Guest post by Amanda Mcphail.
For better or worse, meetings are a fact of life in business. Properly run, meetings are vital for communication, coordination, planning, and accountability.
Improperly run, they are perceived as a waste of time and an interruption of “real work.” But as Gino Wickman points out in his book Traction, “For those of us who lead and manage organizations, meetings are pretty much what we do.”
In a professional capacity, meetings play an important role in fostering communication between team members. During a meeting, new ideas are discussed, deals are negotiated, and action items are assigned. Meetings ensure that employees get a say in the way things are being run, and serve as a morale booster.
They also help businesses communicate directly with potential customers or their own suppliers. They play a crucial role in decision making, information exchange, and feedback loops.
Yet, despite the important roles meetings play, more often than not a lot of meeting time is wasted. If a meeting is ineffective or poorly organized, this time really could be put to much more productive use elsewhere. This is why it’s crucial to make sure that every meeting has a clear objective and is run efficiently.
Here are six practical steps you can take as the meeting organizer to make it is as efficient and productive as possible.
Make Sure the Meeting Is Necessary
Often, there are more efficient ways of accomplishing the same goal or objective. Explore all options and try to figure out if you can get the work done via email, team chat tools, or simply with a memo. If the work can be done through an alternative method, then the meeting would be a waste of time no matter how concise it is.
Explore all alternative options before deciding to keep a meeting and make sure it is absolutely necessary for you to have one!
Write Down Your Talking Points
To avoid wasting time, every meeting should have a clear, written agenda. Recurring meetings (e.g., Monday afternoon marketing staff meetings) should have a regular agenda, which is deviated from only in unusual circumstances.
First-time managers especially may struggle with this, as they don’t want to seem “bossy.” But employees actually appreciate structure to meetings, as they are more efficient for everyone involved.
If the group meeting will be led by multiple participants, write up the agenda beforehand and divide it among the leaders so that each person knows what topic they are covering and how it fits into the overall flow of the meeting. This will make the whole process much smoother for both participants and presenters.
Focus on the Most Important Objectives
Start off with the most important items on the agenda for that particular meeting. That helps assure some progress will be made even if you run out of time.
Recognize when a topic really requires group discussion as opposed to issues that can be better handled offline, one-on-one with an employee after the meeting. When the group reaches a consensus, assign an action item to the appropriate person for implementation then move on.
Since many employees will have other calls, meetings, or tasks scheduled back-to-back throughout the day, make sure that your meeting starts and ends on time. Make punctuality an expectation, out of respect for the rest of the group. Keep discussions as concise as possible so you can give people a few minutes of their day back whenever feasible.
This means that you should not waste time waiting for people. If individual stakeholders understand that punctuality is the expectation, they will show up on time. It’s inevitable that people will be late from time to time, but it shouldn’t be a habit.
Assign one person to take notes at each meeting. Having a record of what happened in a specific meeting helps assure nothing falls through the cracks, and helps those who show up late (despite the expectation of punctuality) find out what they missed without wasting the group’s time. These notes should be circulated among everyone attending the meeting.
Notes help minimize misunderstandings. If a particular person is confused about a subject that was talked about, they can simply refer to the meeting notes for clarification.
Assigning one specific individual as the note taker allows everyone else to focus on the discussion.
Choose the Right Location
Make sure the meeting space you reserve is suited to your meeting. While it’s less than ideal to reserve a large room for a meeting of just four or five people, it’s positively a disaster to reserve a room that is too small and cramped.
The location should also be convenient for all the stakeholders involved. And consider the technology required; if you need a large screen for projection or a speaker phone to bring in remote participants, make sure the room accommodates those needs.
Amanda Mcphail runs the booking team for IQ SmartCenter – A sleek and modern San Diego Meeting Venue. Amanda has longstanding expertise in the wedding and event industry, and she enjoys blogging about the latest trends and industry topics.