We’re all busy these days but there’s nothing worse than wasting time in a meeting. Here’s some advice for running meetings people on your team actually want to attend.
Advice for Running Meetings More Effectively
1. Types of Meetings: Choose whether the meeting is a “status” meeting or a “decision” meeting
Make sure that everyone invited is aware of the purpose of the meeting. There are basically two types of meetings: “status” meetings and “decision” meetings. A single meeting cannot be both. For both types of meetings, it is still critical to create an agenda, and it’s equally important that you stick to it.
Meeting Agenda Format
If the purpose of the meeting is to update the team on “status”, everyone (or the appropriate people) should give an update. There are several strategies for this: round-robin, etc. The meeting char/organizer’s job is to allow enough time for everyone to provide his or her status. One additional thing to be aware of is people who consistently volunteer to go first and then leave the meeting early. By not having too many “status” meetings, this should help mitigate that challenge.
“Everyone does NOT need to share an update”
If the meeting’s purpose is to make a “decision”, the focus should be on doing just that. In this meeting, everyone does NOT need a turn to share an update. Meaning, there is no need to do any type of round-robin or “turn-style” sharing. The meeting chair/organizer’s job is to keep the conversation on track and make sure the decision is made by the end of the meeting.
One more thing to consider…if your team is only having status meetings, are you moving the ball forward?
2. Do the necessary prep work
It’s not respectful or productive to schedule a meeting and not share the agenda. You’ve requested that people take time out of their day to attend, and then not give them the full context of what is going to be discussed will appear as a waste of their time. This also goes hand in hand with #1 and a clear purpose.
In most cases, an agenda or an outcome is mandatory. Also, many times meetings take longer than are actually needed. So if at all possible, send out an agenda or any prep work at least a day or two in advance. As a best practice, I always try to do this at the same time I send out the invite.
3. Start late, end early
Being late is rude. Besides that, you’re holding up the meeting from accomplishing its goal. If your team/company’s culture is notorious for being 5 minutes late, start the meeting at 10 minutes after. You’re better off starting “on-time” with everyone’s attention than working through interruptions.
“work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”
This rule also applies to the meeting’s duration. Parkinson’s law says “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion“. Meetings always seem to expand to the space they have been given. If you schedule an hour meeting, it will always seem to take that full hour. However, the same meeting, with a bit more structure and focus, could many times be accomplished in 50 minutes or even 30 minutes.
Schedule meetings with agendas that can be covered in 20-25 or 50-55 minutes. This will leave an extra 5-10 minutes before and after as a buffer. Don’t assume everyone will be on-time. Also, don’t expect others will want to stay late either. Having an adequate buffer will ensure the meeting runs smoothly and ends appropriately.
4. Stand, walk or otherwise get away from distractions
We’ve all been in conference calls/meetings where someone asks a question and, following a brief pause, we hear the response, “Umm… can you repeat the question?” This is a red flag that the people are disengaged.
It likely means one of two things:
- your meeting isn’t important to them (or they don’t understand why it should be)
- the person *thinks* they can multi-task
Related: The Worst Advice We’ve Been Given About Productivity
If at all possible, schedule meetings in-person, this will significantly reduce the amount of distractions and “multi-tasking”. If you have remote attendees, try using video or having an active “back channel” (email/IM/social) with everyone in the meeting to keep them engaged.
5. Take excellent notes, follow up with the team
It’s unlikely that everyone on the team will be invited to every meeting. Taking good notes allows others to catch up. However, more importantly, even people who DID attend, likely won’t remember everything that was discussed during the meeting.
Notes give the full team, even those that didn’t attend the meeting, a place to go back and review what was discussed. This is probably most critical for confirming follow up action items. After the meeting, send a copy of the notes out to each person invited and get buy-in that they are being ‘accepted’. Later, you’ll have a consistent process for retrieving historical notes and follow up items, validating that they have been completed.
Do you have any other tips or advice for running meetings? Please share them below!