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How to Make Meetings More Effective

Wikipedia defines the word ‘meeting’ as: a gathering of two or more people, convened for the purpose of achieving a common goal through verbal interaction, such as sharing information or reaching agreement.

However sometimes this is easier said than done. Without inviting the right people, having a structured agenda and holding people accountable, meetings can quickly become unproductive. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are eight tips to help you run effective and productive meetings.

1. Question why you need a meeting.

Before scheduling a meeting, take a step back and assess if there is another way to communicate your information.  Could you send an email round to inform the team of what is happening? Could you pick up the phone or pop into someone’s office to tell them a plan, instead of calling everyone together at the same time?

2. Choose who you invite carefully.

Good business is about being inclusive, but if you have team meetings with attendees who rarely speak, ask yourself if they really need to be there, of if they could be more productive doing something else.  The fewer people who attend the quicker decisions can be made. After the meeting you can then send a note to all staff, or relevant employees, about the decisions that have been made. 

3. Create an agenda and stick to it.

When inviting people to the meeting, outline clearly what the objectives are and what you expect of them.  By structuring the meeting with an agenda people will attend with a clear understanding of what will be discussed and come away with a clear understanding of the decisions that were made.  They also make it easier to keep the meeting on track and avoid issues that are not on the agenda. 

4. Single out latecomers.

Have a team member who is persistently late? No doubt they disrupt the flow of the meeting, asking what has happened and making lots of noise.  So why not create a rule that highlights what they are doing and encourages them to modify their behaviour. You do not have to humiliate them; simply make rules like the last one to a meeting is responsible for taking notes or for getting the group coffee.  

5. Discus in order of importance.

When creating your agenda, allocate the discussion points in order of importance.  This will mean if people need to escape early or if the meeting overruns, the important discussions and decisions have been completed.

6. Ban Distractions.

Yes it’s great that we can check our email in a meeting, but do we really need to? Smart phones are one of the greatest distractions in meetings, whether it’s email, phone calls or an “oh, I’ll just look that up” Google search, they all cause the meeting to become disjointed and take longer.  So ban them.

And it’s not just electronics that cause distractions.  Food can to.  A rustling chip bag, the crunch of an apple, sharing a packet of M&M’s around the table.  It all takes unnecessary attention away from the discussion points and lengthens a meeting.

7. Shake it up: Hold your meeting standing up

Take note of what the Japanese do: hold your meeting standing up.  Known for their efficiency, they have been doing it for years, so why not follow suit.  If you have a quick decision to be made, gather your team and try it out. 

8. Close a meeting properly.

At the end of the meeting summarize the decisions that have been made, the points that need to be actioned and by who, and if applicable, when the next meeting will be.  Also consider sending a summary email at the end of the meeting detailing those points.  It does not have to be formal; it just needs to hold people accountable.

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