Meetings can be effective ways of sharing information or reaching a decision. However, ineffectively run, they can swallow up your time without giving much benefit. Just as jobs have a cost, meetings have a cost; not only for you but for all who attend. After any meeting ask yourself, “was my contribution worth my investment?”
Here are some tips for running meetings in the most effective way possible:
1. Hold meetings when trigger events occur
Many regular meetings are little more than a case of doing something because it’s the “correct” way to do things or it’s always been done that way. The management team feels it is a “good thing” to communicate, but are unclear what they would like to communicate. Time is alloted for discussion and discussion expands to fill the time.
It is more effective to hold meetings when specific events show them to be necessary. For example, a deliverable is delayed by two weeks. How does this effect the overall timing of the project and what steps can be taken to keep the whole thing on track.
By scheduling meetings to occur on trigger events, you ensure time is invested in the solution of a problem, only when the problem occurs.
2. Use the Agenda Effectively
The agenda is effectively the to-do list for the meeting. It shows the aim and discussion points in priority order.
Using an agenda focuses the meeting, and provides a guide for keeping discussion on-track. Circulating the agenda sufficiently in advance, allows people to prepare for the meeting so it isn’t held up for lack of information.
3. Setting the time of the meeting
You can schedule the meeting to take advantage of the attendees:
- Where people tend to waffle excessively, you can schedule the meeting just before lunch or going home, giving participants an incentive to keep things brief.
- Where people are time conscious, write the cost per minute of the meeting on a flip chart can have a focusing effect.
- Always start meetings on time. When meetings start late, you are in effect penalizing all those who arrived on time. Start without the late-comers.
- If you’re have a problem with people consistently showing up late, start a meeting at an unusual time, say19 minutes past the hour. This can improve punctuality.
4. Other Useful Techniques
- Invite the minimum number of attendees needed to a meeting. The more people in attendance, the more discussion there will be. Inviting people who are not needed wastes their time.
- Make sure that decisions made at a previous meeting have been acted on. This ensures that the meeting will not just be seen as a ‘talking-shop’.
- At the end of the meeting, prepare minutes summarizing the points discussed and defining action steps on the decisions. This ensures everyone understands what has been decided and who will do what.
Meetings can be effective methods for reaching decisions. They can also be huge time wasters. When you invest time in a meeting, you should expect a sufficiently large pay-back to justify the investment.
- 20 Tips to help make meetings successful [Mike Gardner] (ecademy.com)
- How to Run an Effective Meeting (openforum.com)
- How to Conduct Small-Group Meetings (ismckenzie.com)
- 5 Tips To Make Meetings Meaningful (managebetternow.com)