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How To Run Effective Meetings

What are the meetings like in your business? Do your team complain of too many and ineffective meetings? The number of meetings and poorly run meetings can negatively impact the productivity and communication of everyone in the business.

An effective meeting brings a selected group of people together for a specific purpose, provides a forum for open discussion, and delivers a tangible result which is then shared with others whose work may be impacted. The tangible result may be a decision, a plan, a list of ideas to pursue or a shared understanding of the work ahead.

So what do you need to do to run an effective meeting?

Here are some tips to help you to run effective meetings:

Understand if the meeting is essential. Meetings include a number of different people and can have a significant cost to a business, as time is money. Therefore, really consider whether you need to actually arrange a meeting. Ask yourself if your goals can be accomplished more easily with an email or a phone call.

Identify the objectives of the meeting. The first step to a good meeting is defining the meeting objective, the ‘why’. This will help in keeping the discussion focused and will help you to measure the success of your meeting. Meetings usually fit into one of four categories:
-Decision making: the aim is for decision makers to come to a conclusion that leads to action.
-Information sharing: the objective is to spread awareness to a broader team.
-Problem solving: the goal is to crowd source advice and build a plan based on that knowledge.
-Discussion: the purpose is to exchange perspectives on a topic
Think very carefully about the objective of the meeting.

Set and circulate an agenda and distribute materials in advance. Create an agenda, including the meeting objective, that lays out everything you plan to cover in the meeting and send it to attendees in advance, so they can prepare for the meeting. An agenda will ensure that you cover the specific aspects needed to reach your meeting objective. At the same time, it will inform and set expectations with attendees. It is the ‘what’ of your meeting. The agenda also provides a compass for the conversation, so the meeting can get back on track if the discussion wanders off course. In addition, circulate relevant materials ahead of the meeting, giving enough time for attendees to read them. Receiving materials in advance allows attendees to prepare for the discussion and is an opportunity to remind them of the meeting and its objectives.

Select the right attendees. When you are calling a meeting, take time to think about who really needs to be there. For example, if you are announcing a change, invite the people who are impacted by the change and if you are trying to solve a problem, invite the people who will be good sources of information and can contribute to a solution. Invite the minimum number of people needed to achieve your meeting objective. It is tempting to be inclusive, but having more people in the meeting can make meetings less productive.

Set ground rules for the meeting. It is good to start the meeting by setting the expectation that everyone is 100% focused on what is going on in the meeting. Also remind everyone of the meeting objective and agenda and agree how the meeting is going to be run. Consider also areas such as removing distractions so attendees are fully focused on and contributing to the meeting (for example, emailing, surfing the web or just playing around with their technology).

Keep to the agreed start and end time. I am sure you have experienced meetings starting late and over running, resulting in other meetings being delayed or cancelled. If you are running a meeting, make sure that it starts and ends on time as people appreciate it when you understand that their time is valuable. Also keep meetings to a maximum of 60 minutes for maximum engagement.

Manage the meeting and keep focused. Guiding the discussion and managing the meeting to the agenda and objective are probably the most challenging parts of running a meeting. Meetings will only be as effective as the person running the meeting. Keep the discussion focused so that you can meet your objectives. To prevent the meeting getting side tracked, capture important points raised for subsequent agenda points or flag them for a follow up meeting.

Summarise and agree an action plan. Leave the last few minutes of every meeting to agree and summarise the main points, discuss the next steps and to agree an action plan. This discussion should include deciding who is responsible for what and what the deadlines are. It is quite common for people to come away from the same meeting with very different interpretations of what went on. Follow up with an email to all attendees after the meeting highlighting what was covered, the action points agreed, deadlines and responsibilities.

Consider the meetings you are responsible for and how you can improve them using the strategies in this article.

Author: Liz Makin
Published: May 2021

Makin It Happen has a range of personal development online courses to purchase, created by Liz Makin, including communication, resilience, time management, stress management and coaching. Liz Makin also provides personalised business coaching, business mentoring and stress management services to business owners, directors, managers and professionals.


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