In a world where companies have no geographic boundaries, it is more and more important for managers to learn how to conduct effective meetings. Effective meetings must be based on a specific topic with precise goals and a clear agenda. Conducting an effective meeting is challenging for new managers who have to deal with increasing complexity in the working environment and diversity in managed teams. It takes a great deal of effort and investment of your time and energy to acquire this skill, but here are some effective meeting tips you must definitely follow to succeed. Pay attention to each action to take before the meeting, during the meeting, at the end and after the meeting.
Before the Meeting
- When deciding who invite to your meeting, invite the right people (fewer is better)
- Prepare the agenda for the meeting beforehand and share it with the participants. Ask them to suggest or add topics and items to the agenda.
- If you are meeting with new people, do your research. A 10 minute background search can change the result of the meeting.
- Try to understand who in your audience are going to be the leaders, and who is there to learn.
During the Meeting
- Do not be late, and finish on time. Respect your colleagues’ time, and they will respect yours!
- At the beginning of the meeting, briefly review the agenda
- At the beginning of the meeting, let people know if want them to express their ideas, and try to make sure that no views are left unexpressed
- Stick to the agenda and keep the participants focused on the main topic
- When introducing a new topic, be specific about it and about the goal
- Do not forget to always keep the general goal of the meeting in mind
- Get the difficult and most important topics discussed first, and dedicate the required time for each topic. Avoid rushing through the agenda!
- Have somebody in charge of taking notes for the meeting, the topics being discussed, the solutions found, and the conclusions reached in the meeting.
- Move on to the next topic in the agenda when you have a decision, an action item or a deadline.
- At the end of the meeting, summarize everything: repeat the goal, the decisions made, the next steps and the respective deadlines
- Be polite even when you have to express disagreement
- Take notes on your own and listen carefully to your colleagues
- Ask questions whenever you do not understand an important topic under discussion
- Understand the motivation of your colleagues, and assign them the tasks they are willing to take responsibility for
- Ask each participant what his or her future expectations are.
- If this is a regular meeting, try to set the next occurrence of the meeting, being mindful of the needs and deadlines of the other participants. This is likely to spread responsibility and encourage participation.
After the Meeting
- Send meeting notes as soon as possible and no later than 24 hours after the meeting. Try to avoid misunderstandings and have the notes sent to every participant.
- Follow up on the steps that you classified as “next steps” and keep the attendants constantly informed
- Reflect and assess whether you achieved the desired goal or not, and whether the desired participation level was reached
- Reflect on your body language, on your tone, and assess how gentle you were while dealing with each person who spoke
- Reflect on what you are going to improve in the next meeting, and what you would not like to repeat
- Reflect on each participant’s’ involvement in the meeting and define an action to improve in the next meeting
What tools can you use to manage meetings more effectively?
- You can use google calendar to send everyone an invitation to the meeting and to keep track of who is available and who is not
- You can use Evernote for sharing notes
- Google drive or google sheets can be used for other shared documents or artifacts
If you try to respect the effective meeting tips described above, you will definitely find yourself having fewer, shorter and more effective meetings. This will give your colleagues motivation to work more and to have better focus on what is being pursued together. They will also have the time to complete their work, meet your expectations and the defined deadlines. By respecting everyone’s needs and point of view, you will create a productive environment which everyone will benefit from.