Meetings are part of day-to-day office life; they are ideal to discuss important topics, to plan new projects, and to get people together to discuss any matter face-to-face and in a more personal setting. Nevertheless, often meetings are inefficient and take away time which could have otherwise been spent on work. Also, meetings are an ideal way for may people to escape their day-to-day routine, which in the end does not very well contribute to a company’s efficiency.
Meetings do not need to be inefficient. With a few simple thoughts and tricks, meetings can be efficient, short, and very effective.
1. Define the goal of the meeting
What is the actual goal of the meeting? Is it provide a status update on an ongoing project? Is it to define responsibilities for a new project? Perhaps it is a brainstorming session. Whichever the goal may be, the goal needs to be defined, and it needs to be clear what the outcome of the meeting should be.
2. Plan the meeting and send out invitations
One of the worst things to do is to hole ‘spontaneous meetings’. All meetings should be planned and prepared, whether it involves only 2 or as much as 20 people. Therefore, a meeting organizer has to be defined, who is in charge of liaising with all participants to find a suitable date and time. Additionally, the meeting organizer should send out an official invitation to all participants. The meeting organizer is also responsible for tracking who has accepted or rejected to join the meeting.
3. Setup an agenda
Before any meeting is set up, an agenda should be defined. The agenda should contain bullet points, or numbers, which each topic needs to be discussed during the meeting. Each bullet point should contain one topic, potentially with a number of sub-topics attached to it. The agenda will be distributed to all meeting participants. The main purpose of the agenda is, that it provides a guide to stay on-topic during the meeting as much as you can.
4. Be on time
It is remarkable, how many people are late for meetings. A few minutes is fully acceptable, but sometimes people come almost half an hour late. Although you might not be able to force other people to be on time, it might be important to kick-off the meeting although not all participants are present. A lot of time is lost waiting for people who are late, which is very inefficient.
5. Define the moderator
Each meeting should be moderated by one person. Often it is the meeting organizer, but it can also be someone else. The main task of the moderator is to keep the entire meeting on track and to ensure that the agenda is followed step-by-step. Also, the moderator will keep track of time, and he or she will keep track of the overall progress of the meeting.
6. Go through the agenda and take notes
Each point and sub-point on the agenda should be discussed in the exact same order as it is displayed on the agenda. The agenda will help not to go off-topic too much, and it keeps the focus of the group on what needs to be discussed. As you progress, someone should take notes of everything which is being discussed, especially the action points, and how is responsible for which topic.
7. Define the next steps
When all points have been discussed, you will either need to come to a conclusion or define the next steps. This has to be documented with action items and responsible persons and potentially also deadlines. Also, you may want to already plan a follow-up meeting, and perhaps already set a date and time.
8. Send the meeting minutes
After the meeting has come to an end, the notes should be recapped in the meeting minutes and send around in the group. The meeting minutes should be structured analog to the meeting agenda, and should also contain action points, responsibilities, and deadlines. In the end, everyone needs to have written proof of what has been discussed, and what has been agreed upon. Last, the meeting minutes should contain at least the date of the meeting, the meeting organizer’s name, the name of the person who took the notes, and for when another or follow-up meeting is scheduled.
It is not difficult to hole efficient and effective meetings, but the key is to organize them well, moderate the meeting while it is taking place, and to recap each point in the meeting minutes, including action points, responsibilities, and deadlines. When holding meetings effectively, everyone can dedicate more time to other, important, tasks.