Meetings seem to be a necessary part of the day-to-day operations within any organization. However, to most of us, they are seen as a major waste of time. That is because ineffective meetings frustrate goal-oriented employees and cost money because they needlessly tie up employee time. There is nothing worse than attending meeting after meeting and never seeing the point of the gatherings as little is ever accomplished.
The following are some clear indications that a meeting is not well-run:
- The items on the agenda have not been resolved by the end of the meeting.
- These same issues are repeatedly discussed in multiple meetings with no appropriate outcomes.
- The discussions take too long and often lead to unrelated topics because the meeting chairperson does not control the speakers or the discussion by keeping it on topic.
- The important issues are not clearly identified or fully discussed.
- Important arguments are not recorded so their outcomes are not remembered.
- The participants are not clear on the outcomes or do not support the resultant decisions.
So how could you improve your meetings so that they would no longer be dreaded by your team members?
Here are some suggestions to try:
1. Decide if the meeting is truly necessary. Not every situation requires a meeting. Before calling a meeting, assess the importance of the topic and consider other ways to resolve the issue.
Could the issue be resolved by writing an e-mail, memo, or short report?
• Does the issue require two-way communication in order to be resolved?
• Are only the people involved in the decision being invited?
2. Decide the exact purpose of the meeting beforehand. You must have a clear objective in mind of what will be discussed and what outcome is desired. Meetings generally work better when they focus on a single purpose rather than multiple purposes.
3. Create an agenda. Build an agenda for the meeting that includes the topics to be discussed. Send the agenda to all the participants before the meeting so that everyone can be prepared. Include the following on the agenda:
✅ Key issues and topics to be discussed.
✅ A timeline to follow during the meeting
✅ Presenters for each topic
✅ The desired outcomes for the meeting
4. Create an appropriate transition between the multiple topics. In other words, make sure that everyone has a clear understanding of each topic before moving on to the next one. Assign any follow-up tasks related to that particular topic before continuing on to the next item.
5. Stick to your agenda. Maintain the timeline that was previously decided. If other issues arise during discussions, record them, and plan to address them at the next meeting. Always start on time and end on time, and remember that it is perfectly alright to cut a meeting short if the desired outcomes have been reached.
6. Discuss how the decisions will be made. Criteria should be clearly defined as to how the decisions will be made during the meeting. If there is to be a vote, let the participants know when it will take place. Be sure to time your discussions and to give each person who wishes to contribute to the discussion a chance to do so, but keeping within the timeline. In fact, if you are discussing a contentious issue it is a good idea to let the participants know that they have a 2-minute time frame to express their idea and that repetitions should just be: “I agree with the previous speaker” rather than a repeat of the same perspective. In that way, you will be better able to conclude the discussion in the allotted time in readiness for the vote.
7. Know your audience. Keep the participants engaged during the meeting. Try to focus on what is important to the participants and allow time for questions to ensure that there is a complete understanding of what is taking place. Practice active listening and keep the discourse respectful for everyone.
8. Assign tasks, responsibilities, and due dates. When any action is required following the meeting, be certain that each task is clearly identified and assigned to one or more people who commit to completing it by a specific date.
9. Follow up. Recap the outcomes at the end of the meeting and follow up with meeting minutes in a timely manner to ensure that everyone has a summary of the proceedings. This will also ensure that participants who were unable to attend will know what transpired.
10. Examine the process. Like most skills, conducting effective, results-oriented meetings takes time to master. After each meeting, assess how the meeting went and change any processes accordingly to ensure that the next meeting will be better.
Ineffective meetings are generally unstructured, unproductive and uninspiring to those involved. They can also cost the business money and decrease employee morale, none of which is beneficial to the organization. Just because a person has attended lots of meetings does not guarantee that they can run an effective and successful one. It is important to make sure that whoever is running the meetings knows how to do it effectively.