The work world is simultaneously in love and hate with meetings – from congratulatory mugs for surviving ‘another meeting that could have been an email’ to the mandatory ‘check-in’ meetings that seem to plague event the tightest of calendars. It is generally accepted that meetings are necessary for effective work to be done. However, not all meetings lend themselves toward empowering productivity. What’s an organization to do?
It all comes down to planning. There’s a specific formula that needs to be followed in order to push attendees toward action. The outline described below is tried and true. In fact, it has saved many of my own meetings from the pits of meeting despair. If you have a plan, focus on the actions required to carry it out and clarify tasks along the way, you’ll be on the road to great results in no time. Better yet, this framework can help you empower your team to become more effective, focused and productive.
#1 – Come Prepared
Always prepare for your meetings, whether they’re internal, with a client or with a vendor. To maintain control of the room, you must be prepared to address any and all topics that may come up. First, determine what the outcome of the meeting needs to be, and assemble those items into a list of actionable talking points. Next, determine what information needs to support that list of talking points. For example, if you’re meeting to discuss next year’s marketing budget, come prepared with the results of this year’s marketing efforts, recommendations for improvement and spend allocation, and a few discussion points to keep the room engaged.
This level of preparation prior to the meeting can help you gain valuable insights into next steps as well as build your credibility within the group of meeting attendees. If you put in the work ahead of time, there is much more time for discussion and decision making in session.
#2 – Set Your Agenda
Great meetings begin with an agenda. Using the talking points described in step one, make a list of topics to be covered and a key to describe who will lead that particular discussion. Creating your agenda before the meeting allows you to determine the length of time needed and will set the tone for the people involved.
Each agenda item should be action oriented, ‘review and approve design mock up’ vs ‘design mock up’, for example, to clarify the expected outcome of each discussion. At the beginning of the meeting, review the agenda with all attendees and ask if there is anything else to add. This ensures all necessary topics are covered prior to the meeting coming to a close.
#3 – Discourage Multi-Tasking
It may seem counter-intuitive, but multi-tasking is a notorious productivity killer. The focus of all attendees is required to produce and efficient and effective meeting. Ask those attending in person to close their computers. Ask remote attendees to avoid checking email or other distractions. Ask questions that encourage interaction. The person facilitating the meeting should take notes as needed. The larger the meeting, the more opportunities for distractions, so don’t hesitate to politely rein in a wayward discussion when needed.
If closing computers isn’t possible, set your expectations right out of the gate. A simple statement like ‘For the next 30 minutes, I want us all to put our full attention toward solving this problem. Let’s focus on the task at hand and avoid multi-tasking so we can really make this meeting count.’ This will give all in attendance a shared sense of purpose and set a tone of collaboration and results-oriented problem solving right away.
#4 – Document Action Items
When you take meeting notes, be sure to document any action items that may arise. Make sure you are clear on the action needed, and then reiterate to the team after the action is discussed. For example, in a discussion about SEO, the idea of an analytics audit may come up. When it does, document the task, ‘conduct analytics audit’, and the person assigned, ‘analytics specialist’, then repeat to the room, ‘OK – I’m taking an action for our analytics specialist to conduct an analytics audit.’
When the meeting comes to a close, always end with a summary of actions. For example, you could say something like ‘Great, thanks for your time today team. I want to take a minute to run through our post meeting actions and answer any additional questions. For my team, the actions are to conduct an analytics audit…’ This gives the attendees their final marching orders on the way out the door, clarifies expectations for all involved and inspires immediate action once the meeting wraps up.
#5 – Send a Post-Meeting Summary
When the meeting concludes, always send a post-meeting summary to those who have attended. This email serves as a reminder of discussion topics as well as a documented assignment of tasks for the team involved. It’s often helpful to reference the same post-meeting email when preparing the agenda for your next meeting to keep progress moving forward.
Following this formula helps drive meetings toward an action-oriented conclusion.
Ensuring all attendees are aware of the purpose of the meeting, the desired outcome and the follow up tasks will provide a helpful framework for the meetings to follow. What are your tried and true meeting tips? Share them in the comments or Tweet to @toprank.