Raise your hand if you’ve ever attended a meeting. Now raise your hand if that meeting was unproductive. Chances are, your hand is in the air, right?
Unfortunately, many of us have attended or even held our fair share of unproductive meetings. The good news is, there are steps you can take to ensure that doesn’t happen again. When planning your next meeting, follow these helpful tips:
1. Rethink the Meeting
“On a scale of one to 10, how necessary is this meeting?” That should be the first question you ask yourself before even scheduling a meeting. If your answer isn’t “10, this meeting is completely necessary,” you should rethink it.
What exactly are you trying to accomplish? If you don’t have a specific goal, your meeting won’t be productive. So take a minute to figure out what you want to achieve. Then determine whether the meeting is actually a good way to meet that goal.
More often than not, a meeting is scheduled without considering whether it’s the most effective means of accomplishing an objective. For example, let’s say you want feedback on a new company initiative. Sending an anonymous employee questionnaire will likely yield better results than holding a meeting.
2. Create a Meeting Agenda
If you’ve determined a meeting is required, then the next step is ensuring it remains focused. Meeting agendas are a necessity for keeping meetings organized and productive. They help set expectations for all those attending. Be sure to share the agenda with invitees so they’ll have time to review it and ask any questions beforehand.
Creating an effective meeting agenda is essential, and meeting agenda templates make it easy. These templates typically include introductions, an overview of what the meeting will entail, and the goal/potential action items, but they vary with the type of meeting you’re holding. Using a template will enable you to create a detailed outline to ensure your meeting stays on track.
According to research, having an agenda can streamline meetings and reduce the time spent in them up to 80%. So while creating a meeting agenda takes some effort, it’s worth it in the long run.
3. Invite the Right People
Remember when we asked you to rethink whether a meeting is necessary? Well, you should also rethink whether you’re inviting the right people.
For a meeting to be effective, you want to limit the number of people in attendance. “The more the merrier” doesn’t apply here. In fact, just the opposite is true. The fewer people you have, the less likely you are to get off-topic. So make a list of everyone you need to attend this meeting and invite only them.
Not that you shouldn’t keep other interested parties informed. To do this, you can always share a summary of the meeting with other teammates who didn’t attend.
4. Assign Responsibilities
To keep everyone engaged during the meeting, consider giving them a role. Not only will this make them more likely to pay attention, but it’ll help your meeting run smoothly from beginning to end.
Start by identifying a facilitator. As the meeting’s host, this may be you, but you can designate another person to lead the meeting if you wish. You should also have a designated note-taker who writes down the main talking points and records the action items. If your meetings are known to run long, consider assigning a timekeeper as well.
5. Be Mindful About Time
Speaking of time, studies have shown that people are more productive during short meetings. Unfortunately, too few people consider this when they schedule meetings. According to a 2016 research review conducted by former marketing consultant Daniel Russell, 64% of meetings last over an hour. Russell also found that almost 40% of meetings go over 90 minutes.
It’s no wonder meetings aren’t always effective — they are simply too long. There’s a reason TED Talks are capped at 18 minutes; if they go any longer, people lose interest.
With that principle in mind, be mindful of the length of your meetings. For example, instead of scheduling an hour-long meeting on Monday, schedule two 30-minute meetings throughout the week. By keeping your meetings short, you increase the likelihood that your meetings will be productive.
6. Acknowledge Attendees but Stay on Message
Productive meetings start with a goal. But as more people join and start talking, it’s all too easy for meetings to go off-topic. Thankfully, there are ways to keep meetings on track but still give attendees the opportunity to share their thoughts.
If you’re meeting in person, use a whiteboard or flip chart to record ancillary questions you don’t have time to address in the moment. Assure questioners that you will follow up with them later, or add those discussion items to the next meeting’s agenda.
If you’re meeting virtually, take advantage of the messaging feature in videoconferencing apps like Zoom or Google Hangouts. Attendees can share their ideas, ask questions, and more during the meeting without interrupting the flow.
7. Send a Meeting Recap
After your meeting is over, make sure you send a recap to those who attended. This might seem like a small thing, but it’s a very important step in the process. Sending a meeting summary reminds attendees of what was discussed and holds them accountable for their action items. As mentioned above, you can also share this document with those who didn’t attend but would find the information useful.
To create your meeting synopsis, you can distill the notes taken by your designated note-taker. Or you can use a note-taking platform to record your meeting and distribute the transcript seamlessly. Regardless of which method you choose, follow up each meeting with a clean and easy-to-understand recap that will reinforce what was discussed.
Productive meetings don’t just happen — they take planning. You have to determine your goal, whether the meeting is even necessary, and who should attend. Once you have those things figured out, you need to make sure you’re organizing your meeting in a way that will drive productivity. The tips outlined here will help you do just that.