The Secret to Productive Meetings
Whether you're employed, a freelancer or run a small business, meetings both online and in person are a part of most people's professional lives. But let's be honest some meetings can be boring, stressful, time-consuming and worse still some don't serve biscuits!
So how do you make sure that your next meeting is productive instead of painful? Read this blog post, where I provide my top tips from my years of attending, organising and running meetings.
Make sure you have the right people in the room.
Once you have established that you really need a meeting, the next step is make sure you have the right people in your meeting so that you can solve, achieve etc what the meeting sets out to do. Don't waste people's time because it's "nice" to have them there. Having people in a meeting where they don't understand what you're talking about means they feel left out and unable to contribute their thoughts effectively which isn't constructive for anyone.
Have an agenda and stick to it!
From my experience creating an agenda is the key to a productive meeting that finishes on time! It's also important to create the agenda beforehand and circulate to those attending so they can prepare or add to it. I like to circulate it with the meeting invite.
For some meetings it might be appropriate to have a single goal or meeting purpose statement that can be included at the top of the agenda. Agendas can be formal (eg a board meeting) with detailed descriptions for each agenda item or informal where it's a list of topics. An agenda doesn't have to have a set format but it is important to have timings against agenda items, as this helps the chair progress the meeting so that all items are covered in the time allotted. There's loads of agenda templates online, just "Google" it.
Who's doing what?
It's generally a good idea to have someone chairing the meeting and another person taking notes (minutes). Again, minutes can be formal (board minutes) or quite informal in their layout. It's about what works best for the team and the type of meeting. But generally, all meetings have:
Welcome, apologies and introductions
actions from the previous meeting
summary of the discussion against each agenda item
actions and who is assigned to do each action with dates if applicable
Make a shared folder available
If I need to share a number of documents before the meeting I will create a folder in OneDrive or Google Drive that contains all the paperwork, agenda, minutes from the previous meeting etc and send a link to the folder, ensuring the documents are read only. If you need to update any of the documents this also means that people have access to the most updated version via the folder.
For some meetings whiteboards or flip-boards are useful. The same principle applies online. Google Meet, Teams and Zoom all have online whiteboard features which allow participates to contribute and share ideas during the meeting.
Be specific about what each attendee needs to do before the meeting
I know this seems obvious, but it's worth repeating; before the meeting, be sure that everyone knows what, if any, preparation (e.g. reading a document) is required for the meeting. You don't want to waste your time reviewing something in a meeting if this can be done beforehand.
Also make sure that each attendee knows what they need to do if they are running late or unable to make it at all.
After the meeting...
In the olden days people used to hand write minutes (in shorthand) and then type them up the following day. This effectively means twice the time spent on minutes! What a total waste of time and as we now have laptops this practice is redundant. Typing minutes during the meeting ensures that all the information is captured there and then, and you can ask for clarification if something isn't clear. This also means that you can send out the minutes almost as soon as the meeting is over.
You then need to send the minutes out (asap) to everyone who attended, apologized or would be interested in viewing the minutes (obviously ensure they are permitted to view the minutes). This is a really simple way to make sure that everyone who participated in the meeting understands all the action items and what has been assigned to them. If necessary make it clear who people can feedback to if they have any questions.
Effective meetings can be productive, idea-generating, problem-solving sessions and I hope this article has given you some ideas on how to make meetings whether online or in person more productive.
When you know how, running productive meetings is easy. The key is to take a few extra minutes planning and preparing the meeting, ensuring good communication before during and after, documenting actions and sticking to that agenda!
And don't forget biscuits. Custard creams are underrated in my humble opinion.