Meetings can be the bane of one’s work life. They are often long and unfocused, and sometimes leave one exhausted, tired, and unclear about what the meeting accomplished or what the next steps are.
Contrarily, well-run meetings can be an invaluable asset for collaboration, creativity, and business growth.
When is the last time you attended a successful meeting that left you feeling energized, fulfilled, and accomplished?
What made that meeting more effective than most ineffective, inefficient, unproductive meetings?
In this guide, we are taking a look at how as a leader you can plan, execute, and measure effective meetings.
An effective meeting serves a useful purpose. There’s a reason you are calling together a group of individuals for a certain period of time. There is a result you hope to obtain from this meeting.
Effective meetings have three measurements:
How do you build a meeting that meets the above measurements?
There are 7 key points that generate successful meetings:
A meeting must be prepared before anyone enters the boardroom. This begins with understanding and concretizing the goals and objectives for that allotted period of time. Why are you having this meeting?
From there, you need to create an agreed upon process for reaching those goals, including a strategically designed agenda. How will you reach your objective?
The meeting itself needs structure, order, participation, and efficient execution in order to succeed. What will this meeting look like?
Let’s take a deeper dive into this process.
Too often, people call a meeting to discuss something without considering what a good outcome for that discussion would be. More frequently than not, an email, phone call, or memo would suffice.
For example, sales companies often gather their workers on a weekly—or even daily—basis to go over the numbers from that week.
Why? What does listing the numbers achieve? What is the purpose of this meeting?
This meeting has the potential to become effective when there is a goal or call to action behind those numbers. For example, to hold a monthly meeting where teams look at their overall sales versus goals and then brainstorm ideas for how to better meet their numbers in the upcoming month.
This creates a reason for calling the meeting: to brainstorm ideas that will improve next month’s numbers.
It also creates a result: specific actions the salespeople can take to better hit their quotas moving forward.
In addition, this result is measurable. At the next monthly meeting, they can look at last month’s numbers versus this month’s to see which actions were or were not successful. They can see the quantifiable difference between the two months based on the results of last month’s meeting.
Determine the objective of the meeting in the planning process by completing the statement:
At the close of the meeting, I want the group to ___.
Some measurable goals for a meeting might be:
“To discuss X” is not a valid purpose. “Discuss” often becomes a meeting led by one person, going on about his thoughts, with little room for productive debate. These kinds topics should be put in an email.
A good baseline is to keep in mind is: If you can’t think of a clear, measurable objective, you shouldn’t be having the meeting.
Don’t call people away from their work for the sake of having a meeting conversation. You should have a concrete, verbalized reason and result for assembling the meeting.
With the end result clearly defined, you can plan the contents of the meeting and determine who needs to be present.
An agenda gives all participants a clear understanding of how the meeting will work to achieve the desired outcome. It gives a target and timeline for how the meeting will run. It mentally prepares people for the conversation ahead.
To prepare an agenda, consider the following:
Results: What do you need to accomplish at the meeting? Align and prepare your agenda in a way that every topic relates back to the meeting’s objective.
Priorities: What needs to be covered in order to achieve the result?
Sequence: In what order will these topics create the best flow of information?
Participants: Who needs to attend the meeting? Who’s directly influenced by the outcome of this meeting? Who’s indirectly affected? Who can add additional insight and information to the conversation at hand?
Date and Time: When will the meeting take place? Will holding the meeting at this day and time be most fruitful for your workers?
Place: Where will the meeting be located? Will this space encourage the meeting’s results? Does it promote collaboration?
Timing: How much time will you spend on each topic?
Timing is especially important when creating an agenda, but it’s often overlooked. Time management is crucial to creating an effective, energizing meeting. Your employees will appreciate you running on time and taking up as little of their day as possible. They have other things they need to get done for your business, and they want to be able to plan around the meeting accordingly.
In fact, you should want your employees itching to get out of the meeting so they can implement and execute the new ideas, collaborations, and objectives that were unlocked during the conversation.
Now, with an idea of what needs to be covered and for how long, you can prepare the information needed for the meeting.
Let all participants know the objective and agenda of the meeting in advance. Give them specifics on how to prepare for the meeting.
