There is one thing in common in every corporate america job – meetings. Our days are filled with meetings and probably only half of them are actually useful. We can all work to reduce the number of meetings in our work day and make sure every meeting that we attend or lead is productive.
Here are 5 tips on how to lead effective meetings.
- Eliminate unnecessary meetings – People tend to default to meeting for everything but it’s not always necessary. Before you call a meeting, make sure it’s necessary and the issue to be discussed cannot be resolved using some other channel like email. One of the most unproductive type of meeting is a status meeting. It is boring and most people are not listening. Instead you can try to change it into an isssue resolution meeting – focus the meeting on what issues the group needs to collective resolve. If every body’s work is on track without any need for escalation, than a simple email summarizing progress to the team should suffice instead of a meeting.
Also you don’t need to attend every meeting you are invited to. Find out the purpose of the meeting and know why you need to be there before saying yes.
- Know your desired meeting outcome – It’s important to know what your key objectives are when leading a meeting. What are the two or three things you want to accomplish with this meeting? e.g., getting everyone up to speed is not always a good objective. Really think about how will everyone including you benefit and be more productive by attending this meeting. Always preset an agenda. It’s amazing how many meetings I have attended where no one set an agenda. Then it’s easy to just talk and accomplish nothing. An agenda can set the direction and get everyone on the same page about why they are there. Include the agenda in the meeting invite so all attendees are on the same page
- Limit attendance – more is not always better. Only invite those that need to be there. If you need representation from 5 departments, then ask each department to send one representative. It’s a lot easier for you to facilitate a meeting with 5 other people than 10 people. Don’t just invite everyone that is remotely involved. Know why each person needs to be there and what you hope they can contribute to the meeting. The rest can be optional attendees or not invited at all.
- Facilitate and stay on point – Even if you do the above 3 things well, it is still critical to facilitate the topics and help everyone stay on point in the meeting to make it productive. Especially if you are holding a meeting to discuss a controversial topic, you need to know how long to let people talk about their point of view, to keep yourself neutral and listening and also to make sure no one deviates to other topics not on the agenda. If someone raises a point that is out of scope, put it in the “Parking Lot” – a piece of paper you can put up in the beginning of the meeting to let people know that if their points are out of scope, they can be noted in this “Parkeing Lot” and followed up at a different time.
- Summarize and agree on next steps – Last but not the least, before you adjourn the meeting, make sure to summarize what you have learned / discussed and lay out 2 or 3 next steps that everyone can agree on. Perhaps there are assigned to-dos for some meeting attendees. Make sure everyone walks away from the meeting understanding what has happened and what they need to do next. You can also follow up in a day or so with a summary email laying out what was agreed, what is still outstanding, and who agreed to do which next steps. This email can go to all the attendees but also copied to other relevant people that didn’t attend the meeting. This way everyone is up to speed and time is saved.
These are just some initial tips on how to lead effective meetings. Like all soft skills, it’s an art and will take some time to practice. Start here and you will begin to become more effective at leading meetings as well as know when to attend or not attend meetings. Best wishes to your career.
Your comments: Are these tips helpful? Do you have a specific situation you want to discuss? Add your comments below and let’s have a discussion.