I have been to a fair number of meetings over the last week, some were better managed than others. It got me thinking about the best practices for running a great meeting and a book that I read a few years ago “Breakthrough Teamwork” which covered this topic in one of its chapters. When you attend a well run team meeting, you often leave motivated and recommitted to what you are trying to accomplish as a team. The challenge though is that more often than not you spend more time paying attention to your laptop screen or even feel like the meeting was a complete waste of your time. These best practices below are relevant for organizations of all sizes whether they are startups or fortune 500 companies. Putting in place the right meeting team culture ensures that the time team members spend in meeting is well spent creating a more productive organization!
Here is the list of the 10 Best practices for running effective meetings:
- Ensure that the right people are around the table: this means ensuring that all the people that need to attend the meeting are invited and are confirmed to attend, sometimes missing one critical person results in the need for having yet another meeting so you might as well just postpone the meeting. It also means that there are no people sitting around the table that should not be there, this will ensure that the time of other people in the organization is not wasted attending an unnecessary meeting.
- Define a meeting agenda and send it in advance: I am surprised at the number of meeting organizers that invite others with a time, a place and a vague title for the meeting with no concrete agenda for the meeting – here is my recommendation when that happens to you: decline the invite and ask for a new one with more specific details and a clear agenda. A good agenda should state the activities and the topics to be covered as well as provide context about the meeting. It is also important that the agenda get sent in advance to enable attendees to prepare for the meeting.
- Define the format/structure of the meeting: Some meetings are better managed following a structured process, other are better managed more loosely, this greatly depends on the nature of the meeting and the attendees. Either way, it is important to ensure that all attendees understand the format of the meeting in order to run a smooth meeting. This should either be agreed to in advance of the meeting or in the beginning.
- Get “stuff” done, do not just talk about “stuff”: Having clear goals that are agreed to in the beginning of the meeting or that are clearly stated in the agenda greatly helps with getting stuff done in the meeting. Do not just discuss a topic just because it is the title of the meeting, be clear about what you are trying to accomplish and actually, get it done. Basically: stop talking about action plans, develop one; stop talking about problems , define solutions and actually solve the problems…
- Ensure that someone is facilitating the meeting: This can be the meeting organizer or someone else, either way this person should ensure that the meeting is following the agenda defined, that the time is well managed, that everyone around the table is engaged… This person should also make sure that there is clear agreement on the decision made or the follow up needed for each agenda item before moving on to the next topic. Good communication and interpersonal skills make all the difference for a meeting facilitator.
- Make sure that the supporting materials actually support the meeting: How many meeting have you been to with a PowerPoint presentation with too much text or not the right content? A Deck, a print out or any other supporting materials should help guide you through the meeting, it is therefore important to ensure that they are aligned with the meeting agenda and that they support the flow of the story you are telling
- Avoid going on tangents: Yes, it is ok to “take things offline” – if a new issue arises or a conversation on a different topic starts during the meeting, the facilitator role becomes important ensuring that the meetings stays on track and asking the right people to follow up on the conversation/topic after the meeting. This is one of those rules that should be covered as part of the meeting structure so that the right expectation is set when it actually happens.
- Take good notes: This can be a task accomplished by the facilitator or another designated person in the meeting but either way, the key decisions, action items, follow ups… should be captured to ensure that the meeting is fruitful. I also recommend taking your own notes in meetings as you sometimes capture personal notes that are relevant to you which might not be captured in the main meeting notes. (I personally use OneNote to keep track of all my meeting notes providing me with the ability to search and look up notes for all the meetings I attended since I started using it several years ago)
- Take a few minutes to review how the meeting went: I rarely see this happen but it is always a good idea to take a few minutes at the end of the meeting to ask for feedback on how the meeting went and ensure that any issues raised get addressed the next time around. This is especially important for recurring meetings. This is also something that can be done outside of the meeting by following up individually with the attendees.
- Follow up after the meeting: This is a critical part of every meeting: the meeting organizer or the facilitator should follow up with the meeting notes highlighting the key action items, key decisions with clear due dates and any next steps. It is also important to send the notes to everyone as soon as the meeting is over.Team meetings are the heart of teamwork and the majority of things we do involve collaborating with others so adopting these best practices will go along way toward making you more successful!
Make sure to share it with others and leave a comment below sharing your best practices when it comes to running effective meetings!