Everyone knows meetings can be a drag. We've all been stuck in a meeting, eyes slowly drooping and mind empty, with no end in sight. It's not exactly when we're at our most productive. However, it's not meetings themselves that are the problem, it's the way they're run.
Running a meeting that is an effective use of time for everyone is hard. Making it engaging and relevant to everyone as well can seem impossible! However, you can follow these 11 steps to organise your next meeting so that both you and your guests will be more productive.
Before a meeting
1. Define your goals and objectives
Before starting any planning for your meeting, you need to know what your end goal is. Do you need to make an important decision? Have a brainstorming session? Maybe you need to report on results or train your team. Figuring out exactly what you want to get out of your meeting plays a huge role in how you will go about the planning process. Define this at the start and keep it in mind when going through the next 10 steps.
2. Decide on your guests
Deciding who needs to attend your meeting depends on your goals and objectives.
If you're running a decision-making session it's important for only key stakeholders to attend, as too many people can prevent a quick decision from being made.
On the other hand, there may be times where everyone needs to be a part of your meeting. This could include team training or company meetings. If this is the case, it is best to make your meeting as easy to join as possible. There's no need for everyone to attend at the same time - the session can be recorded and distributed to everyone who couldn't make it, greatly increasing the number of people who can "attend" your meeting. There are many meeting platforms that can be used to do this.
3. Choose your meeting platform
Next you will need to decide how you are going to hold your meeting. There are many meeting platforms you can choose from and your choice will rely on the end goal of your meeting.
If you’re reporting on weekly results for example, you may want a quick stand-up meeting. This type of meeting involves all participants standing together and listening to the report as well as potentially contributing. Holding a meeting in this way is time-efficient as people are less likely to talk for too long.
In the case of running a training session, there are two options. For a smaller number of people, an in-person training session could be suitable. However, for large groups who are potentially widely dispersed, an online training session may be more suitable. This online training session could take the form of a webinar and be recorded for those who can't attend. Allowing people to watch at a date and time that is suitable for them will ensure everyone can be trained.
Meetings that involve everyone at the company could be held in the same way. Alternatively you can hold multiple meetings so that everyone can attend, although this can be time-consuming.
A teleconference is a great option because it can be used for any type of meeting. If you require a visual element to your meeting, such as for sharing screens or documents, then combining a teleconference with a web conference is the ideal solution.
4. Create an agenda
An agenda allows you to keep your meeting on track. When creating your agenda there are a few things that should be included. These are:
- the guest list
- your goals and objectives
- each discussion point (if more than one)
- a plan of how your meeting will run
- an approximate time frame for each discussion point
- some space to write meeting notes
This is necessary no matter what kind of meetings you're holding. Writing a comprehensive guide or plan for your meeting will mean you are less likely to go off track and more likely to finish on time, which is key to having more productive meetings.
5. Create meeting collateral
Make sure you have everything you will need for the meeting ready. If you need reports, have them with you on your computer or print them out to share around. If you need your guests to read something before the meeting, distribute it beforehand via email with plenty of time for them to read it.
Create any presentation collateral you may need. This could include a PowerPoint presentation, graphics for your data or any handouts you'll need. Having these prepared long before your meeting will ensure a stress-free start and will help your meeting run more smoothly.
6. Invite guests and be clear about what is expected from them
Next, you'll need to send your guests a meeting invitation. You can simply send an email or use any online meeting tool that suits you.
When writing your invitation, be sure to include the time, date and other relevant details for the meeting. If you're holding a teleconference, be sure to include the codes and dial-in numbers your guests will need. If you're holding an in-person meeting, include the location of the meeting and directions to get there if required. If holding a web conference, make sure you include the link to the conferencing platform.
It is also important for you to include any materials that your guests will need for the meeting and information regarding any preparation they will need to do beforehand. If they need to read something, send it to them in the invitation and ask them specifically to read it. Give a time frame of how long it should take to read so they are more likely to follow through.
Be sure to let them know the goal of the meeting and what the expected outcome is. You want to make sure your guests know what is expected of them before, during and after the meeting.
During a meeting
7. Stay on topic and watch the clock
You’ve spent a lot of time creating your meeting agenda. Make sure you stick to it. Running overtime can seriously affect your productivity in a meeting. In decision-making meetings, not sticking to your agenda can mean you end up going around in circles rather than coming to a decision. Stick to your allocated time slots and your productivity will skyrocket.
8. Get input
Most meetings rely on the input of the attendees. To make the most of your meeting it is important to get input from your guests. Sometimes this is too easy and you may need to reign in your guests so that you can stay on track.
In other cases it may be harder. Try directing questions to quieter guests who haven't spoken as much. This way everyone will get a say and you will get more points of view, ultimately resulting in better decision-making.
After a meeting
9. Consolidate meeting notes
Make sure all the notes you’ve made during the meeting either on the whiteboard, in your notebook or on paper are combined in one document. Having all your notes in one place will be easier in the future when you inevitably need to refer back to something that was said in the meeting.
10. Distribute notes and action points (within 24 hours)
Follow up after the meeting by sending an email to your guests with the meeting notes and any action points to be completed. Making sure that everyone has a copy of the meeting notes means that everyone knows what is expected of them.
Emailing these notes through within 24 hours is also important. Waiting too long after a meeting will mean your guests are less likely to remember what happened in the meeting. While they won't have forgotten everything, they may have forgotten what relates to them and what their goals are.
11. Get feedback
An important part of meetings that is often overlooked is gathering feedback. Once a meeting is done and dusted, it is normal for everyone to just move on with their work. A great way to improve your meeting hosting skills is to ask for feedback from your guests. Honest feedback about how you went will help you improve on your next meeting.
Following these steps will help you organise a productive and efficient meeting that won't waste your time or anyone else's.