4 Easy to Follow Tips on How to Have More Productive Meetings
Meetings are a workplace mainstay and a useful tool for any type of collaboration. Whether virtual or in person, knowing how to facilitate a successful meeting is key, as momentum and topics can easily derail at any gathering of minds if not handled properly.
Keep your team engaged and minimize time suck with these easy to follow tips.
1. Prep for Your Meeting!
The foundation of any successful meeting is preparation. Start by first asking yourself the golden question, “Is this meeting necessary?” Certain conversations and topics may just require a simple follow up correspondence or quick in-person conversation. If your answer is undoubtedly, yes, get to identifying what you want to accomplish during that time.
First and foremost, label your meeting accurately. Often times, people will use the wrong descriptors or verbiage to title a meeting. This understandably can cause confusion among attendees and potentially derail your meeting before it even begins. Huffpost identifies 5 types of meetings that can help you determine what you’re trying to accomplish.
Second, create an agenda outline for the meeting and keep it short and concise. You want to be realistic on what can be discussed and accomplished within a specific period of time. 30 minutes is the ideal time frame, as most people’s attention will start to wander at the half hour mark, so keep this in mind when identifying topics and scheduling. Once the agenda is drafted, share with participants 24-48 hours prior to meeting and make sure it is attached in the invite for easy recall.
Part of a productive meeting is ensuring the participants have a clear understanding of what the purpose of that meeting is and what is to be accomplished. Providing an agenda also gives you an opportunity to give them homework or notify them what they need to prepare for.
Important: If a meeting that requires actionable items completed prior to gathering, send well in advance and be mindful of others probable priorities, and make sure you clearly overcommunicate your pre-meeting expectations.
2. Keep Participants to a Minimum!
More is not always merrier. The content of the meeting should be relevant to each participant with the expectation that they will contribute educated perspective, data, expertise, etc., to the discussion.
By sticking to smaller groups, individuals can converse easier and the flow of discussion can go more smoothly. This also avoids wasting people’s time if their input is not required for the discussion.
For better meeting dynamic and conversation flow, any group of team members of the same department can opt to designate a lead to attend and deliver talking points to discuss on behalf of the broader team. This person would be responsible for diligently capturing thoughts prior to meeting as well as taking notes and disseminating the information and takeaways to his/her team.
There are also some additional guidelines I found beneficial from Harvard Business Review. They explain a model that’s known as 8-18-1800, which states:
- If you have to solve a problem or make a decision, invite no more than 8 people. If you have more participants, you may receive so much conﬂicting input, that it’s difﬁcult to deal with the problem or make the decision at hand.
- If you want to brainstorm, then you can go as high as 18 people.
- If the purpose of the meeting is for you to provide updates, invite however many people need to receive the updates. However, if everyone attending the meeting will be providing updates, limit the number of participants to no more than 18.
3. Be the Boss!
Of your own meeting, that is. As the meeting organizer, it is your responsibility to help facilitate the conversation and ensure all of your topics are covered during that time. You already have your agenda outlined and your stakeholders in attendance, so ensure you make the most of everyone’s time and get it done!
That being said, don’t be afraid to play bad cop. Your goal is to have a successful meeting and that means staying on topic and on time. Feel free to tell participants to take irrelevant conversations offline if it is not serving your agenda. Or, if it is a valid topic, table that discussion and let them know a follow up meeting will be scheduled, so you can stick to the topics at hand. You can utilize a Parking Lot approach if necessary to “curb” those worthwhile topics that would benefit from their own separate discussion.
Also, set a pace and keep people on track with reminders on how much time is left throughout the meeting. You want to be able to cover all of the items on your agenda, so if something is dragging on, bring the focus back to the topics on hand or ask to wrap up and move on to the next topic.
Everyone’s time is valuable. People will appreciate being held accountable and kept on topic to satisfy the need for the meeting, so don’t be afraid to speak up as it is your meeting!
4. Recap and Create Actions Items!
Having a successful meeting is one thing, but having people remember what was said in that meeting is something else entirely. If you don’t take notes or provide any follow up, you are not holding people accountable and risk losing valuable takeaways.
Throughout the meeting when resolutions or action items are identified, quickly reiterate out loud for the team to hear and make sure everyone is in agreement before moving on to the next topic. This can be overlooked because people assume that everyone heard the same thing.
Use the last 5 minutes of your meeting to recap with attendees what was discussed, agreed upon, and identify any next steps for the next check-in or meeting. This again solidifies that everyone is on the page and eliminates any miscommunication.
Unfortunately, you can’t force people to take good notes. That being said, really send it home by writing a contact report (or minutes report) emphasizing action items from the discussion to keep everyone on the same page.
Taking notes during the meeting and sending a contact report will not only show that you are on top of things and deserve a raise, but it also holds all attendees accountable to the action items, or accountable to speak up if there was a misinterpretation, miscommunication, or detail missed or not reflected in the report. By keeping these 4 easy tips in mind, you can help improve discussions and the outcome of your meetings going forward. Remember that it is your meeting, so take the reins and put in the time to make sure it is as successful and collaborative as possible.