Meetings, everybody needs them, and at the same time hates them. They have the potential to be a powerful part of any growth, innovation, or improvement strategy. However, many times they turn into a waste of time. Moreover, many times they are the reason why people allegedly have no time for other meaningful things. As a leader, what can you do to ensure your business or organization have effective meetings?
Causes for ineffective meetings
Before discussing what to do to have productive meetings, let’s start with the common causes for ineffective meetings. One thing that bothers most of us is not knowing the motive or objective of a gathering. Lack of clarity regarding the purpose can lead to decline or not take it seriously. For the organizer, the lack of a plan or objective leads to inviting the wrong people. Maybe they will end with people that don’t need to be there.
Another cause for unproductive meetings is when participants arrive unprepared. Preparation includes reading the objectives, search for backup information, read related reports, and others. Lack of preparation leads to a repetition loop where players talked non-sense or repeat the same things discussed during the previous meeting. Not being prepare also causes inefficient time management. Moreover, distractions, interruptions, and off-topic conversations cause lost time.
There is no point in having a meeting without a record of the topics discussed. Notes of the issues reviewed, ideas and opinions, action items, and decisions are critical for effectiveness. Follow-up the progress on the action items and decisions enforcement is easier when there is a record. It also eliminates different opinions or recalls about what happened.
Effective meetings require preparation
A productive meeting starts with the planning. The first step is to define the objective of the meeting. What do you want to accomplish with the reunion? From there, you can decide what topics need discussion, how much time, and who should be there. Avoid too many complicated subjects for one meeting. Consider splitting the themes in more than one gathering if necessary.
Second, prepare the agenda and list possible sources of information to facilitate preparation. Third, separate a room big enough to accommodate the people you will invite. If possible, avoid conference rooms close to areas with too much noise. Also, ensure to have available all the tools or equipment that you will need.
The fourth step is to send the meeting invitation. Along with the invitation, explain the purpose of the meeting. Also, send the agenda, scope, outcome expectations, and sources of information. With this information, participants can prepare for the meeting. Preparation will facilitate effective participation and better time management. Communicate the rules for the reunion as part of the invitation email. For instance, request to turn off mobile phones and refrain from using laptops or tables during the meeting.
To run effective meetings, leaders do the following.
- Complete the adequate meeting preparation (objective, scope, agenda, and others).
- Set clear expectations by opening the meeting summarizing the scope, purpose, and desired outcome.
- Continue the meeting discussing the points of the program.
- Ensure that everybody on the table has a voice, promote participation.
- Always take notes or have a designated secretary.
- Respect the allotted time for the meeting by managing the time for each topic.
- At the end of the meeting summarize the outcome, decisions, and action plans.
- After the reunion, send the minutes along with action items. Ensure to include what, who, and due dates.
- Set up time on your calendar for follow-up.
Meetings are a necessary evil to run a business. However, they don’t need to be a waste of time. A well-run meeting is fundamental for the growth and process improvement of any business. Effective meetings are possible with proper planning, conduction, and follow-up.