Managing effective meetings is often seen as a sign of leadership. When you’re seen as someone who can effectively move a group of people through topics of discussion and create actionable outcomes, it can help propel your career forward.
Even if you don’t necessarily want to take on more leadership roles, being seen as someone who can manage a meeting often puts you in a position to take on more of the projects that interest you and be seen as a reliable co-worker.
Whatever your purpose or drive, here are 10 tips to start implementing in your meetings this week.
- Determine and communicate the purpose and objectives of meetings beforehand. Nothing is worse than showing up to a meeting and not knowing what you’re set to discuss. When you do not communicate the purpose and objectives beforehand, your attendees cannot come prepared, thus resulting in an unproductive meeting. Make sure you note what the meeting is for and that this is clearly communicated and documented. We recommend doing this in the event invite so everyone can reference it before clicking accept.
- Set an agenda and hold your team to it. The best way to keep the meeting on track and effective is to have a set agenda given to your attendees before the meeting. This provides a cadence for the meeting and helps you stay within your allocated time. A best practice is to set aside the slot of time in the meeting you need to discuss each topic, as this will help you move along to the next topic in a timely fashion. If topics start to run over, this is an indicator you may require a follow-up meeting to bring the discussion to completion.
- Make sure you have a facilitator and a notetaker. Know who is responsible for keeping the attendees on task and who is taking the notes. This is not always the person setting up the meeting; sometimes it is your boss or someone else on your team. When you clearly define these roles ahead of time, it makes sure what needs to get done, gets done, and everyone knows who to point to in order to move the discussion forward.
- Be respectful of attendees’ time by staying on time. Avoid forcing your attendees to be late to their next meeting because yours ran over. When you end your meetings on time (or early!), you help attendees build trust in you and a willingness to show up to your meetings ready to work. Come to your meeting reminding everyone we will work through the agenda but end the meeting at a set time. It will set the precedent. Plan your agenda with the time it is going to take to discuss each topic in mind. Don’t be afraid to ask people to move on, or jump in and let the group know this continued discussion is necessary, but that means a follow up meeting will be set to finish the agenda.
- Be transparent about in-person and remote expectations of the meeting. In our remote-capable world, sometimes your company may still prefer when people are in-person for specific discussions and meetings to take place. This is okay, but you need to communicate expectations beforehand. Book conference rooms or enable a remote meeting in the agenda, make sure you clearly communicate when it is okay for people to join remotely, whether they are at home or in the office.
- Set an example of technology that should be avoided in the meeting. Don’t you hate it when you’re hosting a meeting, and someone is on their phone? Have you perhaps done the same thing? Set the precedence up front. Ask people to keep technology at bay or avoid multi-tasking so you can keep the meeting tight and on time. Then, when you go to meetings, set the same example you expect of your attendees by practicing it yourself.
- Create an environment where participants feel they can express their opinions and concerns. Make sure it is known in your meetings what is open for discussion, then listen. When you listen with the intent to understand versus the intent to respond, you help cultivate an environment where people feel they can openly express their opinions, objections, or concerns. This will lead to effective meetings with outcomes that push you and your company forward.
- When things get off agenda, get it back on track by creating parking lot topics. It’s natural for topics discussed to take a different road irrelevant to the meeting. Interject by recommending taking the topics offline. Then, create a “parking lot” list. This is your hypothetical lot for parking topics for later discussion. By noting it, you will make attendees feel comfortable that things important to them, while not relevant in the moment, still matter and will be addressed at a later date.
- End the meeting with a review of action items and who is responsible for them, setting expectations for next steps. Every meeting should end with a simple, quick recount of action items and who is responsible for completing them. Then, set next step expectations. Do you require everyone to meet again? If so, what should they have completed before then? Do you expect people to follow up via email? Either way, make sure it is clear before everyone leaves the room or clicks “end call” that they know what they are expected to do. If you have outstanding items to discuss, note them and how they will be addressed.
- Send a follow up email by the end of the day after the meeting to ensure alignment and document outcomes. Take everything you did in Tip 9 and put it into an email. When you document what came out of the meeting and what is expected, it helps provide clear directions and note follow-ups. This email puts everyone on the same page and leaves no room for confusion, or brings it out into the open.
BONUS: Don’t host meetings that could have been an email.
Have you ever been victimized by a meeting that very well could have been an email or chat discussion? Yeah, us too. If your meeting is to provide updates requiring no discussion or input, send an email and save everyone time. You’ll be appreciated as someone who respects and values your coworkers’ time.