Awesome Advice for Running Amazing Meetings
New and Better
No doubt you found this article because you were in search of new and better ways to manage business meetings. You may have a meeting coming up, and you want to make it better than last time. Maybe you are in charge of running it this time, or you’re new to the corporate world, and you’re looking for some free advice. Regardless of your situation (e.g., an “up and comer” or an old hack like me), this guide is guaranteed to give you at least one new insight to improve your meeting management skills.
Basic Functions of Meetings
There are two basic functions of meetings, namely information sharing and consensus building/decision making. Some people would add “team building” to that list, but in my view those events are, well, events. You may “tag on” a meeting to a team building event, but the two concepts are actually quite different in purpose. Also, you can have a “hybrid” meeting, where you both share information and make decisions, but remember that those are two different “modes” of interacting. And please, for everyone’s sake, don’t act like you are holding a meeting to make a decision when the decision has really already been made, and you are just making an announcement.
Tip #1: When In Doubt, Don’t Have One
Many of the information sharing meetings can easily be accomplished through other means, such as email, bulletins, newsletters, etc. If the only reason you are getting together in a meeting room is to make announcements, seriously consider some alternatives. Of course, if there might be a lot of questions, or the announcement is “sensitive,” then by all means order up the donuts and coffee and get to it.
Consensus building/decision making can be a bit more tricky, but much of the preliminary fact finding and such can be done outside of the meeting room. Save your precious meeting time for actual “work” on moving forward.
The best advice I can give is simply this: don’t have a meeting unless there is no other way to achieve your desired results. For example, if you normally schedule a staff meeting just to “update” each other on your project status, can you accomplish the same thing by putting an excel spreadsheet on a “shared” drive? The expectation is for everyone to update their status by a specific time on a specific day. Then the updated file can be sent out by email.
Tip #2: Never Hold a Meeting Without an Agenda
This is pretty much a hard and fast rule. In fact, agendas should be sent out in advance, so that participants can prepare, and bring the necessary files or information with them. And this agenda should also be time specific, with certain allotments for each topic. Microsoft Word has an assortment of templates for agendas, so there is no excuse not to prepare one ahead of the meeting. Don’t forget to leave time for introductions in the beginning, and a wrap-up of action items at the end.
If you find yourself at a meeting without a clear agenda, then raise your hand (if you are a participant) or stand up (if you are the leader), and make that the first thing you do. Post it on the white board or flip chart if available.
Tip #3: Communicate Expectations and Establish Meeting Ground Rules
This may sound a little bit like elementary school, but not everyone will “play nice” unless the expectations and ground rules have been clearly established. You might take it for granted that people should pay attention to whoever is speaking, but if that is not explicitly stated and reinforced, I guarantee you they will be checking email and running YouTube in the back of the room before the first PowerPoint presentation is halfway finished.
It’s an excellent idea to make writing the ground rules an agenda item. Start with a few basics, like pay attention to the presenter, and have participants add to your list. It only takes a few minutes, and it’s time well spent.
Tip #4: Help Meeting Participants Remain Focused
If you are the meeting organizer or presenter, your role is also to keep everyone in the room on point. This may require asking questions, or moving around the room and standing behind anyone who is drifting off or checking their smart phone.
Also, someone should be keeping a record of decisions made and questions asked that could not be answered. It’s the perfect role to assign to Sleepy in the back of the room.
Tip #5: Record Action Items with Dates
Unless you enjoy rehashing the same ground at every meeting, when action items are decided upon, they should be assigned to specific individuals with due dates. And then you (or the meeting organizer) needs to publish these items, and follow-up at the appropriate time.
Tip #6: Follow-up for Best Results
It’s all about the before, during, and after. Especially the “after.” Too many times, meetings are held, decisions are made, and participants go their separate ways. The meeting notes are filed away, and nothing happens. Then another meeting is held, only to find out that the action items have slipped.
You need to establish a method of reporting back to the meeting group concerning the status of your action items. Hold each other accoutable. In a nice, supportive, and productive way of course. You will be glad you did.
That’s it. Just six quick tips for improving your meeting management. No rocket science, just practical information. If you have any great tips or additional thoughts you’d like to share, please do so in the comments.