Meetings can be the best and worst part of the day. Often they take time from “more important” tasks, and discussions are based on things that could have been exchanged over email; on the other hand meetings can excite and reinvigorate our commitment to a task and get us headed further along our path and business goals.
But why is it common that things discussed in a meeting rarely happen, and the momentum gets lost? There are various reasons why productive conversations in a meeting sometimes go nowhere. For starters, we are often immediately running to another meeting where our attention shifts to a new set of issues. Or we leave the meeting without clarity about what was agreed upon and who is doing what.
How do you make sure meetings are more productive and receive follow up? Two things: send out meeting notes and follow up on the commitments made.
1. A bulleted or numbered summary of the meeting is a powerful way to carry on the momentum of the meeting. Notes help inform those who weren’t present about what was discussed and remind those who were there about what happened and what needs to be done. Meeting notes help keep everyone on the same page and focused on what needs to get done.
What should the notes contain? The email should be no more than a page (for most meetings) and should communicate each topic discussed, key takeaways, and a list of specific actions that will be taken, by whom, and by when. Send the notes on the same day if possible.
2. Follow-up is the next important key to making meetings more productive. Often as managers we think our team is full of self-starters who only need an idea and will pursue it – but this is not always the case. We are all pulled in so many different directions and overwhelmed with too much work. This is why follow-up is key and is a necessary part of project leadership. In order to be effective, make sure each attendee knows what they are responsible for and let them choose the “by when.” Make sure everyone knows that if something comes up, they will reach out to discuss the change. This is where delegating comes in handy.
Keeping track of meeting notes and following up after the meeting is over will help make future meetings more productive or even unnecessary. A win-win!