Meetings are crucial for ideas to bounce and for plans and strategies to be developed. However, meetings can also take a significant amount of time out of your individual working days so it is crucial that your meetings are run efficiently and productively. In this article we explain how to run effective meetings in 5 steps.
- Have an agenda
The simplest and most effective way to ensure that your meetings have purpose is to set a meeting agenda: what are you hoping to accomplish in meeting with these people and what do you want from them?
You should circulate the meeting’s agenda prior to the scheduled time so that those attending can think of comments and suggestions and how to articulate these in a productive way before the meeting has started.
Once starting a meeting, even though everyone else might be aware of what will be discussed, it is helpful to recap this at the beginning of the meeting (unless of course it is your regular team meeting and everyone is aware of its structure). When starting a meeting, you will want to:
- Remind everyone of the purpose of the meeting;
- Present a structure for the meeting, such as when and how you will require input from the team, and
- Set a goal for the end of the meeting.
Whilst you set up and circulate a meeting agenda you also want to ensure that you are prepared to address the agenda. You will want to ensure that you have formalised your views and that you have considered how other people might approach the problem or respond to the agenda. In your preparation you will also want to make sure that you have prepared any materials that might be helpful for your team. This might include summaries of your own views, further information on the topic that might help your team understand better or simply a summary of your current situation and what you hope to achieve.
- Set a timeframe
When organising meetings it is important that you set a timeframe. You should, as best as practicable, set a policy of sticking to scheduled meeting times to ensure that the time scheduled for a meeting is used productively. However, to have an effective meeting you need to ensure that you have set timescales within meetings, not just for meetings. You want to outline a general structure for the meeting and how long you intend to discuss each part. The length of the meeting and its parts will depend on the type of meeting you are conducting. For example, a decision-making meeting or strategy meeting is likely to be considerably longer than a retrospective meeting or brainstorming session.
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4. Actively listen
Once you have put the structures and preparations in place for an effective meeting the most important thing you can do is encourage the team to actively listen to what is being said. We might often find ourselves present in a meeting but not engaged in them, perhaps because they are too long or because we don’t feel like we have to. To ensure that you and your team are engaged it is important to ask questions and pause for comments throughout the meeting. Having a meeting agenda also helps employees remain engaged in the meeting and setting a tight time frame ensures that employees will not feel as though their time could be used more productively by thinking about other things.
Finally, all effective meetings end with a set of objectives: what have you achieved in the meeting and what now needs to be done? In the final minutes of the meeting you should provide answers to these two questions. You firstly want to recap what has been discussed- knowing that you will be summarising your team’s contributions will also help you actively listen to their feedback. After this, you want to consider what ‘next steps’ are required, by whom and when. As best as possible you should have allocated work between the team where relevant and given an indication of deadlines that you all agree are practical.
Having laid the groundwork in your meeting, your team can now work confidently and efficiently on what needs to be done. At the end of your meeting it is important that you motivate your team to complete their tasks to the best of their abilities so that you can collectively move on to the next project (and the next meetings!).
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The opinions on this page are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice on which you should rely.