Don’t you hate meetings which have no clear point, where participants drone on forever and never get to a point?
Effective meetings leave us energised and feeling that we’ve really accomplished something rather than exhausted.
What makes effective meetings work?
- Having a clear objective.
- A clear agenda and a defined amount of time.
- Follow up.
Keep these elements in mind while planning your meeting to create an effective meeting:
1. The Objective
Effective meetings help you achieve a desired outcome. In order to meet this outcome we have to be clear about what it is. Too often meetings are called without a clear objective, this leads to frustration and wasted time. There are many potential meeting objectives. Before you hold a meeting, clarify your objective/s. With the end result you need to achieve clearly defined, it is easier to plan the meeting, and determine who needs to be present. The right people need to be present to achieve the meeting objectives.
- Do you need to make plans?
- Do you need a decision?
- Do you need to generate ideas?
- Do you need to share updates or status reports?
- Do you need to communicate something?
NB: Who needs to be there to ensure this objective can be met?
2. The agenda
Nobody wants their time wasted by attending an unproductive meeting. Meetings can eat up days of productive time if inefficiently planned and run. We owe it to ourselves and our colleagues to make the meeting count. Once you have your meeting objective, everything in the meeting itself should support that objective. If it doesn’t, it is not necessary and should not be included.
One of the most essential elements of meeting time management is starting and ending on time. If a key person is only 10 minutes late in a meeting with 8 people, that person has collectively cost the team over an hour of potentially productive time.
An agenda is essential to ensure you cover all relevant topics, helps manage time and expectations (how long will this take?). To prepare an efficient agenda, consider the following elements:
- Priorities: What needs to be covered? (e.g. time sensitive projects/decisions)
- Outcomes: What outcomes need to be accomplished at the meeting?
- Participants: Who needs to be there for the meeting to achieve the above results?
- Timing and sequence: In which order do you need to cover the topics, how much time is required per element and who needs to be there for each element? (not everyone needs to be present for all elements). Manage the time for each element to ensure the meeting stays on track. Plan a break if the meeting is over an hour.
- Preparation: What needs to be done before the meeting? Some preparation may be required by participants to help make decisions. e.g. for an AGM some reports may need to be circulated before the meting and a notice of meeting sent out.
- Ownership: Who is in control of the meeting or meeting element? Assigning a particular topic of discussion to a specific person can increase involvement and interest. On the agenda, indicate who will present or lead a particular discussion item.
- Notification – date, time and location: when and where will the meeting take place and how do you informal relevant parties effectively?
3. Follow up
Meetings can often contain information overload and it is common for participants to leave the same meeting with very different recollections and interpretations of what happened. At the end of each agenda item you can quickly summarise what was said and ask participants to confirm that all the relevant points and responsibilities have been covered.
Clear minutes highlighting what was accomplished and action steps to be taken are an essential part of effective meetings. Send out minutes to all who attended within 24 hours of the meeting. Document the tasks delegated and any assigned deadlines or responsibilities given. This way everyone will be on the same page. Minutes don’t need to be a blow-by-blow description of what happened – stick to the highlights and responsibilities.
Effective meetings save you time and money by keeping your eye on the ball and avoiding distraction.
After the meeting take some time to determine what went well and what could have been done better. Evaluating your meeting’s effectiveness related to the objectives will help you continue to improve your process of running effective meetings.
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