In order to be effective, meetings must leave you energized and feeling that you’ve really accomplished something, they should start with the objective, take up the least amount of time as possible and leave participants with clear actions steps.
In a ineffective meeting the employees join not having a clue about the purpose of it and the communication is faulty. If people arrive late, especially people from the management, the agenda is not clear or you don’t even have one – this is not a good strategy for a meeting. If employees spend their time checking the phones and laptops, or at the end of the meeting no action steps are defined and you simply leave with no feedback, wondering why you were even present there, you should rather be productive somewhere else.
Important things you should consider, when having a meeting:
- The agenda must be very clear. What is the objective of the meeting: ideas, plans, decisions? The agenda must be build on the basis of what’s important to the team, to the management and to the business in real time. It means that team members are discussing things that are important to them. Focus on the things that need focusing on, this is real teamwork.
- The meeting must be really needed. What’s at stake if you do not hold it? Maybe you can solve the issues by communication using phone/email instead.
- The employees must pay attention and be focused. Do you want people to read some material/proposal before the meeting? Send it at least three hours ahead of time is good, sending it 20 minutes before is useless. If you want people to pay attention, don’t give them several handouts at the beginning of the meeting, try to engage people, encourage participation.
- Name the time and the place: start and end on time, have a reserved meeting space. How long will the meeting last? Don’t be late, people must arrive on time.
- A good management practice is to keep meetings short and regular, with high frequency: weekly is better than monthly, daily communication is better than weekly.
- Schedule time for breaks, if the meeting is over an hour long. Let attendees know about the breaks, so they can check their email or phone later and help keep them focused now.
- Invite only the needed people. The more people in a meeting, the less that gets done. Participants should be focused on making a decision they can act as soon as they leave the meeting room. You don’t mix the administrative management with the tactical (ex: apply the new sales plan) and with the strategic (ex: how the competitor’s pricing strategy may impact the business).
- Assign a facilitator, to be in charge. The moderator is pushing the agenda forward, steering the discussions back to the initial purpose, stepping in the way of useless discussions, he/she is trying to engage all the employees, ask for their feedback and also helps with decision making.
- Assign a note-taker, so that you can focus on running the meeting.
- Establish future action steps at the end of the meeting. Any action step must have someone assigned to it, be clear about who is going to do what and when, otherwise it’s not going to get done. For productive meetings, the communication at the end is just as important as at the beginning. Don’t let people leave with silent disagreement, the moderator must be clear about the commitments and the action steps.
It’s not hard to tell the differences between a bad and a good team meeting: if more than 40% of the time is allocated to when to hold the next meeting, 30% to corporate jokes, 20% to the unclear event agenda and just 10% to actual decisions. Ineffective meetings last an eternity, they have pointless agendas and cause participants to hide each time you call one, as a manager. The real teamwork is done in meetings. If you’re developing a new marketing or management plan, you can do that through an email exchange, through one-on-one sessions, or a team meeting. Each of those will have a different outcome, but the team meeting is the most effective, both from a time and a result standpoint.