The 6 Steps to Running an Effective Meeting
Make sure you're getting the most out of your meetings with these simple tips
Leadership can be thoroughly relentless. You long for some headspace and clarity, you are pulled in every direction imaginable and to top it all, you’ve become a slave to your calendar – attending far too many meetings that consume far too much of your time. It’s so frustrating when meetings interrupt your workflow and hamper productivity – especially when the meetings themselves lack purpose, focus and fail to move the company forward.
But effective meetings can add tremendous value. Many of my mentees report feeling energised by the collaborative spirit that can be reignited by a well prepped and executed meeting. Others I support view them as a drag on productivity, a time waster that leads to frustration, low morale and reduced respect for company leadership.
So when a meeting is the only effective way to bring employees up to date, retain clients or make a key decision, how can you keep it focused, relevant, efficient and beneficial?
- Goal-setting is just as important in meetings as it is in the rest of corporate life. It is good practice to think hard about the purpose, nature and structure of a meeting before it takes place. Identify the reasons you have for bringing colleagues together. If your purpose is unclear employees can be left confused or, worse still, you may find yourself hosting a meeting that goes nowhere with vague, undefined objectives. By creating a clear agenda (including objectives) and circulating it to all participants in advance, you’ll be able to guide the meeting in the proper direction rather than allow it to drift aimlessly. Sharing expectations beforehand will also allow adequate time for everyone else to prepare.
- Don’t call an excessive number of people to a meeting. It’s the equivalent of copying a bunch of other team members in on an email ‘just FYI’. Start by establishing exactly who needs to be there and resist taking people away from other priorities if nothing will be achieved by them being there. Do make sure though that somebody will be available to take notes throughout and circulate them post-meeting.
- Out of respect for the commitment and sanity of attendees, meetings should have an allotted time. A few minutes extra might not seem like much, but if you get into the habit of letting meetings overrun they soon add up. Stay focused, accomplish what needs to be done, and then move on.
- If you are working for the same employer, then you’re all on the same team so nip any public criticism in the bud when it arises. By making it clear who is facilitating, how long the meeting will last and what the objective of the meeting is beforehand, you can then deal with attempts to take the meeting in other directions as simple misunderstandings of the pre-agreed ground rules.
- People have widely differing personalities and a successful leader will use this to their advantage. If you’re introducing a new course of action, ask an optimist to name possible benefits. Ask someone with great attention to detail to break down a larger project into bite sized chunks and considerations. Use the most assertive team member to table counter-views or highlight areas where the group should proceed with caution. By playing to the strengths of the team and giving everyone air time, each person will feel like an active contributor who has been listened to and heard.
- Meetings are meant to move a company forward and your ending should be tailored with this in mind. Conclude the meeting in a spirit of optimism by reviewing key points, your progress against the original objectives and by establishing a clear-cut strategy for progress.
Lisa Barber is a small business sales and marketing mentor and founded Roots and Wings in June 2013.