In business, meetings can be a great way to exchange ideas and create solutions to common problems. But have you ever attended a meeting, only to walk out wondering what the heck just happened, why you were there or what was accomplished?
Too often, people are pulled together without clarity around why or what they’re supposed to do. Here are some tips to ensure you’re making the most out of your meetings.
- Pre-meeting planning: Identify the purpose of the meeting and whether or not a meeting is needed in the first place. Do you need to make decisions, share information or create an action plan? Identify your objectives: what is it this meeting is trying to accomplish?
- Participants: Once you know why you’re meeting and what you want to accomplish, identify who needs to be at the table. Who are the people required to help achieve the objectives identified? Limit participants to those with decision-making power and the ability to remove barriers, but don’t invite too many. The more participants involved, the more complicated and confusing things get. This doesn’t mean more people can’t be involved in the process and actions, but try to limit the number of people participating directly in the meeting.
- Agenda: Create an agenda and timelines for each item so people know what to expect. Send the agenda before the meeting and ask if anyone has anything to add. When you send out the agenda, it’s also a good idea to include any background materials and supporting resources people might need to review beforehand, in order to ensure a productive meeting.
- Process: Identify key roles needed for the meeting (e.g. someone to take notes or track actions/decisions, someone to watch the clock to ensure everyone is staying on time, etc.). To increase engagement in the meeting, ask participants to take on specific tasks and clarify key actions required (e.g. ask someone to report or present at the meeting, etc.) And stay on time. If you schedule a 30-minute meeting, honour that. If the objectives are reached in only 15 minutes, then end the meeting early.
Evaluation: Check to see if the meeting achieved the objectives. Do a roundtable to see what worked well and what might need to be improved on next time. And finally, let people know next steps required (e.g., minutes will be provided to participants by a specific date, clarify what key actions need to be completed by who and when, and the meeting facilitator or lead needs to hold people accountable for their action items and reporting back results).