You’re heading into a meeting, and all you can think about is, “Why are we having this meeting?” It’s not that you dislike meetings in general, but when you take the time out of a busy workday, you want it to matter.
The meeting starts, and an hour goes by with multiple people sitting around and talking. Some on topic, some off-topic. The session ends, and everyone appears to be motivated, voices elevated, and a sense of excitement as you depart the conference room or leave Zoom. You took notes, but when you get back to your desk to review your meeting notes, there isn’t a clear path to the next steps or specific tasks assigned to you or your department.
This is a common theme among companies who feel the need to hold meetings, sometimes just for the sake of having a meeting. If you take the time to prepare in advance and ensure it will be of substance, you’ll get more participation and increase productivity for your company.
To follow are some suggestions to consider BEFORE you schedule a meeting:
- What is the topic(s) for the meeting? Don’t cram your meeting with too many topics, as you risk a bunch of “clutter talk” without tangible results.
- What are the one or two things you want to see come out of the meeting (i.e., solid next steps for a project; identify who is responsible for specific tasks to include a timeline for completion).
- Create a clear agenda that includes which individuals should be ready to present to the group. Give the participants the appropriate amount of time to prepare unless it’s something they should already have completed.
- When you schedule the meeting, send the agenda with the invite so that each person has it and comes prepared. If possible, outline how much will be allocated for each agenda item. Priority items will always have a bit more time.
It’s meeting time, and everyone proceeds into the room. If your culture is one of camaraderie, purposefully give at least 15 minutes for the group to catch up, so the internal “networking” doesn’t affect the actual meeting time.
There should generally be one person in charge of facilitating a successful meeting. Yes, you can have others speak as their turn on the agenda comes up, but there needs to be someone to keep the discussion on track. And this person can professionally address those holding “sidebar” conversations that can distract those talking.
As each agenda item is on the table, agree on who is responsible for that project if applicable. Don’t wait until the end of the meeting, as you’ll want to be able to determine the task, assign the team member(s) and set a timeline for completion.
Stick to the allotted time for each agenda item so the meeting will end on time. This will keep the ball rolling and incentivize the group to be excited about future meetings.
If you’re the meeting leader, and for the most successful outcome, ensure that everyone is comfortable asking questions in the meeting or as a follow-up in a subsequent conversation. It can only be a win-win when you show that you want others to be successful in their position.