Meetings can be a great way to discuss a project and get a team in sync. 

Unfortunately, most are not run effectively, draining time and resources. Work doesn’t get completed, and attendees become disengaged from the conversation. 

Sound familiar? Here’s how to take control of your meetings and make them more successful.

Plan ahead

Set a clear objective: Every meeting should have a clear objective. Before scheduling a meeting, determine the goal you need to accomplish.

Try not to over-commit or accomplish too much in one session; this often results in running far too long and inevitably not getting through the important talking points.

Establish a meeting agenda: Prior to the meeting, set a clear agenda and allow attendees to review. This will set the tone for the conversation and enable participants to prepare.

Book the appropriate length of time: After establishing agenda items, you should have a clear idea about how long the meeting should take. Make sure you book enough time to discuss all topics but take care not to schedule too much time.

Most people can’t focus for more than 60 minutes, so meetings over an hour will be filled with a lot of disengaged or multi-tasking people.

For a quick team meeting, consider using the stand-up format. Stand-ups are exactly as they sound: you meet as a group while standing up, and each person gives a brief status update.

This format keeps the meetings short and sweet since most people become uncomfortable after standing for extended periods.

We focus on three specific questions for each person to answer during our stand-up meetings:

  1. What have you completed since the last stand-up meeting?
  2. What are you currently working on?
  3. What roadblocks or issues are you experiencing?  

Anything outside of this agenda gets tackled outside of the stand-up meeting. We love this format because it gives everyone on the team a chance to speak, and the opportunity to offer or ask for assistance depending on workloads.

Consider your attendees

Invite only the necessary people: It is imperative to ensure you have key players and decision-makers sitting at the table. However, it’s also important to only invite those who are necessary for the discussion. Egos and org charts should take a back seat to getting work done.

Including attendees that aren’t integral or contributing to the conversation is costing your business money. Check out how much money you’re spending on meetings with the Harvard Business Review Meeting Cost Calculator.

Embrace remote participants: Remote work is more popular than ever. Many companies are shifting to work-from-home to keep costs down, provide flexibility, and gain access to talent around the world. Studies show video conferencing is much more powerful and engaging than conferences over the phone. 

Utilize video when you’re hosting a meeting with remote attendees. There are several free services like Skype, join.me, or our personal favorite, Zoom.

Be inclusive: In every meeting, you’ll have some talkative participants with strong opinions, and others who are less likely to speak up. These quieter types may need more time to formulate their thoughts before engaging in the conversation, which usually moves on before they have an opportunity to contribute. 

Before changing subjects, ask these individuals if they have any thoughts they’d like to add. You’ll make them feel validated and will likely uncover some great ideas and viewpoints in the process.

Be productive

Let conversations happen: Allow participants to engage in conversations organically, as long as it’s productive to the meeting objective. Getting into a discussion and letting ideas flow can yield great results.

If the group starts to stray away from the original goal, let them know the subject can be discussed outside of the current meeting and steer them back to the original agenda.

Keep everyone on track: If conversations stray away from the agenda or are unrelated to the task at hand, you’ll need to reel your participants back in. Try gently reassuring your attendees that their conversation is important, but can be discussed at a later time to get through the current agenda. 

I once had a client who loved to chat and would often get off track easily. Any time I noticed the conversation going off on a tangent, I would say, “this is great information. We’re getting off-topic, so I’m going to make a note of this. Let’s discuss this at our next meeting.”

If you have a group of people whose conversations consistently veer from the agenda, try assigning a time allotment to each topic. Knowing there are only a few minutes to spend on a topic might help get the group focused. Here’s an example of a project kick-off agenda I use:

Meeting Agenda Image

Document meeting minutes: Designate a note taker and ensure decisions, action items, and takeaways are clearly defined. Every action plan should have someone assigned to it along with a deadline.

If you don’t know who the task should be assigned or when it should be completed by, just ask! It’s okay to say “I noted that we need to do X. Who is responsible, and when should it be delivered?’

Follow-up: After the meeting, send a follow-up email with any impactful decisions and list action items with respective assignees and deadlines. Keep the email concise and focus on only the essential details.

Learn and refine

Change routines: Do you have a mundane weekly status meeting? Are your attendees multi-tasking or less than engaged in the conversation? It sounds like it’s time to change up your routine! 

Try having your meeting on different days of the week or change the location to a coffee shop. You can also have each attendee lead one of the sessions. This is a great way to change things up because everyone has individual styles, and it might allow someone to build their current skill set. 

Ask for feedback: Continually solicit input from participants to understand what’s working well and what can be improved. These perspectives can give you insight into what the group needs and how you can improve the quality of the meeting.

Meetings are an integral and inevitable part of doing business. By planning and considering your list of attendees, you can get everyone organized and make the most of the group’s time. 

Ask for feedback from meeting participants, and change things up when things become stagnant. Don’t suffer in boring meetings anymore. Be diligent, get creative, and dominate productivity.

Have a meeting in need of a revamp? Connect with me on LinkedIn, and let’s keep this conversation going.

 

 

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