1. Know your objectives
Worthwhile meetings have clear objectives. And not only do they have objectives, but they also require collaboration to meet those objectives. Your objective might be project planning, solving a problem or delivering news and responding to questions. How do you figure out your objective? Answer these questions:
- What do I hope to achieve?
- Will I be able to do this by holding a meeting?
Beware of regularly scheduled meetings and be quick to cancel them if you have no new objective.
2. Decide the best meeting format
Determine what format and location will help meet your objective.
- Do you need a room with a screen for presentations, outlets for laptops and access to internet?
- Do you need a room set up for discussion with few distractions?
- Could you meet in an office if it’s a small status meeting?
- Do you want a swift decision and then to get back to work?
3. Perfect the invite list
Avoid including people to ‘keep them in the loop.’ Ask yourself:
- Do my objectives directly affect their role?
- Is their input needed to make a decision?
- Will they take an action item away from the discussion?
If you are still worried about inclusion, make it a practice to make them aware of the meeting and objectives, but be clear attendance is optional. You can send a follow up email with meeting notes and materials.
4. Turn objectives into an agenda
Planning is essential. It’s easy for meetings to be derailed by conversation, but an agenda will help you guide discussion.
- Decide how much time should be devoted to discussing each objective based on the business value of the decision.
- Decide the type of action you need to come away with to keep discussion on the right course.
- Determine how long the meeting should be overall. Keep in mind, meetings stretch to fill the time allowed so don’t overschedule.
5. Have materials, presentations, presenters and tech at the ready
Being prepared means details like equipment and contributors too. It lends itself to the productivity of your meetings.
Figure out equipment requests and set up ahead of time. Test your presentations and review materials to make sure both match the agenda.
Give notice to team members you expect to contribute on certain topics even if it’s just an opinion or status report.
6. Train yourself to watch the clock
As you begin to lead meetings, learn to watch the clock. Stick to start and end times as well as the timeframes you built into your agenda for each topic.
Training yourself to watch the clock will make you more aware of derailed discussion and help you refocus on the objectives.
7. Learn how to mediate discussion
Collaboration is essential in effective meetings to meet objectives, but discussion can quickly derail an agenda.
To keep discussion productive, learn how to:
- Mediate the two sides of a decision
- Diffuse sarcasm, off-topic remarks and side discussions
- Avoid letting one person monopolize discussion, including yourself
- Set action items even if the item cannot be resolved to help resolutions down the road
- Plan time in the agenda for your team to raise concerns
8. Turn objectives into actions and delegate responsibility
Every time you close a discussion, there should be an actionable item attached to the objective that started the conversation. If you have nothing to take action on, the meeting did not produce results.
You and everyone in attendance will feel the meeting was worthwhile if they come away with new, clear procedure, a definite decision on a problem and the action to continue working on a project or goals.
Keep on top of your skills
Practice your meeting craft and be critical of your own leadership in meetings. Continue to grow into your leadership position by making each meeting more impressive than the last.
(Hat tip to John Belberg for the photo)