Most people do not look forward to another business meeting. However, in-person and virtual meetings are a necessity. Effective meetings help move things forward. Information needs to be shared. Decisions need to be made. Next steps and actions need to be assigned.
If you are thinking of holding a meeting, your very first question should always be, do we really need a meeting? Ask yourself, can the topic be resolved through a phone call, email, or other method?
But if a meeting is necessary, there are things you can do to ensure it is effective.
Start with the meeting objective
- Ask yourself, what is the objective? Is it a status update, problem solving session, sponsor presentation, or something else. Once this is known, you can construct the agenda to accomplish the objective.
- Next, give thought to the attendees. Who are the stakeholders, subject matter experts, and decision makers? What do you expect from them? How can they contribute?
Prepare the agenda
- Give some thought to the meeting duration. A lot can be accomplished in 30 minutes. Meetings will always expand to fill the allotted time. Shorter is always better.
- Identify the topics to fulfill the meeting objective. For each, specify the purpose (decision needed, information sharing, etc), who will take the lead on starting the discussion, and the amount of time.
- Place the topics in a logical order. At the end, add a topic for action-needed items. Consider including a meeting critique at the end for feedback.
Send the meeting planner
- Include the agenda with the planner. It informs attendees of the meeting purpose, the topics, and purpose of each of those, and gives them insight into why they were invited and how they can contribute.
- If necessary, you can send the planner ahead to get the meeting on everyone’s calendar. Then quickly follow up with the agenda.
Conduct the meeting
- Start the meeting on time if at all possible. However, if a key decision maker is running late, consideration should be given to starting a few minutes late.
- Maintain the time contract for each agenda topic. If a topic goes long, the remaining ones will have to be shortened. If a topic gets bogged down, consider taking the discussion offline with a sub-team to work on it and later bring it back to the larger group.
- Summarize action needed items at the end.
- Show respect for other commitments the attendees may have and adjourn the meeting on time.
Last, publish the meeting notes and action items
Send the meeting notes and action items to the attendees and stakeholders in a timely manner. This should ideally be done the same day.