13 Apr Good Talk: How to Run an Effective Meeting
We can’t avoid the team meeting, the one-on-one feedback session, or the companywide annual call. We’re humans, and we like to interact. Business meetings are simply a fact of American corporate life. But they also can easily disintegrate into unfocused, undisciplined wastes of time. How do you make sure that you run an effective meeting that is worth its conference room hour?
Here are tips on how to run an effective meeting:
1. Have a written agenda. Why is it so obvious to make a grocery list before going to the store, yet the written agenda for a meeting eludes so many? Like food shopping, an agenda makes sure that you get everything you need from the attendees, and don’t waste time wandering around on things that don’t matter.
[bctt tweet=”Not only does a written agenda keep the meeting leader organized, it can encourage participation and enthusiasm from others.”]
People get fatigued at the idea of another vague meeting that disrupts their day with no obvious objective. But if you circulate in advance a list of the topics to be addressed, you immediately give the meeting legitimacy, and stimulate the thought process for those who will attend.
2. Stick to the time allotted. Everyone is busy. Everyone has twice the emails that they need. Everyone is late for something (ok, not everyone, but all but a lucky few). If you want respect (and attendance), you should run an effective meeting by a) starting on time, and b) finishing on time. Bonus points if you finish early.
If you get a reputation for running over the time scheduled, people may avoid attending at all, or rushing through agenda items in an effort to stay on schedule. This is yet another reason why the written agenda is so helpful – if you suddenly realize you have a laundry list of open issues, then you need to pare it down, or schedule a second meeting.
3. Invite only those who are really needed. This is not meant be exclusionary or alienate people. Quite the opposite – you’ll garner support and attendance to your meetings if you’re thoughtful about whose time you’re requesting. First, you can run an effective meeting more easily if you don’t have more people participating in the conversation than absolutely necessary.
When things need consensus, the more people, the more opinions, the longer it takes to agree. Plus, those who have no or low stakes in the agenda, may feel the need to justify their presence by having a view, or, will be checked out when they realize nothing being discussed impacts them directly.
Either way, you’ll have discouraged non-essential folks from showing up the next time. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, has a rule that no meeting should have more people than can be fed with two pizzas.
4. Take notes. Don’t let the valuable opportunity of a group discussion get lost by not recording what is said and decided. If the meeting is longer than a few minutes, it’s almost impossible to remember what was decided, what was tabled, and what was assigned as next steps to certain individuals.
Stay organized by keeping a record of what was discussed and you will avoid feeling like there was a great conversation but nothing accomplished.
5. Send out a follow-up summary. Ok, the truth is, everyone may not read your brilliant synopsis of the 1:30 in Conference A. But, if you send out a summary of the meeting you accomplish two things: a) you signal to the attendees that the meeting was valuable and you listened and recorded the dialogue, and b) you ensure that what you thought was agreed to, is accurate.
While it’s important to run an effective meeting, your post-meeting behavior can further validate the meeting’s importance, and acknowledge that you value the participants’ time.
Run an effective meeting by staying on task and respecting the time of attendees.
There’s no avoiding the business meeting. But you can make it as painless as possible, and maybe even – dare we say – productive, if you follow these tips faithfully. We can’t make meetings disappear, or even fun, but we can at least help you make them worthwhile.