Our time is a valuable, limited resource; and we need to use it wisely.
The following ten tips will create an effective and productive meeting that stays focused and on point, with an engaged and motivated team.
Ten Tips for an Effective Meeting
(1) Request items from participants that they want to add prior to publishing an agenda, which should be sent out at least two days before the meeting with clearly stated objectives, asking yourself:
a. What information do you want others to leave the meeting with?
b. What do you want to make sure is covered?
c. How much time will you allot to the meeting?
(2) What do you want from participants?
a. What support do you need?
b. What agreements do you want?
c. What commitments are needed?
d. What additional resources, if any, are required?
(3) Make sure all materials needed by the participants are included with the agenda to give everyone adequate time to prepare.
(4) A consistent agenda with time frames for each item creates a productive and on-track environment to quickly reach decisions. An example would be: review objective(s) (5 minutes), action item review (30 minutes), discussion item (30 minutes), round table (15 minutes).
(5) Post norms—meeting etiquette—at each meeting, which participants have agreed to follow, such as one person speaks at a time, meeting times are honored, etc., which will be needed to refer to when, in the heat of the moment, people might forget the rules of engagement. It is the facilitator’s responsibility to keep the meetings on track by reminding them of the norms so that feelings aren’t hurt, emotions are kept in check, and the meeting can move forward. Healthy conflict strengthens a team. Rude behavior weakens it.
(6) Especially if participants are located in diverse places and face to face interaction is not an option, allot time for getting to know each other. This allows team members to connect with each other and build relationships, which will lead to working together more effectively. One way is for everyone to share a picture, a brief description of their role, and an interesting fact about themselves. (I had—and still miss—two aquatic frogs named Eleanor and Franklin who lived in our bathroom, as an example).
(7) Document actions in a simple table—succinctly describe the action, who is responsible, time-frame for completion, and updates. Each succeeding meeting, you can add comments in the update box. Everything is contained in one place. If agreed to, have a rotating scribe at each meeting that updates the minutes.
(8) Because everyone is very busy, what agreements that were reached can quickly be forgotten. Productive meeting minutes document decisions, actions, and points for further discussion. It documents everyone’s commitments and agreements. It is NOT a transcript of the meeting. Minutes should be succinct, to the point, and specific.
(9) If the allotted time for an agenda item is not enough, ask for agreement to continue discussing this item and bumping another item to the next meeting, having a separate meeting, or table the item for discussion for the next meeting.
(10) Honor time commitments. Running over can impact everyone’s day. Staying on time keeps everyone focused and energized.
Effective meetings require up-front planning!