Have you been to a meeting where nothing seemed to get done, it took more time than expected, and everyone still left with a different idea of what was happening next?
No one likes to go to meetings that are unproductive. But meetings are an important part of keeping a team– and a company– functioning well. Here are 4 principles you can use to make meetings work for you instead of causing headaches.
Ask Yourself if the Meeting is Necessary
Really ask yourself, “Do we need to have this meeting?” In general, meetings shouldn’t be used to give status updates or convey information. Instead, they should be used for discussion and decision-making.
Use this simple rule of thumb: if you can replace the meeting with an email or video, then you can probably safely cancel the meeting.
Decide and Communicate Goals Beforehand
Once you’ve determined that a meeting is absolutely necessary, write down your goals and desired outcomes for the meeting.
What do you hope to accomplish? What key decisions need to be made? Are there any team or individual achievements you want to recognize?
Establish these goals and communicate them to the team before the meeting. It helps you identify the most important items to put on the agenda and keeps your team on the same page so they can help keep things on track to accomplish the meeting’s objectives.
Have an agenda
Speaking of agendas: always have one. Agendas serve as a roadmap for the meeting so the discussion doesn’t dissolve into tangents or meandering answers that cause it to end late.
Put the most important agenda items first to ensure they are addressed even if some discussion topics have to be left out.
Assign Time to Agenda Items
Assign time to each agenda item so you can stay on track. Some items may warrant fifteen minutes of explanation and discussion while others only require five minutes. This also helps indicate priority to your team: there’s no need to spend a full hour choosing which appetizers to serve at the Friday retreat when more pressing decisions are on the table.
Assigning an amount of time to agenda items also helps keep it realistic. If you have twenty 10-minute topics to discuss in a one-hour meeting– 200 minutes of discussion– you know that either a longer meeting will be needed or some items will have to be tabled for a later discussion.
Meetings rarely go as planned. Some agenda items may take longer to resolve than expected. It’s fine to spend more time on a topic, but understand that means that another topic will have to be shortened or skipped as a result.
Make Sure Next Steps Are Clear
Before the meeting ends, everyone should know what the next steps are. Who is doing what, and by when?
Take some time to recap each person’s next action items, as well as decisions that were made, to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.
The Bottom Line
Meetings are a necessary part of the business world, whether with teams, clients, potential partners, or other stakeholders. By following these steps, you can make sure every meeting is moving you closer to your business goals rather than taking time away from them.
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