How many times have you come out of a meeting thinking "Well that was a waste of time."?
Whether you're going to back-to-back meetings every day of the week, or you're dragged along to one ridiculously long meeting once a month, it can often feel like you'd get more done sat at your desk liaising via email.
Face-to-face communication is really important for business, and it's important in helping us feel connected too. We human beings are social creatures (apparently!), and participating in regular in-person meetings can be a great way to get away for your desk and engage in some constructive conversation. However, the effectiveness of meetings can vary wildly!
Below are some tips on how to make sure your meetings are more productive!
1 | Be specific about time, place and attendees
When sending an invite to attendees of your meeting (whether it's just by email, or another tool such as Google calendars or Doodle), make sure make it clear when and where the meeting will be.
If it's a particularly important meeting, don't feel bad about sending a reminder email a few days, or the day, before.
2 | Create and send out an agenda
A few days before the meeting, write out an agenda (ie. a rough outline) of the topics that you want to cover during the meeting. Send this to attendees beforehand as well, so that they can prepare themselves with questions or other information to ask on the day.
Print out copies of your agenda to bring along to the meeting to help you (and everyone else) stay on track. This will help to prevent people straying off topic, and will stop any annoying faffing around at the beginning with people wondering 'what the meeting is about'.
3 | Prepare properly
How much preparation you do is entirely dependant on what the meeting is about, but don't leave things until the last minute.
If you need to print things out, allow for spare time in case there is an issue with the printer. If you need to pull up a presentation, go to your meeting room early to set up. Also, if you and others are going to be looking at your laptop screen for part of the meeting, make sure you've closed down any irrelevant windows and have everything you might need open and ready to go (get the wifi password before you start).
4 | Make everyone aware of the desired outcomes
Once you've gone through the agenda outline briefly as in introduction, it's important to let everyone know what you actually want to get out of the meeting. If you have the facility, write these outcomes on a whiteboard so that everyone can be directed back to those aims during the meeting.
General examples of meeting outcomes include:
- Make a decision on certain topics
- Finding the next steps
- Ensuring that everyone is clear and up to date on certain topics
- Getting a list of ideas or suggestions
- Finding areas for improvement
5 | Write notes as you go
Someone (whether it's you, or someone else) should be making detailed notes throughout the meeting, covering key points and suggestions. It's much better to do this throughout than to leave it until the end when you've forgotten what happened at the start of the meeting.
6 | Set 'Next Steps/Actions'
No meeting should ever finish without having set any next steps or actions for people to take. Always leave room for this part in your agenda.
Be specific on exactly what needs to happen, who will do it and when they should do it by. If you think people may need extra motivation to stick to a deadline, explain the reason why they need to complete the action by a specific time.
7 | Plan the follow-up meeting at the end
Once you've set the next steps for everyone, you may want to organise a follow-up meeting (sometimes, but not always). It's important to set a date, time and place for this while everyone is still present in the meeting, so that you don't have to chase them for availability later on.
8 | Send a recap to everyone
Once the meeting is over, whoever was making notes should write them up, along with the actions for each attendee, and send them to everyone who was there. If possible, add it to some sort of shared online space or document so that people can refer to it later on and it won't get lost in their emails.