What do participants need to know in order to make the most of the meeting time? What roles are they expected to perform in the meeting? How can they appropriately prepare?
For example, if the meeting’s objective is to solve a problem, email the problem statement to meeting participants at least 24 hours ahead of time. Ask them to come to the meeting with a viable solution to present.
If you’ll be discussing an ongoing project, request that each participant summarize his or her progress and bring the reports and relevant information to the meeting.
A great way to avoid the “dictatorial meeting” is to assign your participants to various topics or discussions. This increases engagement, involvement, and interest with the meeting. They have to actively prepare for the discussion ahead of time, which ensures that they have a stake in the results and outcomes of the meeting.
On the agenda, you could indicate who will lead the discussion, topic, or presentation for each item. Clarify what they will need to prepare. Disseminate this agenda to the participants as early as possible. It’s a good idea to follow-up with them individually to ensure they feel comfortable leading that portion of the meeting. If not, ease their concerns and queries appropriately.
Whether at the beginning of the meeting or prior to the meeting time, you should get feedback on the agenda after circulation.
How do your employees feel about the amount of time allotted to each item? Do you need more or less time for a given topic?
This can help ensure you don’t mismanage your time while the meeting is in session. It also offers the opportunity for participants to add more to the agenda if they have a relevant topic to discuss.
During the meeting, you’ll want to use the agenda as your time guide. Follow the clock and ask that everyone respect the time allotted. This includes starting and finishing the meeting on time. Don’t spend time recapping for latecomers.
If you notice that time is running out for a particular item, you might consider hurrying the discussion or calling for a decision. If another person is leading the topic at the time, you could gently encourage them to notice that clock and wrap it up.
Likely, if the group is spending a lot of time on one subject, it may be more relevant and important than you had planned for. In this way, you may want to defer the discussion until another time when you can give it more attention. You could also assign it to a subcommittee or subgroup to discuss at length in a future meeting.
Efficiency and effectiveness start with time management.
An agenda won’t guarantee the meeting will go as planned. People can go off track, dominate the conversation, make judgments, doze off, lose interest, etc. To keep things running smoothly and appropriately, consider beginning the meeting by establishing ground rules for all participants to follow.
Some possible rules to implement include:
You might ask that everyone verbally agree to these rules. This ensures that all team members are “playing the same game” with accountability and responsibility.
You may also want to consider implementing a system of pinpointing rule breakers. For example, if one participant is going off topic, another participant could make an X with their arms. This is a non-intrusive or judgmental way to let the speaking participant and the meeting leader recognize the rule-breaking and readjust as needed.
Meetings should not be one-sided. You should not take on a dictatorial role. However, a leader can guide the meeting appropriately to ensure it stays on an effective and efficient track. This will help maximize meeting satisfaction for all.
To be a leader, you can:
After the meeting is over, you should appraise the efficacy of the meeting. Effectiveness is measured based on whether or not the meeting met its desired objective.
Take time immediately following the meeting to reflect and debrief. What went well? What could have gone better?
Ask participants for their feedback as well. This can be immediately following the meeting or at a later point, depending on the timeframe.
This will help you continue to improve your process of running effective meetings in the future.
From there, you can draw up a meeting summary to send to all participants and stakeholders. This will record what was discussed, what was accomplished, and what each team member is responsible for moving forward. This becomes a written record of actions, agreements, responsibilities, and notes. This is crucial for understanding next steps and creating a history of effective, productive meetings.
Running an effective meeting is more than getting together to talk about your overall business. Effective meetings have an objective, structure, and order. They create measurable results. Without these elements, meetings are—and forever will be—a waste of time.
With a solid objective, tight agenda, commitment to the participants, thorough planning process, and strong method of execution, you are well on your way to chair highly effective meetings.
This will help boost not only the success and productivity of your team and business, but it will also give you credibility, confidence, and success as a leader.
Everyone can benefit from guidance on running effective meetings in the BusinessLife methodology. Getting personalized insight into your meeting strategy could take you from a great leader to an outstanding one. Contact us today to start a discussion about leading effective meetings in your business.