I have attended hundreds of meetings and I guess you did the same. I’m not trying to hide the fact that very often I felt I’m losing my time…
So I spent some time thinking about what are the factors that increase the chances of having an effective meeting. Are there any rules for effective meetings? There are lots of tips on how to run effective meetings, that enable better decision making. However, I believe that there are only a few elements that are really key.
Effective Meetings Rules
I’m sharing with you below 7 ways to really make a difference in terms of driving up the effectiveness of your meetings.
1. Is A Meeting the Right Tool to Use in This Particular Situation? You need to view meetings as tools. They can be very effective, if used well, in the right circumstances. At the same time, they may be totally useless in other situations. Think for example about trying to fix a broken window with a hummer. This is obviously not the best tool to use, given the situation. Yet, people use meetings all the time when this is not the best option. So whenever you plan to run or attend a meeting, ask yourself if this is the best option to push something further.
2. Use an Agenda Effectively. First of all, there should be a clear agenda, that is ideally shared well in advance with the participants. So what does it mean to use the agenda well? First, the agenda should reflect the objective of the meeting. While there may be several objectives, the fewer the better. Secondly, especially when shared in due time, it allows participants to prepare well for the meeting. Finally, this is the best friend of the Chair, as it helps keep the discussions actionable and to the point.
3. Avoid the Top 3 Biggest Moderation Mistakes. There are a few patterns that plague almost all ineffective meetings.
- Unfocused discussions is a top one. Ten minutes into the meeting and the specific points on the agenda are a distant memory. The Chair has to bring participants on-track. Even if you are just participating, it’s a good idea to ask everybody to focus on the points stated in the agenda.
- The second biggest mistake is turning the meeting into a battlefield. People start fighting and blaming each other. This does little to solve the problem. Try to focus everybody’s attention and energy on finding constructive solutions to move things forward.
- Finally, avoid lack of clarity in the meeting’s outcome. The end point needs to be clear from the start and the whole meeting must push towards that.
4. Capture the Minutes. Discussions happen really fast during a meeting. You may be surprised to find out that not everybody has the same understanding of what has been discussed and agreed. Then, people tend to forget, which is normal. So, there should be someone who is responsible with taking and sharing the minutes. If this is not feasible, a minimum is to summarize at the end all the important conclusions and next steps.
5. Align Crystal-Clear Next Steps. This part of running effective meetings is crucial. It’s true that most meetings end with a summary, but this is not enough. You need to make sure that the next steps are absolutely crystal-clear and that there is a clear owner assigned for each action to take. The summary should not sound like a description, but it should be a collection of action points. State clearly what needs to be done, by when and by whom.
6. Establish Checking Points in the Future. Having a clear next steps plan is all good in theory, but in order for something to move forward, the agreed actions need to also happen. Assign an owner responsible with the overall follow-up. Or agree on the date of the next meeting, in which to review the status and adjust the plan.
You can go into much more depth for each of the points above. However, if you just follow these effective meetings tips, I’m sure you’ll get significantly more of your meetings.
Choose your meetings well! Take off your agenda all the meetings you don’t need to be part of.
When you chair a meeting, you have more control over how the meeting is run. So make sure you put those effective meetings rules into action.
Even if you are not the Chair, you can also influence a lot the way the meeting is run. So take the initiative and push as much as possible for having an effective meeting.
Photo: Amanda Schults