Though employees often dread meetings, leaders know that meetings are essential for progress. Meetings are important platforms for aligning as a team, problem solving, and making collective decisions and resolutions. Why do so many employees dread meetings? When certain aspects of meeting planning, execution, and follow-up are overlooked, meetings waste time and create more confusion than alignment and progress. How leaders prepare for, execute, and take action after a meeting impact the individuals involved as well as the collective organization. Here are powerful tips for leading more productive and effective meetings.
Clearly Define the Purpose and Goal
Meetings are directionless and fruitless without a clear purpose. If it occurs to you that a meeting is necessary, first spend time clearly defining the purpose and goal. Why must you schedule the meeting? What is the goal and how will it move the organization forward? Write down your meeting purpose statement. Begin with: “The purpose of this meeting is to…” While writing down the purpose, you may realize that the meeting is premature, or you may realize the meeting could be avoided by talking with one or two people or by thinking through the problem statement on your own. Even for regular, ongoing meetings, return to the purpose periodically to make sure it’s necessary and intentional.
Create an Agenda
Once you have clearly defined your purpose and goal, write an agenda. The meeting agenda should be a list of topics, each with an assigned time slot, that lead toward your desired outcome. The agenda helps to define how long the meeting should be and how the meeting should flow in order to reach your desired outcome. It shapes who should be invited and what they should prepare.
Select the Right Team
Based on your purpose, desired outcomes, and agenda, select the team members that need to be present at the meeting in order to achieve the intended outcome for the organization. Make sure all stakeholders and subject matter experts are present. Don’t invite people that are not directly involved; this will create a “too many cooks in the kitchen” scenario or they likely will not show up anyway.
Send an Informative Invitation
In your meeting request, include the purpose statement, desired outcomes, and agenda. This information will tether the attendees to the purpose. People will understand the importance of attending if they understand the goal. Also, clearly state anything people should have prepared before the meeting and anything they should bring. An informative invitation shows that you have thought through the purpose for the meeting and are sending it with intention.
Send the Invitation in Advance
Send your request in advance so that attendees have enough time to prepare. Last minute meetings are not as fruitful. Scheduling meetings one or two weeks ahead of time ensures people have the space on their calendar and they have adequate time to prepare.
Make sure to bring related documents or have them open on your computer before the meeting begins. This saves valuable time and makes the meeting flow smoothly. Think through the flow of the meeting in your head prior to the meeting. Preparation makes staying on time more effortless and makes achieving your desired outcomes more likely.
Arrive early to set up and make sure you’re ready to begin on time. If the leader of the meeting arrives late, it sends a message that he or she doesn’t take the meetings seriously and others are likely to lose respect and motivation.
Speak with a Positive Tone
A positive tone is motivating. People will want to listen, engage, and help you make the meeting successful if you use positive tone and language. Easy ways to begin a meeting with a positive tone are to open with a welcome, review the purpose and agenda, and encourage discussion throughout.
Encourage Presence to Keep Their Attention
During the meeting, make sure to lead by example and stay focused on the meeting. Do not check e-mail or disengage when others are speaking. Encourage attendees to turn off the tech, focus, and listen to make the meeting as efficient and effective as possible. If it’s not an option to ask people to unplug from the tech, make the meeting as interactive as possible. Ask for contributions and comments. Don’t put people on the spot, but ask for input and opinions. This will make people pay attention to your presentation instead of their inbox.
Stick to the Agenda
People often disengage when the meeting goes off course. The purpose is most important and the agenda is your roadmap for reaching your desired outcomes. Recruit a team member or peer that can keep you on track and remind the group when the meeting has gone on a tangent from the agenda schedule.
Recruit a team member or peer to take notes during the meeting. As the leader, you should be engaged in presenting and coordinating discussion; however, taking notes is also important for post-meeting activity. Make sure you select a diligent, thorough note taker.
Leave Time for a Recap
Meetings that end on an open topic leave people feeling frazzled and disconnected. End the meeting 5 minutes early and in those last five minutes, return to the purpose and recap key outcomes. Review follow-ups and assign responsibility.