Meetings are an invaluable tool for communicating objectives, goals, and agendas with other employees, but they can quickly become an unproductive waste of time. If you’ve ever felt like your meeting failed to produce the desired results, you’re not alone.
If you don’t walk into a meeting with the right attitude or perspective, then your tactics usually won’t work, notes Paul Axtell in his AudioSolutionz webinar, “Meetings: From Ordinary to Extraordinary.” And if you don’t know where to put your attention, you won’t know which critical variables you should notice.
Start Your Meeting With Success
You set the tone of your meeting from the very moment you walk in the door. “If you want to have a more productive meeting, focus on a strong opening,” states a Harvard Business Review article on the right way to kick off a meeting. “A good start to a meeting is like an overture: It sets the tone, introduces the major themes, and provides a preview of what you can expect.”
So start with some good talking points, suggests Robin Camarote of Work Life Lab. “A good set of introductory talking points include the meeting’s purpose and your role as the host or facilitator, perspective on the challenge, support of the organization’s leadership, and any logistics,” states Camarote. Some of Camarote’s talking points suggestions include:
- Thanking attendees for coming to the meeting.
- Explaining clearly why you’re all gathering for the meeting.
- Presenting your role as facilitator and what you expect or anticipate from participants.
- Logistics of the meeting including where the restrooms are, when you’ll take scheduled breaks, and any requests for attendees such as refraining from cell phone use.
5 Tips For Productive Meetings
A strong opening is vital to meeting success, but don’t overlook the many details necessary to plan, coordinate, and implement your meeting. Use these five tips to maximize your meeting productivity:
- Be selective with invites. Don’t feel obligated to invite a whole team if you only need specific employees present. “It’s common for people to be invited to a meeting even if they have little or no stake in the outcome, often as a courtesy or out of habit,” notes a QuickBooks guide to hosting productive meetings “Restrict attendance to employees whose participation will likely generate results.”
- Educate attendees before the meeting. Distribute educational handouts prior to the meeting. When attendees are given packets of information to disseminate during a meeting, it creates the likelihood that the speaker will be ignored while attendees thumb through the documents, advises Herb Cannon in an AEC Management Solutions
- Create an agenda. Use your agenda to stay on track during your meeting. “Agendas should include step-by-step details for the meeting – including specifying the time for questions,” states Heather R. Huhman in a meeting productivity article for Entrepreneur. Allot blocks of time for each item and adhere to it tightly. “Skipping an item on the agenda is OK; adding to the agenda during the meeting is not,” Huhman notes.
- Keep everyone on topic. While it’s tempting to use meeting time to socialize, your meeting will be more productive when you remain focused to your agenda. “When conversations drift off topic, the leader must steer the team back to the agenda items,” states a Chron article on meeting etiquette. “Meeting facilitators should keep an eye on the time allotted for each agenda topic, summarize the conversation and move on to the next item on the list.”
- Don’t be afraid to terminate meetings. Evaluate your regularly scheduled team and division meetings for usefulness. “Every 3 months or so review your standing meetings with a critical eye towards reducing the frequency of meeting, reducing the number of attendees or eliminating the meeting altogether,” suggests AEC Management Solutions. Hosting unnecessary meetings is costly, too. “To calculate the precise cost, multiply the hourly wage of each person present by the length of the gathering,” explains another Entrepreneur article on the topic. “If your objective can be met through e-mail, conference call, Skype, or even a quick one-on-one discussion, skip the meeting altogether,” the article suggests.
Gain Mastery Over Your Meetings
Facilitating a meeting requires many skills, including knowing how to influence a group, respect the time and talent in the room, and ensure that everyone completes the agreed-upon action items before the next meeting.
It’s imperative that you know exactly where to put your attention and what to look for to make meeting conversations more effective, affirms industry expert Paul Axtell. In his webinar “Meetings: From Ordinary to Extraordinary,” Axtel explains how to get the most out of each participant in a meeting, and he provides 26 powerful ideas to help you practice, learn, and gain mastery over your meetings.