Making the most of every minute
Knowing how to run an effective and productive meeting is crucial in any business. After all, meetings are essential to keeping your employees aligned, engaged, and motivated. They’re also vital to planning projects and preserving your company’s momentum.
Unfortunately, hosting valuable meetings isn’t always easy. Teams can get distracted, conversations stray off-topic, and productivity dwindles. In fact, several studies suggest only 50% of meeting time is productive.
Ongoing workplace changes also exacerbate the complexities of hosting an effective meeting. Aligning hybrid, remote, and in-office employees requires managers to utilize the right strategies, processes and technologies together.
Fortunately, you can boost your chances of running effective meetings in multiple ways.
Step 1: Determine Meeting Objectives
Every meeting should have a clearly defined purpose. According to various studies, employees have been involved in more meetings since the pandemic than ever before. One-on-one conversations have increased by 1,230%, and group meetings have increased by 613%.
However, many of these meetings may be unnecessary in a world where chat and email can be used for rapid communication. Additionally, it’s worth remembering that not every meeting will require the attendance of every person on the team. Understanding the purpose of your meeting will ensure you can choose the right meeting method, length, and attendees.
Before inviting anyone to a conversation, ask yourself:
- What the outcomes of the meeting should be
- Do you want to prepare employees for a new project?
- Share company news?
- Gather feedback from your team members?
Based on your desired outcomes, you can decided which sort of meeting (if any) will be most effective. If you’re asking for feedback, an all-hands virtual meeting may be a good option. If you’re sharing team news, you may be able to send the message via email.
Step 2: Setting a Clear Agenda
Once you’ve determined the core objectives for your meeting, the next step is developing your agenda. An agenda is the roadmap to an effective session, outlining the topics to be discussed, the purpose of the conversation, and who will lead the discussion.
Your agenda will help to ensure your meeting facilitators can keep the conversation on track. Plus, it gives you insight into the resources you might need to prepare before the meeting. When creating your agenda:
- Assign people roles: Determine who will be responsible for taking notes, contributing to the meeting, hosting presentations, or simply facilitating the conversation in advance.
- Reframe agenda items: Consider what you want from the meeting and turn topics into questions, such as: “How can we get started on this project?”
- Prioritize agenda items: Decide which topics should be covered first and how much time you will dedicate to covering each agenda item.
Share your agenda with your team in advance so they know what to expect, as well as what their purpose will be in the conversation.
Step 3: Master Timing and Duration
Time is a precious resource. The longer your employees spend in meetings, the less time they’ll have to focus on valuable tasks. Start by thinking about the ideal time to schedule your meeting. Many collaboration tools come with calendaring features which help you to determine “free gaps” in your employees’ schedules.
Be mindful of time zone differences if you’re working with remote and global employees, and make sure you understand the schedule of each of your team members. It’s also worth considering the meeting type when choosing a time. Some studies suggest strategic thinking, creative meetings, and brainstorming sessions are more effective in the morning.
Next, think about the ideal duration of your meetings. Different conversations may require longer or shorter interactions. A regular team meeting may only take 15 to 30 minutes, whereas a meeting for strategic decision-making could take a few hours.
Step 4: Facilitate an Inclusive Experience
Meetings need to be engaging and inclusive to be effective. Every employee invited to your conversation should be able to provide input and take something valuable away from the meeting.
Assigning a meeting facilitator or “host” to the conversation can be useful. These employees are tasked with keeping the meeting on track, ensuring everyone’s voice is heard, and any conflicts are managed effectively.
You can also create more inclusive and engaging meetings by:
- Using breakout groups: Allow people to break into groups to accomplish smaller tasks, make decisions together, or collaborate on projects within the wider meeting.
- Take notes or record the meeting: Collect as much information from the meeting as possible, so you can go back and check facts and action items at a later date.
- Include time for questions: Rather than allowing employees to ask questions consistently, consider dedicating a certain portion of the meeting to a Q&A session.
- Ask for feedback: Check in with your meeting attendees to find out whether they believe the conversation was a valuable use of their time.
- Support remote and hybrid workers: Ensure remote and hybrid employees are also included in the conversation, and feel seen and heard by the team.
Step 5: Make the Most of Technology
Leveraging the right technology is an excellent way to boost the productivity of meetings. This is particularly true in today’s world of hybrid work. Even if most of your meeting attendees are scheduled to be in-office on the day of the conversation, make sure a virtual meeting link is available. This ensures remote attendees can dial in from anywhere.
Give your employees access to video and audio conferencing tools, so they can always take part in meetings regardless of where they are, and make sure they know how to use them effectively. It’s also worth looking into other tools that can help streamline the meeting process.
For instance, some meeting tools include virtual whiteboards for brainstorming, poll features for collecting feedback, and presentation tools. You can also use synchronized digital calendars to help align teams from different time zones.
Step 6: End Each Meeting with Clear Next Steps
Every meeting has a purpose, and should facilitate the continued productivity and performance of your team. This makes ending the meeting on the right note essential. No employee should leave a meeting wondering what they should be doing next.
Throughout the meeting, document key takeaways and action items, based on the agenda topics you set, and the objectives of the conversations. Share recordings with your employees at the end of the conversation, along with notes and tasks they need to complete.
Assign specific action items to each member of your team based on what was covered in the meeting, and follow up when necessary to ensure they have the right information to proceed. If any discussions were tabled during the meeting, consider arranging another conversation or a discussion over a chat tool or email to re-surface these topics.
Make the Most of Your Meetings
Meetings are a common (and often crucial) part of any business landscape. However, not every meeting hosted in today’s world is efficient, effective, and productive. As companies continue to rely on meetings to align team members in the age of remote and hybrid work, it’s important to ensure you have the right strategies in place to ensure success.
Setting clear objectives, creating a comprehensive agenda, getting the timing of your meeting right and ensuring inclusivity will help you to boost the quality of your meetings. Leveraging technology effectively, and ending each meeting with action items will help you to get the best outcomes from every team conversation.
Implement the practices above, and remember to collect regular feedback from your employees to learn more about how you can optimize and improve the meeting experience.