The Best-Run Meetings: Tips everyone needs

Make your meetings more effective.

Diana Lillicrap 8.20.2014

Do you ever feel like you spend an entire day in back to back meetings and nothing ever gets done? I used to think “work” was what happened after the meeting was over. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are four tips to make your meetings more effective.

Assign homework before the meeting

We’ve all been assigned work coming out of a meeting, but if you want to make your meetings more productive you need to assign tasks to attendees before the meeting even begins. Divvy out homework so everyone comes prepared and ready to do some real work in the meeting. Be specific on your expectations and assign things that are appropriate to each individual. For example, if you want to meet about updating your website, don’t just invite people into a room to discuss it. Ask them to bring a list of new things they’d like to see on the site, examples of other sites they like (and details about why they like them), and a list of the elements from the current site they’d like to keep. Quality preparation will result in better ideas, more active participation, and a faster-paced discussion.

Outline your expectations

Have you ever sat in a meeting wondering, “What are we meeting about, and do I really need to be here?” Being unclear about the purpose of a meeting isn’t just annoying; it’s disrespectful of others’ time. To have an effective meeting you need to make it apparent from the very start what you plan to accomplish and how you’re going to get it done. Create a simple agenda with a few details about your expectations and start your meeting with a clear statement about why you’ve taken everyone’s time, what you expect out of them, and what you need to accomplish during your time together. Be as specific as you can be. If you have goals, communicate them. If you have several items to cover, set a time frame for each to be discussed. People are much more productive when they know what to expect in a situation and the role they are expected to play.

Use a facilitator

Most of us have experience running meetings, but if your group is large or your topic is complicated, it can be challenging to manage multiple goals and various personalities. In these situations, you might want to consider bringing in an impartial facilitator to help you keep things on track. This could be an outside consultant or just someone from another department who is skilled at running proficient meetings. Having a facilitator can help you create an atmosphere where everyone feels like they are being heard without judgment. Plus, if you are the team leader, you can participate more fully in the process as well instead of frantically capturing notes and managing egos.

Create a simple summary

Put aside the complicated meeting notes that try to capture every minute of the discussion, and instead, wrap up your meeting with a basic summary of what, who, and when. List out what decisions have been made, provide a to-do-list for what happens next with assigned responsibility (who), and identify deadlines for each item that needs to get done (when). Taking time to recap what was accomplished will reinforce to participants that the effort was worth their time and provide clear direction about what to expect next.

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