23 Sep 2019

How to run effective meetings

You know what’s worse than checking your schedule on a bleak Monday morning only to discover a full day of meetings? Seeing the first three hours are dedicated to a “brainstorming session”, where half of the company is invited and Greg is for sure gonna push his ideas no matter what. Sounds familiar?

It sure does to me (… thanks, Greg). But what is there to do? Should we just try to make it by or can we proactively change something?

Since meetings take a lot of our time, focus, and energy, it is important to have as effective and efficient meetings as possible. It all starts with building a company meeting culture. Running effective meetings means you must lead your team in the right way instead of just sharing some semi-relevant information. 

Before we continue, let’s clear some definitions. 

Effective vs. efficient meetings

Those terms are often used for describing the same thing. But there’s a simple difference we should understand. 

Efficient meetings are the ones that start on time, stay on track with the agenda, are very well time managed and achieve set goals. The only thing missing? Value. You can run efficient meetings without producing any added value. 

That’s why you should strive towards creating effective meetings. Effective meetings end with a tangible result – what to do next, who needs to be involved, and a shared understanding/agreement on the following steps. 

For achieving this you need to ensure the right people are openly discussing the given issue and that everyone is heard. In the end, every meeting must count and here’s how to do it. 

1. Create a clear purpose, and achieve your objectives

As stated in the intro, meetings should never be held with the sole reason of only sharing semi-important information. We’re in the 21st century, just send an email. 

Before creating the event, set one clear purpose of the meeting. For following this purpose, the agenda is a must. Include it in the invitation to the meeting so people can easily determine if they even need to be there.

Pro tip: don’t include only short summaries of topics discussed but also what’s the objective for every point. The last point should always cover anything that was missed during the meeting and shouldn’t be avoided. 

When sending out the invite, make sure you’re only inviting people that need to be there proactively. Don’t invite people only to receive information first-hand. Why? Well, here’s a simple calculator for illustrating the money wasted

meeting table with laptops and people discussing

2. Keep all of your attendees engaged and comfortable

The worst thing that can happen is that someone kidnaps your meeting for achieving their agenda. Thus, it is of extreme importance to have a strong facilitator at your meetings (usually that’s the person that schedules the meeting). It’s not only important to discuss everything planned, but also to discuss it with everyone present. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense to invite someone without any contribution. 

The first step towards ensuring that everyone is contributing is to close the lids of their laptops. That’s how everyone will keep focused on what’s going on in real-life. Besides, they are only checking their social media profiles 71% of the time. 

The next step is to facilitate everyone’s involvement. Ask questions, put people on spot. Even if they are the quiet one, it will make them feel included and it will ensure they’ll feel secure while sharing their opinion. Don’t tolerate cut-ins and any other unrelated comments (I’m looking at you, Greg). 

Pro-tip: If you do have a person that’s dominating the meeting, ask them to write down important points on the whiteboard (or in a document). That’ll keep them busy for a while, making them feel important while giving others the opportunity to speak freely. 

3. Record the next steps and follow up on them

The majority of people that do succeed in leading a successful meeting still fail on the last point – following-up. 

As discussed in the first point, every meeting needs to have one, clear purpose. In the end, some tangible results need to be present. Those results are usually in the format of the next steps and tasks everyone needs to do. Set a deadline for those tasks and don’t forget to check if everyone’s done them. Make it clear during the meeting that a follow-up will happen, and don’t forget about it.

4. Follow the meeting etiquette

Ok, this might be more on the side of meeting efficiency, but is still relevant for ensuring top-notch meetings. It makes sure conversations and discussions are held up to a certain standard without any shouting and bad blood. 

There are some rules everyone should definitely follow. The foremost being arriving on time (for those that are always late, aim to arrive 5 min before the actual start). Before starting the meeting, make sure to introduce all the attendees in case there’s an outside attendee. Make them feel welcome and it will positively impact how they behave in the discussion. 

During the meeting make sure everyone is comfortable as much as they can be – water or coffee or anything else they need to be alert and focused on the meeting. You don’t want attendees to be too tired to cope or thinking about how to get out for that glass of water. 

Effective meetings achieve agreements, set up the next steps and are inclusive

Put a stop to meetings that waste your time and make sure your next steps are being followed through. Facilitate fruitful conversations, and make sure that everyone is a part of the discussion. 

Want to learn more about running productive meetings? Here’s how to create a meeting culture.