Do you feel like meetings eat up most of your time? It is hard to host a productive meeting when there isn’t a clear agenda, everyone feels they must be included, and conversations turn into tangents. Follow these 5 steps to improve the productivity of your meetings.
1. Determine purpose
Is the meeting necessary? Or can it be discussed in a group email? Ideally, meetings should be no more than 30 minutes. There are exceptions for longer meetings, but they should include a break in the middle. Otherwise, you’ll lose people and their eyes will glaze over.
The shorter the meeting the easier it is to stay focused and move forward.
2. Define goal
What is the goal of the meeting? What do you need to accomplish? What decisions need to be made?
If you don’t have a clear goal to accomplish, consider postponing the meeting to make the most of everyone’s time.
3. Curate attendees
Who are the key decision-makers who need to be present? Key decision-makers may include people who need to authorize or sign-off on an action.
Of those attending the meeting what is their role? What are they responsible for? What will they need to prepare or bring to the meeting in order for the meeting’s goal to be met?
You’re not required to invite everyone to a meeting. (Similarly, you don’t have to CC everyone on an email.) The overemphasis on “including everyone” contributes to overwhelm and distraction. Allow people to stay focused on their priorities. It may be “nice” to have them present or have their input, but if their contribution holds no weight on the goal of the meeting don’t waste their time. If the decisions of the meeting impact their role, send or post a meeting summary to keep them informed.
The more people you have in attendance the more opinions you’ll have in the discussion. Slowing down decision-making and achieving the meeting goal.
4. Create an agenda
Create an outline of the topics to discuss prior to the meeting and email it to attendees with the meeting goal. If anyone is presenting during the discussion, make a note of their place in the agenda.
Creating and sharing an agenda in advance helps set clear expectations for the meeting. This allows attendees to come prepared to help increase the productivity of the meeting.
As the meeting facilitator, it’s your responsibility to lead the meeting so the goal of the agenda is met.
- Start the meeting promptly on time. This means 9:00 am not 9:05 am. If you wait for people, your behavior indicates it’s “ok” to be late. In addition, it takes away from your meeting and achieving the goal. Running late isn’t a backup option since that assumes others are available and their time isn’t important.
- It’s your responsibility to keep the conversation on task. This means eliminating tangents and being mindful of the clock. (EXAMPLE: “Thank you for your feedback/comment. Let’s discuss it separately to give it full attention and to make sure we stay focused and achieve our meeting goal today of XXXX”) Having an agenda and being aware of the time is important for moving the discussion forward.
- If during the meeting something new arises and it needs to be discussed. make a note of it. It can be discussed at the end of the meeting, if there is time, or tabled for the next meeting.
- End the meeting promptly on time. It’s easy to get caught up in great conversation, especially when creativity is flowing. However, be respectful of everyone’s time and their schedules. Many will have appointments and projects scheduled after the meeting. As a leader, it’s important to respect their time too.
5. Follow up is required
What needs to be completed to confirm the meeting goal was met?
- Sending a summary of the conversations and key decisions keeps everyone on the same page. It confirms what was decided and gives everyone a resource to refer to.
- Add tasks to the corresponding project lists.
- If there were conversations tabled during the meeting, respond to them directly via email or a quick call. Or add them to the agenda for the next meeting, pending importance.
This follow-up practice impacts productivity. Without it, I lose focus, and what’s easy when in “flow” gets delayed creating roadblocks for my team and clients.
I bookend my meetings with 15 minutes. The time before allows me to come prepared and be fully present so I can best serve those attending. The time after allows me time to follow up while in flow.
What would you add to this list to have a productive meeting?