Five Keys to Productive Meetings
Many of us have had the experience of sitting in a meeting asking ourselves, “What am I doing here?” or feeling “This is just a complete waste of my time.”
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There is no question that meetings are an essential part of our daily lives. One way or another we are all part of a team, a mastermind group, a task force, a steering committee, or something similar. We live in a world of collaboration.
There is also no question that some of the meetings we attend are simply not as productive as we would like them to be.
While there are many reasons why a meeting may not be as productive as it could be, I put together a list of five areas that you should look at first, if you want to boost your meeting’s productivity.
1. State the Purpose of the meeting and how it is related to the Organization’s Goals
It is very important to be clear what the purpose of the meeting is – is it to give information, to make decisions, to work on an actual work product, to review goals, do strategic thinking or brainstorming? etc…
Often times we try to accomplish too many things in one particular meeting, which makes it very hard to stay focused. The meeting usually is all over the place and very inefficient.
Sometimes it is better to have an only 30-minute meeting to give information about a certain subject, and then have a follow up meeting a couple days later to make decisions about the subject.
2. Masterpiece your Agenda
Make sure your meeting has a clear agenda and a format that facilitates a good flow. The clearer the agenda, the better people can prepare for the meeting and the easier it is to stay on track during the meeting and not get sidetracked.
Ask at the beginning of the meeting if people have additional agenda items and then place those on the agenda if time allows.
Identify who or what causes you to get off track during the meeting. Sometimes the agenda needs to be restructured, or sometimes the meeting is not in the right location. Often comments are made that are not necessary, and are distracting and dissipate the focus of the team. Make sure you address these kinds of problems. Everyone’s time should be highly respected.
3. Appoint a Leader
Make sure that the right person is leading the meeting. Often times it is just assumed that the “highest ranking” person runs the meeting, but maybe there are other people on the team that could facilitate the meeting much better. If you are the leader of the meeting, be open and experiment with other people running the meeting. See how different leadership could affect the outcome and productivity of a meeting. Also, not having to run the meeting might enable you to contribute much better to the different agenda items. In my experience it works really well if the person who is taking notes is also running the meeting. That way you can make sure you don’t move on to the next point, before necessary actions are captured and the conversation on any given subject is complete.
Make sure that the right people are attending the meeting. The basic rule is the fewer the better, but you also need to make sure that you have enough “decision making” power in the meeting to move things forward.
Go through each member attending the meeting and see if they are contributing to the meeting meaningfully. If not, why are they at the meeting? Sometimes it’s better if the meeting is held by a smaller group of people and the other people are updated via meeting minutes.
5. Identify Next Steps
This might be the most important practice to put in place. At the end of every meeting make sure you repeat what decisions have been made. Recap who has agreed to take on certain tasks and by when they will be complete. Set the time for the next meeting. It’s much easier to coordinate with everyone at the table than trying to do it via email later on.
Keep these areas in mind and see how you can improve the meetings you are attending. You may be leading some meetings yourself and you can easily implement changes, or you might want to gently suggest some changes to meetings where you don’t have a leading role.
Make it your goal that every meeting you are attending ends with a feeling of “Wow, that was productive!”