These days it seems we’re always in meetings. The regular weekly catch-up, urgent action meetings or specific task force meetings -it’s no wonder we are rushing from one brainstorming session to the other with frazzled minds and documents flying everywhere!
Meetings can be time consuming and most people dislike them for two reasons: they can go for too long and no decisions ever get made. These meetings are known as unproductive meetings. Don’t let the next meeting you hold fall under this category.
There are many reasons meetings can be unproductive, these include poor time planning, dominant or uninvolved participants, lack of attendance or key players’ too busy dealing with the small fires without putting the bigger ones out. Want to make sure the next meeting you run leaves a positive impression in people’s minds? Follow these hot tips.
1. Ask yourself, do you really need a meeting?
The most important factor for leading an effective meeting is simply deciding if it’s really necessary. What you need to discuss, your objective, a solution or brainstorming can sometimes be done more efficiently via an email, a phone call or a quick Skype conversation – after all, you don’t want to waste people’s time.
Define what needs to be solved and consider what the most productive and time effective solution could be for it. If you want someone’s input on a decision, perhaps an email outlining a timeframe can give you the result you’re after. This way, they have the opportunity to put their thoughts and ideas in writing and think ideas through in a time that works for them.
Note: Never have a meeting just for the sake of having a meeting. If an important decision needs to be made, you can follow some basic guidelines to determine whether a meeting is the best option or not.
No successful meeting is ever complete without a clear agenda distributed to everyone prior. Your meeting needs a specific and clear goal in order to stay on track. Let everyone know through this agenda what will be discussed during the meeting (there’s no need for surprises or secrets!) and action points for each person to contribute.
If you expect people to contribute, give them adequate time to get together what they need prior to the meeting. A week prior is always good. List the discussion items in the agenda, the person assigned to each and the amount of time allocated for each point in the meeting. Members of any meeting group should know what they are coming into and be prepared.
3. Invite the right people
One huge time waster is presenting a case for a course of action when the key decision maker isn’t in the room. As attendees of the meeting, you need to make sure you invite the right people for the outcome you need.
Before sending out meeting requests decide if everyone needs to attend or if you can just invite the project committee. Ensure there is a strong chairperson present to keep people focused on the topics to be discussed and on track with time. This person should also be strong enough to maintain control and allow everyone to be heard.
4. Make your presentation interesting
Even the most tedious topics can be made a little more exciting so be creative when putting together your presentation. Visuals and a touch of humour can break up the formalities – but be careful not to overdo it. If you’re showing a PowerPoint, summarise the main points and allow the audience to take in the information from the slides themselves.
Little things like making eye contact, asking questions and engaging your audience will make the presentation more interesting and involve participants. Ask for reactions, impressions and find ways to interact with the group.
5. Take a break
If the meeting needs to be a long one a break is a good chance for participants to recoup. 5-10 minutes is perfect break to ensure attendees will come back to the meeting refreshed and focused.
6. Take minutes, summarise and follow up
Delegate one person to take minutes throughout the meeting so all points of discussion can be recorded. Once the meeting has finished, ensure a copy of these minutes are sent out to all attendees and to anyone who wasn’t able to attend but was invited.
At the end of the meeting, the main points should be summarised and followed up with action items. Everything discussed should be put in writing and all attendees aware of what to follow up and what to report back on.