It’s happened to all of us - you have your day planned out and have your checklist of things to accomplish, and you get a meeting invite and think “what’s the point of this meeting?”. Most of the time, it’s because don’t have much context or don’t know your role in the discussion.
Unnecessary meetings are a common stereotype, but in my experience most of the time the meetings are important, but we don’t do a good enough job of putting in the thought required to make them useful. In this post, I’m going to share three tips that will make sure the meetings that you host are well planned, focused, and accomplish the intended goal.
Tip 1: Have a Plan
This is the most important aspect of having an effective meeting and not wasting peoples’ time. There’s a reason the meeting is required, so you must take some time and make sure you have a clear plan. The best way to do this is to start with the end in mind and think through what you are trying to get out of the meeting. Is there a decision that needs to me made? A plan that everyone needs to agree on? Information that is very important for people to know?
Whatever it may be, that is your starting point. Next, write down the steps that need to be taken to get to that end goal. This can be as simple as discussion bullet points along with supporting information that is needed so everyone is on the same page. Put all this together and send it to the attendees ahead of time so they have something to think over and bring their feedback to the meeting, ready to go.
The last thing is to keep the list to just the required people. The more people there are on the meeting, the less folks may be inclined to chime in. Keeping to a small list of attendees will help keep things focused and drive a better discussion.
Tip 2: Focus and Guidance
Once you have a clear agenda and how to get to that point, focus on building towards the goal and guide everyone towards that. These days most meetings are remote for many of us, so it’s important to keep everyone’s focus. A great way to do that is to share your screen and keep things visual.
This is where supporting information like a diagram or even just talking points will be a huge help. If you have a diagram, make sure you show it as you work through the details step-by-step. Take note of the feedback people are giving and share it. A great way to do that is to write the notes as people are talking and keep it up on the screen.
Depending on the meeting, people may start going astray and it is up to you to keep them on track. This can be a balance, because new information that is pertinent to your goal can come up. Keep note of the less important things in something like a “parking lot” list so they don’t get lost and schedule a follow-up call later. The key is to make sure you are all staying on track and working towards the goal.
Tip 3: Decisions and Next Steps
Now we circle back to the beginning and decide how to move towards the goal in concrete steps. If the decision you needed was made, then great – document the relevant discussion and conclusion and send it out for everyone to see. In the likely case there are follow-ups, the best way to handle that is to make it clear to everyone what is needed. Put the next steps in an accessible location for everyone. It’s key that you have assignees next to each task and the agreed upon action date. If you can turn these action items into tasks in your ticketing system, even better. Lastly, make sure to follow-up and keep the actions going because the meeting wasn’t the end goal but a step in the process to successfully move towards a goal.
Meetings don’t have to be difficult or painful. After going through the steps to prepare, there may be times that you realize a meeting is not needed at all and a quick conversation may suffice. Either way, if you put thought into it ahead of time and use the tips above, it will greatly improve the outcomes of your meetings.