Meetings are a fact of business life but are they all they’re cracked up to be? Or indeed all they could be? If you’ve ever been in meetings that seem to have been convened for no good reason, or drag on pointlessly, take note. Poorly managed meetings are a productivity killer, a morale killer and a huge waste of time.
That said, there’s no need to write meetings off altogether – only the bad ones. If you can learn how to conduct meetings effectively, leaving your team engaged and motivated, it could revolutionise the way you function as an organisation. Here are 7 golden rules you should observe to turn your boring meetings into productive business meetings.
- What’s the objective?
Well before you send out meeting invites, surely the first question to ask is why you need to hold a meeting in the first place. Do you need a brainstorming session for a new business strategy? Is a decision required to progress a project? Are you sharing company news with the team?
Decide whether a face-to-face gathering is really the right format for whatever you need to communicate, or whether a group email or phone calls would do the job better and more time efficiently.
- Who should be invited?
No one wants to waste their time attending unnecessary meetings. Carefully select who really needs to be there and why. Whose input is needed in the meeting? Could others simply be updated by email afterwards?
Be clear about the purpose of the meeting when you send out invitations. Not only will this define the scope of the meeting, it means that your attendees know what to expect and to come along having done the necessary prep.
- What’s on the agenda?
Having a meeting without an agenda is like getting into a sailing boat and hoping the wind will take you in the right direction. If you want to avoid being ‘lost at sea’, you need to have a clear agenda that will steer you to your desired destination.
What topics are to be discussed? Who will be addressing each item? Be as precise as you can, and ideally allocate a time slot to each agenda item. Crucially, email the agenda to all attendees well before the meeting, so that everyone can come prepared.
Even if it should go without saying, it’s essential to reinforce basic etiquette points. First, respect the diary. Meetings should start and finish on time. Pressure on meeting room availability and people’s valuable time means makes it imperative that you make the most out of your allocated meeting time. Turning up late to a meeting is simply unacceptable and, frankly, rude.
Secondly, switch the phone off. Mobile communication devices are great at keeping us connected 24/7 but they have no place in a face-to-face meeting. Unless the device is an express requirement for the meeting, smartphones, tablets and other gadgets should remain switched off to limit distractions and as a basic courtesy.
- Allocate meeting roles to stay on track
Every meeting requires certain tasks to be carried out. In truly productive meetings, who does what is established at the outset, or even on the agenda. Who is the organiser and who chairs the meeting to make sure everyone gets a say and rein in contributors who stray off topic? Who will keep time so that all agenda points are covered? Who is the official minute taker?
Even the best meetings have the potential to go awry if the discussion goes off at a tangent. Not staying on track is the Number One reason why meetings fail to achieve their objective. By having clear responsibilities within the team, these problems can be nipped in the bud for good.
- Keep attendees engaged
A good habit to get into is to start every meeting with good news. By getting everyone to share a bit of positive news from their personal or professional world, a place of psychological safety is created where attendees feel they can speak out. According to Google’s research, this is the main component of effective teams.
During the meeting, it’s important to keep people focused. From visual aids to interactive tools and even physical activity and more, there are many ways to keep attendees engaged and paying attention.
- Summarise and set action points
Finally, never leave a meeting without a summary and a plan for action, making sure everyone has the same takeaways. What was decided? What actions need to take place as a result of the meeting, and who is going to be responsible for carrying them out?
The minute taker should type up a summary, highlight key topics addressed, specific tasks assigned and indicate deadlines. This should be sent by way of follow up email no more than 24 hours after the meeting.
Always leave time at the end of the meeting for attendees to give their feedback on how they useful they found the meeting. Whether you use a formal satisfaction survey or informal opinions, getting feedback will help to improve your meetings for next time.