25th September 2020
Meetings are just part and parcel of office life. Most, such as management meetings or staff one-to-ones are routine, while others can be more spur of the moment. Yet many meetings fall short of productivity and time efficiency.
Take a moment to think about the last meeting you attended (whether that be in person or virtually, given the current climate of remote working). Were all attendees on time? Did you have to wait for a non-work-related conversation to end or for a colleague to finish making their tea before you could get down to business? Was there an agenda or did you just ‘wing it’?
Meetings are an integral part of business, but if they aren’t conducted properly then is there really any point in carrying them out when all that’s likely to be discussed is pizza topping preferences or, true to British culture, the weather?
Top Tips for Conducting a Productive Meeting
By no means am I suggesting that you should scrap meetings and forego office communication. However, there is a fundamental element that some people forget when calling a meeting (if they expect to get the most out of it, at least) – planning.
Planning is the key to a successful meeting. If you really take the time to plan and prepare, it will have a definite impact on meeting structure, attendee participation and the overall outcome of the meeting.
It’s all well and good saying ‘just plan and everything will be okay’, but exactly how do you plan a meeting to ensure that it is productive and doesn’t just waste valuable time? Here are some top tips on how to get the most out of your meetings by planning ahead.
Hold Meetings Only when Necessary
I’ve lost count of the number of ‘meetings’ I’ve attended that have been impromptu or conducted ‘just because’. As lovely as it is to take a break from your work and have a chit chat with your colleagues, that’s generally all you ever tend to get out of a meeting when there is no real agenda. There are only really three reasons for a meeting to be held to:
- Convey important information.
- Identify problems.
- Make decisions.
Anything else could and should be dealt with in an email or over the phone.
Make Sure the Right People are in Attendance
As we established in the first point, meetings aren’t an opportunity for a social gathering. Avoid inviting people to meetings for the fun of it and make sure that the people who should be in the room are there – even (and especially) if that means having someone who you know isn’t afraid to speak up about the difficult topics in attendance.
Choose an Appropriate Time and Place to Hold the Meeting
If you know that one of the attendees lunches at a different time to the rest of your staff or that the meeting room is unavailable on a specific day, look to book the meeting for a time or place that is convenient for everyone. The last thing you want to have to do is reschedule or improvise with a new meeting space at the eleventh hour.
Choose an Appropriate Venue to Hold the Meeting
While it’s okay for some conversations, there are others that should not be held in public. For example, who remembers the scene from Jerry Maguire where his boss takes him to a restaurant to fire him?
If you’re going for an informal approach and feel that getting out of the office and conducting your meeting in a more casual and laid-back environment is beneficial, then by all means fill your boots. However, it may be more appropriate to book out the conference room at work to discuss business affairs.
Always Have an Agenda
Having an agenda gives you a set of action points that lead to the desired outcome of a meeting. It will take some time to prepare but having structure ready will save you time in the long run and will also help you to hold people accountable for their own input to the meeting. Just be sure to give the other attendees the heads up on what you’re meeting about beforehand so that they have a chance to prepare, too.
Tell People if you Expect them to Input to the Meeting
Give anyone expected to contribute to the meeting plenty of advanced warning. They will need time to review the agenda and prepare. If you want people to bring the latest metrics from their department or to come with a decision on your next project, you need to tell them.
No matter how much you apply yourself and concentrate during a conversation, it’s simply impossible to recall every point that was raised when you cover so much ground.
That’s why taking minutes is so important when conducting a meeting. Having someone note down all of the important parts of the discussion will help you to remember what was agreed on so that you can carry out agreed action points or follow up at the next meeting. In terms of accountability, minute taking is a must.
Always Follow up After a Meeting
Have the minutes written up and sent to all attendees in a timely manner after the meeting.
Additionally, it’s helpful to share any resources that might help staff to complete the tasks they’ve been assigned and advise on your availability in case they wish to discuss or clarify anything further.
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