How to have a productive meeting

Hey Peeps! 👋🏼

I’m sure that in the last year you’ve thought once or twice: How to have a productive meeting?

We’ve all been stuck in one of those meetings at least once in our professional life and wondered how we ended up in that room, in awkward silence, surrounded by people you don’t know or listening about a subject you have no idea what it means.

What follows are 10 tips that will help you improve the quality of your meeting and stop dreading the “Your meeting should start in a few seconds…”.

📆 Stop back to back meetings

Now that the world is resuming normal life you’ll be confronted with small annoyances that you didn’t face while working remotely.

Working from home allowed you to have a tight schedule with back-to-back meetings.

All you had to do was wave, say goodbye, click the little red button, click the green button, wave and say hello (and usually “sorry I’m late”).

Going back to the office means that you will be unable to fulfil the same schedule.

You can’t be at two places at the same time so stop assuming that you can finish a meeting at 4 PM on one side of the building and start another meeting also at 4 PM at the other end of the building.

Delays are one of the main reasons for lack of productivity and increased frustration in meetings and you can easily avoid this by changing 60-minute meetings into 50-minute ones, 30 minutes to 25, etc.

This extra time will allow you to move from one place to the other, go grab a bite, etc. But most importantly, these extra minutes will prevent you to be late for your next meeting.

Google Calendar has a feature that allows you to automatically apply this feature. Just go to Settings -> Event Settings -> Speedy Meetings -> Turn on.

🗒 Review the list of invitees

How many times have you been to meetings where you didn’t need to be? I know I’ve been to quite a few!

There’s nothing like the feeling of, why was I invited to this?

If you’re the organiser you can start being the change your, and your colleagues, schedules need.

Start by paying attention to who you are inviting. It’s easy to make mistakes inviting the wrong person just because the name is very close. Proofread the invitees.

Use and abuse the optional feature. Be honest, do you really need every single person in that meeting? You probably don’t. It makes the world of difference to mark someone as optional allowing them to use their better judgement if they can/should or not go.

Now if you’re on the other end, if you’ve just been invited to a meeting you have no information about being sure to send a message to the organiser and understand why you were included in that meeting.

I’ve personally been invited to meetings “just in case” my input was necessary. Guess what… It wasn’t…

🦉 Pre-meeting preparation

As an organiser, how you prepare your meeting will be one of the key moments in running effective meetings.

There are three key items to consider:

  • Clarification of purpose and goals
  • Create a meeting agenda
  • Share supporting information

You need to start by answering a simple question: “Why are you booking this meeting?”.

To this day I think that most meetings lack this clarification and since moving remotely there’s a big confusion between meetings, syncs, chats, etc.

Make sure you know why you’re booking the meeting and what you want to take away from it.

When in the meeting you should have a clear agenda to support the pace of the meeting.

An agenda will help you by having a lifeline whenever the meeting derails.

The last thing you want is to get to the meeting and have the audience completely uninformed on the topic.

Share relevant documentation beforehand. If you can curate these documents even better.

There’s no use in sharing tons of documents that no one will read. Be concise and precise.

📝 Post-meeting notes

Now that the meeting is over a great practice is to go over your meeting notes, review if everything is correct and publish them on your company’s documentation and knowledge base central.

Make sure that you ensure that you choose the right permissions depending on the company policy and/or meeting criticality.

Send out an email to all the invitees sharing the meeting notes. It will ensure that everyone has a commonplace to align with the conclusions and next actions reached in the meeting.

Leave space for comments. Usually meeting notes end up being shared and more often than not you will have new opinions and above all, it’s a great way to track those opinions.

Last but not least, it will serve as a historical context for future decisions and discussions.

📣 One to rule them all

Every meeting should have a driver, that doesn’t need to be the organiser. Note that you can have multiple owners when it comes to sections of meetings, but the meeting itself should have a clear driver.

The driver will dictate the pace and direction of the meeting and will be crucial to prevent it from derailing.

Not following this advice will create confusion and chaos in the meeting and once it gets sidetracked it will be extremely difficult to come back.

Sometimes you will see drivers appear mid-meeting. In more informal meetings it’s a great way to find who have the skills to drive the next meetings. Note of caution, even though this can be a good sign it can also mean that that person has difficulty following someone else’s leadership.

⌚️ It’s not necessary to occupy the entire slot

No harm will be done if you manage to resolve everything in half the time that you’ve booked.

If you finish early and everyone parts ways it’s even better because then you’ll have focused time just for yourself without needing to go running to another meeting.

Also, if you manage to decide everything either on a coffee before the meeting, or in the way of the meeting you should do two things:

  • Cancel the meeting
  • Review why you booked a meeting in the first place since this was something that could have been tackled quickly in a much friendlier environment.

📚 Have your support material ready

Returning to offices you’ll face the dreaded meeting rooms and their tech. You’ll have to remember how the equipment works.

Nothing is worse than arriving at a meeting and having to wait for the organiser or presenter to set up.

No one cares how difficult if the room has a DisplayPort connection but you only have HDMI output on your laptop!

Go to the room five minutes in advance so you can set up without any hassle. If the rooms are always extremely busy schedule the meeting for other participants 5 minutes after the time you have the room booked.

✅ Ensure to have actions

Have you reached the goals you’ve defined in the pre-meeting preparation?

Even if you haven’t you need to make sure that you have defined clear actions items as outcomes of the meeting.

Make sure that these action items have:

🧠 Don’t forget about the topic

More often than not, when you suffer from a severe case of meetingnitis you’ll have a really hard time preparing for your busy schedule and devote the same amount of attention to each meeting.

I’m sure that you have that one meeting where you only think about that topic in the said meeting.

You want to do better but you have so much on your plate that it’s really difficult.

Remember that, like you, for other people, your meeting might be the one where they only pay attention to the topic.

Be sure to give some gentle nudges to prevent the topic from being forgotten.

🐻 You are Kronos! Master of all time!

Finally, meetings are like a dance.

You need to prepare in advance using a meeting agenda, understand what the pace is going to be and how much time you can spend on certain topics.

However, if the time has ended to discuss a subject, you can follow one of these approaches:

  • Continue to discuss the topic to detriment of another subject
  • Move on to the next topic and if there’s still time at the end of the meeting come back to this issue
  • Create a new meeting devoted to this topic.

Remember that you are in control, you are the captain and need to control the pace of the meeting.

Don’t be afraid of using sentences like “we’re derailing from the topic” and “right! let’s get back on track”.

Originally published at https://aleadersmindset.com on October 4, 2021.

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My goal is to teach every leader who is still starting their journey, what I learned late in mine. 🚀

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Luís Parada

Luís Parada

My goal is to teach every leader who is still starting their journey, what I learned late in mine. 🚀