Meetings are often a source of contention in the workplace. Have too few meetings and people feel disconnected. Have too many meetings and people feel that their work is being interrupted. Meetings that are too short might not accomplish enough, while those that are too long lose people’s attention. With some planning and preparation, you can easily turn your meetings into a productive, pleasant experience. Your attendees will come away feeling good and looking forward to the next one.
Define the goal
Meetings take time out of everyone’s day so make sure everyone knows the point of getting together. That way, they aren’t left wondering what the purpose of the meeting is, and they’ll feel more prepared when everyone gets together. Defining the goal can also help you stay on track, meaning you’ll be more efficient at getting things done.
Choose participants with diverse perspectives
The purpose of a meeting is to get everyone on the same page. But it’s also an effective way for you to quickly learn things that you may not have considered about the project. Have a good mix of different voices at the table to get the most out of everyone’s time.
Before inviting a person to the meeting, ask if it’s absolutely necessary they attend. This isn’t to exclude people, it’s to protect their time. If their expertise or role doesn’t match the topics being discussed, don’t invite them. They’ll value meetings much more if they’re only included in sessions that their insights would be useful for.
Create an agenda and send calendar invites
This may seem basic, but it can’t be stressed enough. Lay out the timeline for your meeting, break down how long you’ll spend on each topic – and then stick to it! Keep people on track by allotting a certain amount of time for discussion and stepping in if the talk gets unfocused.
Send out the agenda to your attendees in a calendar invite. This lets everyone know how the meeting will go, and gives you a chance to see who will be there. It also gives them the opportunity to decline to attend if they see that their presence isn’t necessary based on the agenda.
Define roles and leaders
One of the quickest ways you can lose attention is if someone doesn’t understand why they’re there. Make sure that everyone knows why they’re part of the meeting, and what their role is on the team.
Create a safe collaboration space
This looks different across businesses, but everyone has to feel comfortable enough to contribute. Start the meeting with some ground rules. This helps everyone understand how and when to jump in, and ensures that you won’t have a few attendees dominating the conversation.
Never use a meeting to publicly blame or shame. Use positive reinforcement to showcase achievements. Don’t use the opportunity to highlight shortcomings.
Additionally, make sure the room is physically comfortable. Good lighting and airflow, as well as refreshments, go a long way to put people at ease.
Finally, ask for feedback. This shows your group that the meeting is a two-way street. Your goal is collaboration and team improvement.
Only have meetings that are necessary
We’ve all seen the memes. The last thing you want to hear as your attendees leave the meeting are whispers of “could’ve been an email” as they roll their eyes. If the purpose of your meeting is to download information, save everyone the trouble – just send an email!
A meeting is an opportunity to exchange ideas and information quickly among a group. It’s about the perspectives you’re bringing together and the importance of those perspectives being shared with everyone at the same time. If something could be shared in another manner, use that. Save meetings for topics and issues that are important.
Engage equally to ensure participation
With hybrid work here to stay, many attendees will be joining virtually. It’s a tricky balance, but make sure you’re engaging with both groups.
Additionally, don’t assume that because someone is quiet they have nothing to share. They might be hesitant to speak up or not want to interrupt anyone. Before you move on from a topic, address participants individually and ask if they have any thoughts they’d like to share or questions to ask.
End with clear actions, owners, and timelines
Don’t let anybody leave questioning the point of the meeting or what they’re supposed to do next. Give everyone a sense of purpose and direction, and clear due dates for their tasks.
There’s a lot to consider when planning and running a meeting, but with a bit of preparation you can make it a worthwhile exercise that attendees truly value. It’s nice to get together face-to-face, especially if everyone feels included and like it was a good use of time. A chance for a coffee and a chat with colleagues doesn’t hurt either.