You know what it’s like to attend a less-than-organized meeting. And now that you’re a leader, the last thing you want to do is be the host of one. But getting your team excited about something as time-consuming as a meeting is a challenge. Or is it?
Despite the bad rap such gatherings get, creating a purposeful, value-added, productive meeting is actually within reach. When you have an understanding of the components of great meetings, you can craft yours to be one of the best.
1. Lay Out the Meeting’s Purpose Well in Advance
You may know why you’re calling a meeting, but it’s important to let your invite list know as well. Make it a hard-and-fast rule to craft your meeting agenda before you send out the invitations.
Team members can’t be prepared to contribute without an understanding of a meeting’s purpose and their place in it. Plus, starting meetings without an agenda is a surefire way to use time inefficiently, which can be frustrating and costly.
Agendas let folks on your invite list review the discussion topics, decisions up for debate, and who’ll be there. This can help identify gaps in topics or attendees, both of which can be resolved before your meeting. When meeting agendas are sent in advance, everyone gains clarity about the task ahead.
2. Invite the Critical Players Only
Think like the bouncer standing guard at the hottest club, thumbs poised to release the clasp on the velvet rope. They won’t let just anyone in, and neither will you. Protect your meeting invite list just like the bouncer restricts access to the club.
Your first inclination may be to invite everyone involved or anyone who may have insight into your project. Instead, resist the urge to over-invite and focus on essential attendees with decision-making capabilities. This practice may feel awkward at first, especially if your organization is known for packed meeting rooms. Be clear in your invitation why each person was invited, highlighting their unique expertise and responsibility to the team.
To streamline the discussion, aim to invite only one representative from the necessary departments. Be clear that requests for forwarding invitations need to be cleared with you first. Serve as the gatekeeper as a means of protecting your attendees’ time and productivity potential. If outside input is needed, have attendees get these colleagues’ feedback after the meeting and report their findings to the group.
3. Kick Things Off With Clear Goals
Start your meeting on time with an overview of why you’ve gathered together. Since you took the time to draft a meeting agenda, this should be easy.
Thank everyone for attending and kick off your session with an overview of why you’re there and what you hope to accomplish. This practice puts a focus on your “why” and can rein in any pre-meeting chatter. A goals overview also gives you an easy segue into identifying how each attendee can contribute during the meeting.
Set the stage early, outlining the planned time for discussion, expectations for decisions, and what happens afterward. When attendees know what to expect, they’re able to stay in the moment and participate with less distraction.
4. Drive Discussions Toward Decisions
Your decision to schedule a meeting should be prompted by more than just the desire to touch base. The best meetings feature discussions and debates that help teams make informed decisions.
When you’ve got smart people in the room and big problems to solve, words can fly. What can be hard to come by is commitment. Ideas often come more easily than decisions, so lead conversations toward resolution. Facilitate a culture of commitment within your meetings to drive projects forward and build a cohesive, effective team.
Since you’ve already outlined the goals and expectations of your time together, attendees should be ready to commit. Encourage all attendees to weigh in or confirm the group’s decision. Once you’ve determined the path forward, log it in your meeting minutes. If a decision isn’t possible, note that in your minutes and add the topic to the next agenda for future deliberation.
5. Document Your Meetings With Minutes and Then Share Them
By now, you may have gotten the idea that meeting minutes are almost as important as an agenda. Just like setting the framework is important, so is recording what happened.
Mirror your minutes with your agenda for consistency and ease of production. Identify who approved the next steps by name and role. The goal here isn’t to have a person to point to in the event of a problem. Many big decisions need sign-off by experts in legal, communications, and technical departments. With a documented sign-off by an organizationally recognized approver, teams can confidently move forward.
Share your completed minutes with the project team within a day or two after the meeting. Request confirmation or corrections within a fixed time frame. This gives everyone a chance to review project assignments and decisions or provide updates. Once the minutes are confirmed, include them in your project folder for future reference.
Develop a Reputation for Your Meeting Prowess
You’re on the job to get good work done, but it’s often how you do the work that makes an impression. By making meetings both value-added and enjoyable, your colleagues will appreciate your efforts. Attendees will begin to look forward to the meetings you host, confident that their participation will be time well spent.