Meetings can be a powerful tool for any organization, whether it's for brainstorming, decision-making, or simply sharing updates. However, poorly planned and executed meetings can be a significant waste of time and resources. In fact, according to a survey by Atlassian, the average employee spends approximately 31 hours per month in unproductive meetings.
To combat this problem, many successful business leaders have shared their tips for hosting effective meetings. For instance, Steve Jobs was a big advocate of keeping the headcount low in meetings, believing that a smaller group of people could achieve more in less time. On the other hand, Gary Vaynerchuk recommends cutting the expected meeting time in half to force participants to focus on essential topics.
Despite these great ideas, many meetings still fail to achieve their intended goals. Common meeting failures include starting late, lack of an agenda, dominating participants, and failing to follow up on action items.
In this article, we'll share seven tips for effective meetings that can help you avoid these common meeting fails and make the most of your time and resources. Whether you're a team leader, a manager, or an entrepreneur, these tips can help you run more productive and efficient meetings. So, let's dive in and learn how to make meetings work for you and your team.
Tip 1: Set a Clear Goal for an Effective Meeting
Starting a meeting without a clear purpose is like walking blindly into a maze - you'll likely end up lost and frustrated. So, to avoid aimlessly wandering around, begin by defining your objective.
What's the point of this gathering? Is it a creative brainstorming session within your team? A marketing pitch to colleagues? Or perhaps an update meeting with a client? By clarifying your goal, you'll be able to set the tone - formal or casual - and establish your criteria for success.
Keep it succinct, too - the objective should be easily summarized in just a few words. Remember, not all meetings are created equal, so don't treat them as such.
Hint: why do extra work when you don't have to? If there's a pre-existing template that suits the type of meeting you're having, use it! It could be a company-wide Google Slides template with pre-formatted headings and logos. And once you have the template in place, don't be afraid to surpass expectations and knock it out of the park!
Tip 2: Respect the Timeframe
When it comes to hosting a meeting, nothing can sap the energy from the room quite like waiting for the person in charge to arrive. It's a bad habit that many in positions of power fall into - but why? Is it because they're simply too busy? Or is there a small thrill in keeping everyone waiting, as if to say, "My time is more valuable than yours"?
Regardless of the reason, all that waiting is a waste of precious time - time that could be spent tackling important tasks. And when the boss is habitually late, it sends a message to the rest of the team that punctuality isn't a priority. On the other hand, if the boss makes it clear that meetings should start on time, everyone else will follow suit.
Starting on time is just one piece of the puzzle. It's equally important to end on time, too. Having a definitive end time will help keep things on track and ensure that you're able to cover everything on your agenda. Plus, it shows respect for everyone's schedules and allows them to get back to their work without delay.
Tip 3: Stick to the Meeting’s Agenda
"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail," says experts on how to host a meeting. This rings especially true for meetings, which can easily spiral out of control without a solid agenda in place. A handout, a whiteboard, or a verbal summary - whatever the format, the agenda should be communicated explicitly at the outset so that everyone is on the same page.
Sometimes unexpected topics or issues may arise during the meeting that wasn't on the original agenda. In these cases, it's important to assess whether the topic is critical to the meeting's objectives and, if so, to adjust the agenda accordingly.
Tip 4: Use the Time Wisely
Setting a start and end time and setting an agenda are the basics, but how do you stick to them and keep the meeting under control?
We've compiled all of our experience into a compact set of effective meeting tips to help you with timing:
Lay out timing expectations at the beginning of the meeting. Remind everyone of the time allocated for the meeting and the tasks to be accomplished. If some items require more time, communicate this to the group and plan accordingly.
Be assertive in enforcing timing agreements and shared space for comments. Gently remind participants of the time limit for discussions, and encourage them to keep their comments brief to allow for equal participation.
Give timing cues to keep everyone on track. Let the group know when they have a few minutes left to finish a discussion or make a decision. This will help everyone stay focused and engaged.
Discuss alterations to timing if needed. If the group needs more time to discuss a particular item, consider dropping another agenda item or finding other ways to make up for the lost time. It's important to be flexible while still sticking to the overall agenda.
Tip 5: Keep Things on Track as a Host a Meeting
To run effective meetings, a well-prepared leader is essential to steer the discussions toward the main objective. This is one of the must-have tips for effective meetings. The meeting host should plan the agenda and ensure that all attendees are familiar with it. They should encourage everyone to stick to the topics and allocate time limits, ensuring that each person has the opportunity to voice their opinions and that all views are respected.
Many teams fall into the trap of relying solely on the designated leader to ensure that team meetings run smoothly. However, even the most experienced leader cannot be solely responsible for everything needed to make a meeting productive. In high-performing teams, everyone shares responsibility for the team's success. As a team member, you should feel empowered to speak up if you notice that there is no clear goal or process for the meeting, you are uncertain of your role, or the team is drifting away from the meeting's objectives instead of silently criticizing the leader for inadequate meeting management.
Tip 6: Every Meeting Should Be Actionable
When a hosting meeting, don't let the momentum fizzle out. Dedicate the final moments to chart the next steps, determining responsibilities and deadlines. After all, there's no point in discussing at length if nothing comes of it.
Shellye Archambeau, CEO of MetricStream, a company that helps businesses adhere to compliance standards, concludes her meetings with an evocative question: "Who's got the ball?" This is reminiscent of a sport where, when the ball is in your court, you take the reins and control what happens next. It's a visual reminder of ownership and accountability to ensure that the plan is put into action.
If the meeting revolves around making a decision, don't let team members waver with indecision. Urge them to make a definitive call so that they can jump into action as soon as the meeting concludes. While a unanimous agreement may not be possible, teamwork involves trusting each other enough to support the final decision.
Consider the DACI method to assign roles- driver, approver, contributor, or informed, and ensure everyone's responsibilities are clear.
Chances are, your meeting will yield something valuable - an action plan, a list of ideas, a customer journey, or a set of next steps. You could share it via email or Google Docs for everyone to access easily.
Tip 7: Use Friendly Communication
When it comes to hosting a meeting, effective communication is key to ensuring everyone feels engaged and included. To make sure your communication is user-friendly, there are a few creative tactics you can employ.
Firstly, consider using storytelling to convey your message. People often remember stories more than facts and figures, so incorporating relevant anecdotes can help participants connect with your message on a deeper level.
Another creative strategy is to use visual aids, such as slides or diagrams, to enhance your presentation. This can help break up long periods of talking and keep participants engaged with the material. Just make sure the visuals are clear and easy to read.
It's also important to create a collaborative environment during the meeting. This can be achieved by asking for feedback and opinions and making sure everyone has a chance to speak. This will help participants feel valued and heard and encourage open and productive discussion.
When it comes to language, try to use language that is inclusive and avoids jargon or technical terms that might be unfamiliar to some participants. Use everyday language that is easy to follow along with, and avoid overly complex sentence structures.
By following these tips meeting, you can make your communication more user-friendly and help ensure that your meeting is a success.
Running Effective Meetings
You're dedicated to running an exceptional meeting hosting, and that's great! But remember that you don't have complete control over whether or not the meeting is successful. To get a good idea of how productive the meeting was, it's crucial to talk to the other attendees and get their input.
Some questions that would be useful to ask include:
- Did the meeting actually help the business in any way?
- Did we invite the right people? If not, who should we include or exclude next time?
- Was the purpose of the meeting clear?
- Did everyone feel like they could easily contribute to the discussion?
- For recurring meetings: Is the timing good? If not, what changes should we make?
Even if this was a one-time meeting, the feedback you receive will be extremely helpful in making future meetings even better.