Meetings are an important part of day to day business so it is essential they are run efficiently; time is a precious resource and no one wants their time wasted. Whether you are organising meetings, or simply attending them, you owe it to yourself to become more effective at this professional skill. We have pulled together some top tips to help you run your meetings more efficiently so you get the most out of your business meetings.
Make Your Objective Clear
Before you send that calendar invite, ask yourself: What do I want to accomplish from this meeting? A meeting must have a specific and defined purpose to be successful. You are taking up another person’s time as well as your own so make sure you get the outcome you desire. Think about what you would like to achieve by the end of the meeting:
- Do you want a decision?
- Are you getting status reports?
- Do you want to generate ideas?
- Are you making plans?
- Are you communicating something?
If you’re the meeting organiser, make sure you prepare a written agenda and circulate it with attendees at least one day in advance. The usual format is a bullet point list with topics to be discussed; you can also provide background information on the agenda so everyone attending has the same information. For frequently held meetings such as weekly status meetings, create a meeting template to save time.
Review the Attendee List
People have very busy schedules and things can come up; it’s a good idea to confirm who is still able to attend the day before a meeting. If you discover any of the key decision makers can no longer make it, reschedule the meeting for a later date.
This can be a tricky rule to enforce but by banning phones, computers and iPads, you know the attendees will be truly focused and more likely to contribute to the discussion. If people have access to their gadgets you’ll find they are emailing or surfing the web, rather than concentrating on the meeting.
Watch the Clock
People appreciate when you understand their time is valuable so make sure you’re someone who starts and ends meetings promptly. When nobody takes charge of managing time, it’s easy to become careless and unfocused.
Stay on Topic
It can be easy to go off on a tangent when someone brings up a valid point but it’s not part of the meeting agenda. A good process to follow to avoid this is:
- At the beginning of the meeting, explain the focus of the meeting is the agenda points listed, and that any other important points will be noted and reviewed at a later date
- Keep the meeting agenda in front of you as a guide
- Run through each agenda item in order
- Monitor and contribute to the discussion
- When someone raises an interesting point, which does not relate to the agenda, note down the item, include it in the meeting minutes and arrange for it to be discussed at a future meeting
Leave the last few minutes of every meeting to discuss the next steps. This discussion should include deciding who is responsible for what, and what the deadlines are. Send out the meeting minutes to all who attended within 24 hours after the meeting; documenting the responsibilities given, action points delegated and any assigned deadlines.
Meetings can be a valuable and productive business tool if you take the steps to make them so; they can be used to make decisions, get status updates on projects and to generate new ideas. However, if you do not have a clear agenda for the meeting, or don’t stick to the topics, you may not get the outcome you would have liked from the meeting. Following the agenda points and watching the clock will help attendees to focus, and if possible, banning technology will also limit any distractions. Meetings are an essential part of day to day business so being able to run meetings efficiently is an important skill to have.