People seem to think that office meetings are long, boring endeavors during which very little gets done. That may be true when a meeting goes badly. However, when you run a meeting effectively, you’ll find that your team gets a lot done in a short amount of time. Just make sure you’re prepared before you schedule the meeting.
Circulate an Agenda in Advance
Don’t fall into the trap of the pointless meeting at which nothing gets achieved. Each meeting should have a specific directive and a specific agenda. Make sure attendees know what problem the meeting is addressing or solving, and how the agenda applies to that process. When attendees get the agenda for the meeting a day or two in advance, they have a chance to prepare questions and ideas. If everyone comes prepared, you’ll have a more streamlined, purposeful meeting.
Send Meeting Materials in Advance
When you’ll be using external resources, Power Point presentations, or other meeting aids, send those to your attendees in advance as well. You don’t want people to be reading your presentation for the first time while they’re sitting in the conference room. The meeting materials will give them a chance to become familiar with the topics and to think about any relevant responses in advance.
Create a List of Attendees
You’re trying to come up with a new marketing strategy, but your main accountant isn’t at the meeting, so you can’t decide on any costs associated with the new marketing. Doesn’t that sound like a nightmare? Things like that happen far too often at badly planned meetings. First, make sure everyone who needs to come can come to the meeting, and second, send out a list of attendees with the meeting agenda. That way, if anyone has questions about their role in the meeting, they can come to you in advance.
Make Peace With the Clock
Some leaders and executives will swear by having meetings end right at their scheduled time, while others are convinced that you can’t stop good momentum while it’s going, even if that means the meeting runs late. The reality is somewhere in the middle.
Be aware of how much time you scheduled for each topic, and keep the meeting mostly adhering to the schedule. However, if some true innovation and creativity starts happening, let the ball keep rolling and quietly adjust the schedule. Wear a smartwatch while you’re in meetings so you don’t panic if they run a little long. Notifications on smartwatches such as the Samsung Gear, with their easy-to-read displays, keep you covertly apprised of what’s happening outside the conference room so you know whether you need to dash or you can stay for the extra fun.
Keep Lists of Off-Topic, Yet Interesting Ideas
Inevitably during the meeting someone is going to throw out an idea that’s fantastic, but completely off-topic. Keep a list of these ideas while you’re running the meeting. Some leaders call this the “parking lot,” but you can call it whatever you want. Acknowledge the point, write it down, and then put it in the meeting minutes later for further discussion. You don’t want to discourage your employees from having great ideas, but you also want to keep the meeting from running for four hours.
Use Your Leadership Skills
Since you called the meeting, it’s up to you to keep it running effectively. That can be as simple as helping everyone stick to the agenda. If things go off-topic, or if a discussion about point two on the list ends up encompassing things you meant to talk about in point four, just acknowledge that to the crowd. Everyone is happier when they know where the discussion is going and what’s expected of each of them. Effective leadership also means stepping in when it’s clear no good solution to a specific question is going to come up. Move on, and save it for the meeting’s follow-up email, or for another meeting entirely.
Meetings don’t have to be miserable. Get organized, make sure your attendees are prepared, and enjoy the more effective use of everyone’s time.