Whether you like it or not, meetings are inevitable at every company, especially when you’re in a management position. According to one recent study, 11 million formal meetings occur in the U.S. alone every day!
When run effectively, they can be a great benefit to those involved, but nothing can be more frustrating than meetings that waste a lot of time and accomplish very little. So, as a manager in charge of ensuring that everyone gets the most out of meetings, how do you make them matter?
Here is a list of tips that I have found helpful when planning and facilitating group meetings:
- Solicit agenda items in advance. Even though you may have a specific list of items that need to be addressed, it’s always a good idea to find out if there are related items that should be added. This can make employees feel more invested in the meeting and can lead to better attendance, participation and follow-through.
- Distribute the agenda ahead of time. Once the agenda is solidified, distribute it at least one business day in advance, if possible. This way, everyone will know what will be discussed and can plan accordingly.
- Invite the right people. Unless it is a mandatory team meeting, identify the essential participants and invite only them. It doesn’t make sense for those who don’t need to be there to attend.
- Start on time. This may be obvious, but can be difficult to achieve. It is important to make the most out of the time allotted for the meeting, so if the session is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., then it’s best to start at that time.
- Set ground rules. Make sure everyone knows how the meeting should flow. Do you want attendees to interject comments and questions while you are reviewing the agenda items or do you want to have them wait until the end? Also, foster a positive atmosphere, so that people stay engaged and want to listen. Lead by example.
- Stay focused. Stick to the agenda and any timescales that are set. When possible, try not to schedule meetings right after lunch, as employees tend to be lethargic and less focused. Good meetings are products of good leadership. Make it clear that you intend to keep the session timely, useful and relevant.
- Have someone take minutes. It’s critical that someone other than you takes notes. Minutes should include a summary of key items, as well as any agreed upon actions that need to be completed by attendees.
- Conduct a roundtable update. If possible, go around the table and ask if there are any participants who would like to give a brief update on items they feel are relevant to the meeting. This continues the feeling of inclusiveness and offers a dedicated period of time for individuals to get involved and/or ask questions.
- End on time. Even though you’re in charge of the meeting, be respectful of other people’s time. This reinforces that when you say something is going to be done, it really is done. At Google, facilitators project a 4-foot-tall timer on the wall to enforce the idea that meetings should begin and end on time.
- Distribute meeting notes and action items. The minutes (including any action items) should be distributed to meeting participants within one business day, so that it is still fresh in everyone’s minds, as well as to ensure that the minutes are accurate. If anyone notices an item that is incorrect or needs to be modified, the note-taker should update the document and resend it ASAP.
Meetings will always be part of the working world. However, they can be more effectively managed with the simple approaches listed above. Since meetings are a permanent feature of organizational life, why not make them matter?
Do you have any other items to include? What other suggestions or feedback do you have?
Jeremy joined Empathia (then NEAS) in 2007 as Manager, Client Care Services, then became an Account Manager/Sales Consultant in 2012. He is also a certified wellness and tobacco cessation coach. Jeremy has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Organizational Management. Prior to joining Empathia, he spent 14 years in the EAP industry in a variety of roles with another behavioral healthcare organization. Jeremy enjoys reading, photography, music, and spending time with his wife and daughters.