We’re all busy. As our work and personal ‘to do’ lists grow, an hour-long, half day or full day meeting invite can be unwelcome, especially if it’s hard to see the benefit of the meeting.
We’ve all sat in meetings and wondered whether we really need to be there and whether we’re adding any value. We’ve all sat in meetings that have wandered off topic, over run or just don’t seem to have a clear objective. And on the other side of the fence, many of us have run meetings that don’t go how we planned, where the delegates are unmotivated and disengaged and nothing seems to have been achieved at the end of the session. It’s frustrating when you know you could be using that time productively elsewhere and this sense of wasted time and lack of control over your schedule can cause stress.
There are a few activities you can do before, during and after the meeting to overcome these issues and make the meetings you attend – and those you run – more efficient, more effective, more productive and a lot less stressful for all concerned.
As a Delegate
- Don’t be afraid to say no to a meeting invite or delegate a meeting that you can’t add value to – or doesn’t add value to you
- When the invite arrives, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on the agenda and content and ask the organiser for clarity on how you can add value to the session
- Ask if you can join in at a particular time, for a particular part of the session, if only a section of the meeting is relevant to you
- Always respond to the meeting invite, even if you can’t attend
- Give as much notice as possible if you accepted the invite but your plans change and you can no longer attend
- During the meeting, help the organiser keep things on track. Don’t turn the agenda to your own means – if you want to discuss something that isn’t on the agenda, set up a separate meeting
As the Meeting Organiser
Before the Meeting
When you send out your meeting invite and agenda, use ‘ACTOR’ to help your delegates prepare, know what to expect and to arrive on time and unflustered. The meeting invite should contain the:
Agenda, which should contain the:
Objectives of the meetings and the outcomes you are aiming to achieve
FoRmat description – is this a workshop, formal interview, panel or meeting?
Also consider the following comfort factors to help your delegates:
- Check if your delegates have any dietary requirements
- Check if your delegates have any accessibility needs
- Provide a map and directions to the venue
- Arrange parking, or provide directions to the most convenient nearby public parking
Arrange to provide refreshments if possible, especially if the meeting spans lunchtime or your delegates are travelling a long way to attend. Your meeting attendees will be a lot more receptive and engaged if they have a cup of coffee for your 9am Monday morning meeting!
Helping your delegates out with these will help to ensure they arrive unflustered and ready to focus on your meeting.
During the Meeting
There are a number of things you can do during a meeting to keep things on track and to get the most out of the time you have. Use the acronym ‘REACT’ as a guide:
Recap the agenda and ensure everyone is clear on the plan for the session, what will be discussed, when the breaks are and when refreshments will be arriving
Check Expectations. Do you have the right people in the room? Does what you are planning to cover align to their expectations of the session?
This is a good point to re-visit the planned Content and expected Objectives and Outcomes of the session. Ideally, if you have followed the ‘ACTOR’ steps above (and the delegates have read the information you sent!), expectations should match with your plans for the meeting. If this is not the case however, do you need to adjust your content for this audience? Should any delegates be released, if they don’t feel this is the right meeting for them?
Actions and next steps should be captured as the meeting progresses. This ensures there are clear outcomes and an agreement of what needs to happen next to move things forward
If conversation starts to wander or stick on one subject for too long, it may be a topic to add to a ‘Car Park’. A ‘car park’ is an area for capturing ideas and conversations that need to be taken outside of the meeting, cannot be agreed or progressed in the meeting or are off-topic. This usually takes the form of a flipchart page or whiteboard area where topics can be noted down to be discussed at a later date
This will help you to keep an eye on the Time and keep proceedings in line with the agenda timings.
After the Meeting
After the meeting, it is good practice to contact attendees, for example using email or a shared tool such as Slack or Google Hangouts, thanking them for their time and circulating the following information:
Summary of what was discussed and agreed
Actions arising and who has agreed to do them by when. If there is to be a follow-up meeting, reviewing action progress will often form a sizeable section of the agenda
Next steps for the wider project or piece of work
And don’t forget to
DO any actions or progress any next steps that you agreed to!
Hopefully this has given you some practical tips to use in your work and even your personal life. Please comment below with any additional Effective Meetings tips that you would like to share.