally to close the meeting and then again in an email shortly after the meeting so that there is a clear, written order of expectations. You can never go overboard with effective communication.
Take time to think about who really needs to be at the meeting. If it’s a weekly status meeting, make sure all team members and relevant managers are invited and in attendance. If the decision makers of the group cannot attend, skip the meeting. You only want to have a group session if you can move a decision forward. Additionally, only invite those employees who are directly affected by the topic at hand. When team members are included in the calendar invite but lack the skills or expertise to be of assistance for the meeting’s topic, they will likely view their attendance at the meeting as a waste of time.
If you want to focus on subject matter at hand, and not the clock, designate a meeting moderator to keep your meeting on track. If and when a tangent comes up, the moderator can redirect the discussion to the prepared agenda. Use the “parking lot” method when someone raises an interesting but off-topic point. If a team member brings up an good discussion about a topic that relates to the team, but not the focus of the meeting, ask the meeting moderator to record it in the “parking lot,” and that way you will make sure to designate a time for it at a later date.
It’s very common for the people who sat in a meeting to come away with different interpretations of what went on. In order to align expectations and make clarify what was discussed, keep your own notes throughout the meeting and encourage other attendees to do the same. That way you are both prepared to write your follow-up email after the meeting and to answer questions with individual team members about what you expect from them and what they can expect from you going forward.
Make your meeting notes stand out in one of our favorite notebooks below.
What do you think makes a great meeting? Share with us in the comments.