How to Make Your Meetings More Effective
How to Make Your Meetings More Effective
“I’m a big fan of meetings!” said no one ever. Even for the most extroverted personalities, meetings are often something to be dreaded, especially when they happen too frequently. The main issues tend to be that they’re boring or a waste of time for at least one person in the room, if not a majority.
And yet meetings exist for a reason. A good face-to-face meeting can be a much more effective communication and productivity technique than relying solely email or tools like Slack and Basecamp, allowing teams of people to brainstorm, compromise and quickly get to the heart of important matters without a lot of time consuming back and forth.
But how do you ensure they’re effective rather than time wasters? Let’s take a look.
1. Set Your Agenda In Stone
The fastest way to get sidetracked during (read: to increase the length of) your meetings is to be too chill about the agenda. When anyone can pop up at any time with “some thoughts” you’ll just drift from topic to topic without really achieving anything, frustrating everyone in the process. A clear agenda gets rid of this issue by directing every person’s attention to the most pressing matters at hand — all the more so if you order the meeting from the most to the least important matters.
Circulating the agenda ahead of time will help get everyone’s minds on the right track. It will also give them time to research any items they don’t know much about or understand so that they can come prepared with ideas, and the same goes for items with which they’re already familiar. This is especially important for less talkative members of a team who thrive when they are given more time to prepare.
One thing you want to try your best to keep off the agenda: updates. Unless there’s a pressing need to dive into depth on a particular update, send them out instead via email since there’s very little team members will actually have to say about them.
2. Set and Stick to a Time Table
Your agenda will be all the more effective if you set aside specific amounts of time you want to devote to each subject. Bring a stopwatch if you have to. This may sound extreme, but setting timed intervals for each topic will ensure that the conversation stays on course and that team members speak as effectively and as succinctly as possible. And don’t recap for latecomers! Doing so only wastes the time of the team members who made it there in a timely manner for which they should be rewarded, not punished.
If your team consistently struggles at doing this effectively, start practicing with fifteen minute stand up meetings, an intense, timed experience in which team members announce what’s on deck for them during the day and other team members offer to help where they can. This is a good way to start the day in general, but it also will give your team practice on keeping it short and sweet.
3. Appoint a Meeting Leader
Sure, you want to gather a diversity of opinions — after all, you’ve gathered your team together for more than just blanket approval — but democracy and meetings do not go hand in hand. You’ll have a much better time of it if you appoint a leader from the start. This person will set the agenda, redirect the conversation when it drifts, and (gently) remind particularly loquacious team members of time constraints. A good leader will also reach out to quieter team members when one or two people are dominating the conversation. They will also be the one to instigate many of the tips that follow.
4. Keep It Small
Yes, you’ve called your meeting because you need input from a diversity of people. But if you only need this one person for one thing then they’re sure to be more than a little ticked when they find themselves wasting an hour and twenty-five minutes on issues that don’t pertain to them. Whenever you can, try to get this person’s thoughts before the meeting rather than insisting that they be there.
In general, it’s a good idea to keep meetings to no more than four to seven people to ensure everyone gets a say without the meeting running over. The smaller the group, the less competitive the conversation will be, the more likely all members of the team will be to pipe up with their great ideas.
5. Recap Action Items
By the time team members leave the room, they shouldn’t have any confusion about who is doing what as a next step. To ensure this is the case, review action items along with timelines for work and who will be doing what. Write this down and either send it out in an email or add these items to whatever productivity platform you use to unite your team’s work. This way, you’ll more easily turn the philosophical into concrete results.
6. Get Out of the Room
There’s one caveat to this super-productive and efficient model of meetings: the brainstorming meeting. When you want your participants to get wild with their thinking, pressuring them to do so in a timely manner isn’t likely to help. In this case, it can be effective to get up and head outside for a nice stroll around the office park as you spitball ideas. The fresh air and exercise will get those brains going like no oak meeting table can.
7. Ban Devices
Most of us think we’re great multitaskers but the scientific research is conclusive: we can only concentrate well on one thing at a time. Even a few seconds with our eyes flicked over to a separate device screen takes us out of the room and disengages us from the conversation so that we’re not contributing our best ideas. All of this distraction also slows down our processing power, so that we’re not really taking in what’s said and we’re also increasing the amount of time it takes for us to think and contribute to the meeting.
Ban devices from your meetings and you’ll not only get more focused and engaged team members, you’ll also find the meeting moves along much more quickly.
Meetings don’t have to be a drag. Done efficiently and effectively you’ll engage team members, get them pumping out great ideas, and ensure everyone is on board with all that needs to get done.
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