We set up meetings hoping to achieve a certain objective, but sometimes in practice we don’t cover everything that we intend to when meeting with either colleagues or clients.
If we don’t set an agenda or have a clear goal in mind, we can often get caught up in off-topic conversation with an interesting client or get distracted by day-to-day issues.
To make the most of meetings, whether you’re using VoIP software or having a face-to-face meeting in a boardroom, follow my five tips for organising and executing effective meetings:
1. Set a Clear Agenda
As most people are cramming in as many tasks into a day as possible and stressed about getting everything done, it’s important to be clear about what is going to be discussed in a meeting to avoid wasting anyone’s time. While this can be done in different ways, it’s essential to make a point of clarifying what is going to be discussed, even if it’s done via email and not always a formal agenda document. This can even include a quick Skype chat message or meeting request to confirm a date, time and a short one-line summary.
2. Select Your Attendees Carefully
While it might seem productive to include everyone on your team in the same meeting, sometimes it’s more effective to have shorter meetings with less people, more often. In the past face-to-face status meetings were essential to keep everyone in the loop, but with email and an increase in the use of collaborative software, it’s no longer essential to have meetings. Including the right people in a meeting will lead to greater productivity as tasks can be actioned out effectively and no one loses valuable time working on other tasks.
3. Set Clear Timelines
Whilst it can be great to thrash out ideas and brainstorm with colleagues or clients in a meeting, and strides can be made in a short space of time, it’s important to be aware of how much time you want to spend discussing certain topic. With a clear agenda in place it’s also important to know how long the meeting is going to be, and if several topics need to be addressed, a rough time limit set for each. Although this might not always work out perfectly in practice, having timelines to work on and keeping to these limits as best you can will avoid straying off-topic and wasting time.
4. Agree on Outcomes and Actions
Meetings and talking face to face can be the best way to clarify issues and discuss any red flags, but a meeting is only as good as its outcome. It might feel great to air issues and get to grips with certain challenges while talking face-to-face, but if the solutions reached in a meeting aren’t communicated to the rest of the company or put into practice, meetings can be a frustrating exercise in futility. Before wrapping up a meeting, it’s essential to delegate tasks, set up a follow-up meeting if necessary and monitor progress.
5. Follow Up With Minutes
It’s as essential to keep track of what is said in a meeting as to have a clear agenda, as ideas and solutions can easily be forgotten, or the details can become less clear later when people have time to follow up. It can be difficult to summarise long meetings, but assigning one person to take down the most important points and communicating them to attendees afterwards can be very helpful when following up on tasks and reviewing progress.