Meetings can dominate our workdays. Yet, all too often we come out of them thinking “that was a waste of time”. To add to the frustration, meeting invites rarely have agendas or clearly identify what the goals of the meeting are. Even with these glaring challenges we can all take these basic steps to improve our meetings:
1.Invite the right people to your meeting
When setting up a meeting, some people are tempted to include everyone who has ever had anything to do with the project. The problem is – the more people involved, the harder it is to make a decision. With smaller groups there is more flexibility when scheduling a meeting. If it is not absolutely necessary to have some people on the meeting, don’t invite them and instead, let them do something more productive.
2.Take time to introduce the topic
Don’t assume that the audience knows everyone or why they are on the call. We all need a sense of direction, so before you start, give people a heads up of what is going to be covered. Make sure you answer these questions: “What is the topic that needs to be discussed?”, and “What do we want to accomplish on this meeting?”
3.Listen with intent and speak clearly
Sometimes, it can be difficult not to interrupt, especially when on conference calls. But it becomes much easier if you listen with the intent to understand what the speaker is saying. The meeting just might be less of a waste of time than you originally thought.
When you speak, take time and pause to emphasize a point. Stick to 1 or 2 points. Even repeat the points. You are more likely to be successful with your message if you strive to have people focus on 1 or 2 key points only. Let’s face it, they are probably heading off to another meeting after this one, which will undoubtedly require them to focus on more things.
4.Summarize next steps at the end of the meeting
Even if it is not your meeting, don’t be afraid to state your understanding of the decision made and next steps, such as immediate actions and people responsible for their execution.
If your meeting is 60 minutes long, it doesn’t mean that the entire hour needs to be filled. Focus on a key item that needs to be accomplished and don’t be hung up on other things. If it’s accomplished, end the meeting.
While these recommendations may not make all meetings go more smoothly, these steps can help eliminate the common frustration of ineffective meetings. When you approach meetings more strategically, you are more likely to save time, solve problems, improve communication, and reduce costs.