Meetings are one of those things that we just cant live without but really wish we could. That is why it’s important to nail down the skills you need to not only know when to call one and who to invite but how to run the meeting to ensure everyone’s time is respected and you receive the outcome you envisioned.
At a job early in my career, I learned about meetings. Not necessarily how to run them but just to have them and have them often. Need an answer on something? Call a meeting and put it on the calendar. Have to ask a question? Present an idea? Call a meeting. At times if seemed like I was meeting more than working during a majority of my days. Nodding your head? I bet you are!
So while I was having meetings and attending meetings, I started to acquire some skills to getting a meeting from an hour to about 25 minutes. Unless the hour is necessarily (sometimes it is), there are a few things you can do to ensure you are running a smooth show.
1. Ask yourself if a meeting is necessary
Meetings are not always necessary. I determine this in a couple of ways. If I need to get more than 2 people in a room, I will call a meeting. If the person I am trying to have a conversation with is a VP or higher, I will place time on the calendar. If I am waiting on an answer from someone and other forms of communication have failed, I will ask for a meeting.
2. Have an agenda. What is the purpose?
If you have decided a meeting is necessary, then you must have a reason for the meeting. Is this a brainstorming session? Do you need to discuss an item? Present an idea? Have your agenda ready and think about what you would like to cover, what role the attendees will play and what outcome you hope to garner. If possible, try to think through the agenda in time blocks. You don’t want to get to the end of your meeting and not have covered a critical piece especially if attendees are watching the clock to get to their next appointment.
3. Control the attendees
Ever attend a meeting that seemed like it was out of control? No structure and no leader? Don’t let this happen to you. Regardless if you are in the room with the VP or the CEO, you called the meeting so you are in charge of it. Ensure that tangents are kept to a minimum and don’t be afraid to use the popular phrase ‘that’s interesting but let’s take that offline.’ Remind people why they are there and get them back on track.
4. You are not tied to half hour or 1 hour blocks because Outlook says so
We all know when we schedule a meeting that Outlook has decreed that we should start on the hour or the half hour and that the meeting should be in 30 or 60 min increments. Did you know that you can edit the time and allow for a 15 min, 20 min or 45 min meeting? Don’t book an hour if you don’t need to. Look back on your agenda and think through what is really needed before you ask attendees to commit their time.
5. Know when to wrap up and if a follow-up is necessary
Again, keep watch of your time. You know what you need to get through and the outcome you envision, so ensure you have enough time at the end to wrap up the meeting, thank everyone for their time and announce the next steps.
6. Take notes or delegate the task to an attendee
Really depends upon the meeting but I have yet to attend one where I did not bring a notebook and pen armed to take notes and capture important dates, objectives or assignments. I also feel that in most cases attendees appreciate a wrap-up document or email that outlines what was discussed and what will be the result after the fact.
As I said earlier, I don’t think we will ever find a way to not have meetings so we might as well be having effective ones.
What did I miss? Any good tips for running meetings that work?