Meetings are an essential part for the smooth running of any business however far too often meetings meander along with no purpose and no drive, meaning they take far longer than they should. No one likes to feel like their time is wasted so how can you optimise for successful meetings every time?
Start with a clear objective for the meeting. Just because you always meet on a Wednesday morning to discuss project X doesn’t mean you should. Take a good look at your calendar and consider all those meeting requests. Are they an effective use of your time? Do you understand the purpose of the meeting? Do you know what you personally want to get out of it? If the answer is no to any of these then bin it, delete, say no. Wow! Doesn’t that feel good?
So now you have a set of meetings that are more manageable, how can you make each of these a success?
Start with the agenda or clear objective. Every meeting should have an agenda, even your 121’s, so that attendees are clear on what is being asked of them. If it’s not your meeting, ask for an agenda or clarification on the discussion topics. When you’re setting an agenda, think about how long you want to discuss each topic, then keep your watch or a clock in clear view so that you can stick to this during the meeting. Don’t be afraid to move people on if they are repeating themselves or draw them back to the relevant topic if they go off on a tangent. This isn’t being rude, this is about being productive.
During a discussion make sure everyone is heard. There will always be people who have a strong opinion and that is great; they are passionate about the subject, but everyone has a contribution to make so draw people out. Try asking the quiet ones in the room “is that your opinion too x”, or “what do you think about that x?”. Then give them room to answer. Someone quiet, or more junior may struggle with this approach so ensure that no one fills the silence for them.
The output from a meeting is crucial to that feeling of success. Therefore capturing the actions and giving them a deadline are really important. It will also ensure that the project or topic is moving on from one meeting to the next. A good trick with action points is to use verbs “x to review document y by Monday” or “everyone to read the x report by Friday”. By making them “doing” words it adds emphasis to the task (side note: this is a good trick for your own to do list).
Make sure at the start of the next meeting you review the actions and outcomes from the previous meeting. Call people out if they haven’t completed their task, a trick I like to use is to change the language of the action to something like “x will finally get xyz done”.