How to make your meetings not suck, or how to run an effective meeting

Dilbert cartoon







Let’s face it, meetings can suck.  A poorly planned and executed meeting is a waste of time and money, and it can be demoralizing.  Meetings shouldn’t be like this. Here are nine tips on how to plan and how to run an effective meeting.

 1.      Purpose

Every meeting should have a purpose.  Meetings are often set up to happen on a reoccurring basis.  The reality is that many times these meetings take place solely because they are in our calendars. If there is no reason to hold the weekly meeting this Wednesday, cancel it.

 2.      Focus

Have a clearly defined singular focus.  Having a clearly defined singular focus keeps the meeting on track.  If a meeting has more than one focus it is likely that one issue will be covered in far greater detail than the other, that the meeting will get off track, and/or none of the issues will be adequately addressed.

 3.      Prepare

Do your homework.  Prior to every meeting make sure you have read anything you should have read and that you have completed any tasks that you should have completed.  Additionally, know the lay of the land.  For example, if the meeting is about the company budget and your employees are anxious over budget cuts – know this and be prepared to address your employees’ anxieties.

 4.      Invite

Invite those who should attend and do not invite people who should not be there.  For example, if the focus of the meeting is sales, make sure you invite the sales team.  Another example, if the focus of the meeting is the performance of your HR team, don’t invite your research and development team.

 5.      Leverage technology

Technology abounds and it should be utilized.  Getting everyone in the same room is no longer necessary.  Take advantage of technology such as Speek, Skype, and GoToMeeting.

 6.      Communicate

An effective meeting is not a place for you to download or transfer information.  If you present information a manner that speaks to attendees you will motivate your employees and create buy-in.  (The Heart of Change by Jon Kotter and Dan Cohen is a great resource on effective communication.)

 7.      Time management

Create an agenda and stick to it.  Start the meeting on time and end the meeting on time.  A meeting that is scheduled for 10:00-11:00 should not run from 10:15 to 11:15.  Furthermore, if a meeting is scheduled for 1 hour, the meeting should last one hour or less (no need to try and fill the last 15 minutes if the agenda has been covered).

 8.      Facilitate

A meeting needs a leader.  If it is your meeting – lead.  Leading does not mean speaking at people for an hour; instead it means facilitating the agenda.  For example, if an important but off-topic issue is raised during the meeting – don’t allow the meeting to go off on a tangent.  Instead, acknowledge the importance of the issue and establish a time to address the particular issue.  Handled correctly, your employees will not view this as blowing off their input, but rather they will value the fact that you will allot the necessary time to the issue.

 Facilitating the meeting also means not allowing one person to monopolize the meeting.  Give everyone the opportunity to provide input, and speak up if the agenda is being hijacked.

 9.      Action

At the end of the meeting review the action items.  Make sure the right people are put in charge of each item, that they know what they need to do, and that they know when the task needs to be completed.