Does this scenario sound familiar: a coworker schedules a meeting; you have a fuzzy idea of what it's going to be about; there's no agenda—just several people sitting around the table talking about a problem; there's some brainstorming and some discussion; and when you finally make it back to your desk you wonder, "what was that all about?"
We've all had our fair share of meetings that seem to go nowhere. But how can you make sure that your coworkers leave your meetings feeling like their time was well spent? It boils down to being prepared, conducting a good meeting, and following up. Here are five tips to help ensure that your meetings are purposeful and effective:
Set Goals & Write an Agenda: Before you send the meeting invite, make sure YOU know what you need to accomplish. This starts with setting goals for the meeting and writing an agenda. Your agenda is your road map. The simple act of writing your agenda will help you think through a strategic flow for your meeting so you know what steps your meeting will need to go through in order to reach key decisions that need to be made.
Invite the Right People: Identify key decision makers and stakeholders who need to be present in order for decisions to be made. If they're not, your meeting is destined to be a pre-meeting for the REAL meeting that needs to take place. And most importantly, make sure everyone knows about the meeting by sending out a meeting invite.
Set Expectations: Meeting participants need to know what to expect ahead of time so they can prepare accordingly. Send your agenda along with a list of attendees to all meeting invitees. If there is anything a specific attendee needs to be prepared to discuss or contribute, be sure to let them know ahead of time.
Stay Focused: Once your meeting has arrived, it’s your job to make sure it’s coordinated efficiently and successfully. Revisit the goal at the beginning of the meeting so everyone remembers why they’re at the table, and talk them through the flow of the meeting before you get started. And most importantly, stay on track. Keep your road map (agenda) in front of you and try not to deviate from it. Inevitably, there will be moments where a thought or comment takes discussion away from the agenda. As the meeting captain, you’ll need to steer folks back to the agenda.
Record Notes & Action Items During the course of your meeting, there will undoubtedly be a number of assignments that will be made. Don’t assume that everyone is taking good notes and writing down their “to dos”—do it for them. If you don’t think you’ll be able to take accurate notes while conducting the meeting, appoint a scribe. They’ll be responsible for recording important discussion points and clearly identifying action items.
Follow Up: As soon as possible, you’ll want to send a follow up note to all meeting attendees. This should ideally be done within 24 hours of the meeting’s conclusion while it’s still top of mind for attendees. Send around a list of meeting notes and action items to the entire group and follow up with individual attendees to make sure they’re clear on what they need to do as next steps.
Effective meetings DO happen, but they require some forethought, focus, and follow through. Give your coworkers a reason to want to attend your meetings by establishing a track record of meetings that deliver results.