When conducted correctly, meetings can be highly productive and contribute to a more cohesive work environment. When they go wrong, they end up being a time suck.
Following are five tips for meeting leaders on how to have a successful meeting. Next week we will have five tips that will encourage attendees to get the most out of the gathering.
1) Determine if You Need a Meeting and Then Ask the Right People to Attend
Are your staff meetings productive or are you having them just because “it’s always been that way?” Could the information be covered just as well through a group email?
Likewise, are you inviting all department heads to a meeting that is mostly focused on budgets to which they have no input? Perhaps it would be a better use of everyone’s time to solicit input which is then shared with a smaller “decision making” group and then routing details of the discussion and outcomes to the larger group.
Take a look at both the topic of the meeting and the invitees, to ensure it will be a good use of everyone’s time.
2) Have an Agenda, Complete with Time Limits, and Route it Prior to the Meeting
Indicate where you are going to be asking for input or feedback so your attendees can properly prepare in advance; you can even assign different people to do advance research to share with the group. For example, if you are considering changing your paper vendor, ask three people to research an option so they can present their findings to the group.
Add time limits to each agenda item and stick to them as closely as possible. If it seems that a certain agenda item is swallowing more time than it should, determine if you need another meeting with a subgroup to discuss it in more detail; if it can be handled post-meeting with emails; if it should be explored right then and there with the group that is present; or if it should be tabled for another time.
By setting and keeping to an agenda, you make clear the purpose of the meeting and your intent to be respectful of everyone’s time.
3) Make Your Agenda Actionable
Instead of “Discuss Trade Show Options,” which is too open ended, offer an action item such as “Discuss pros and cons of top 3 trade show options (list the ones you are considering) and make decision.”
Boom…everyone knows exactly what the discussion will look like. They can come prepared with their personal pros/cons of the trade shows in question and the are assured the meeting will end with an outcome versus an ongoing, never-ending discussion.
4) Establish Meeting Rules, if Your Group Needs to Be Reined in
Have your meetings gotten out of hand? Do people wander in late, talk out of turn, text or check email?
If you get the feeling that “meeting etiquette” is repeatedly being breached, it might be time to reset and create some meeting rules. Survey the group to see what behaviors bother them. Even though this can seem juvenile among adults, discourteous behavior tends to multiply.
If people are routinely late, and the meeting waits for them, what is the incentive for anyone else to get there on time? Maybe alert latecomers that you won’t be reviewing what they missed. Perhaps tell them they have to bring treats to the next meeting…or clean up the room when the meeting is over. It’s not about shaming them; it’s about letting them know that meeting start times will be enforced.
If Jim is checking his texts, why shouldn’t Mary? Maybe you can establish a ground rule that in an “emergency,” (i.e. you have been waiting for a call from a traveling client), you may excuse yourself to take a call or check your device, but in general, devices are off.
5) Shake it Up
You don’t have to provide Broadway style entertainment at your meeting, but every now and then it’s nice to offer a little extra….maybe you take turns hosting healthy treats or the boss brings in lunch every now and then.
Have you ever tried a walking meeting? Depending on the agenda items and size of the group, this can be a good way to get some fresh air and exercise while you make decisions or discussing upcoming work priorities.
Or a chairless meeting. When everyone is standing meetings tend to move along at a wonderfully fast clip!
The leader sets the tone for a meeting and taking these steps to let attendees know you mean business means that it is far more likely a lot of business will get done.
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Series on How to Have a Successful Meeting
- Part 1: How to Have a Successful Meeting – For Meeting Leaders
- Part 2: How to Have a Successful Meeting – For Attendees
by Cathie Ericson