Effective meetings are the dream, right?
After all, you spend a lot of time in the meeting room. What if you didn’t have to endure another boring and unproductive meeting?
Fortunately, effective meetings are within your reach. And here below, we look at 8 effective meeting tips you can use to ensure every meeting counts. We’ve divided this post into two parts: how to hold effective meetings and how to be an effective meeting participant.
Let’s dive right in:
Hold effective meetings
So, first things first… Effective meetings are well-organized. How? Here are four fundamental things to use in every meeting.
1. Ask: “What can we do so we don’t have to hold this meeting?”
So, what’s the #1 thing to know about effective meetings?
The fewer you have, the better.
That’s because meetings are overused. After all, they’re a form of communication. And the most effective form of communication is usually not getting together for an hour. Remember – meetings require tons of preparations and follow-up actions.
Decide if a meeting is necessary before scheduling it.
“What can I do to avoid this meeting?”
And then, go through different alternatives, point by point.
Can you work on a project remotely? For example: Letting everyone work on their own by leaving comments in a shared document could be much more effective than sitting down for an hour to talk about it.
Can you instead talk about your project using a different communication tool? Today, you have a range of tech tools that let you effortlessly discuss and chat with your co-workers. Take Slack, for example.
Can you establish company-wide guidelines for certain situations to avoid meetings? Are you often finding yourself discussing the same or similar problems at meetings? It might be time to sit down with your team and come up with evergreen guidelines, systems, and processes. For example: “If situation X happens, we do Y.”
OK, so now you know when not to schedule a meeting.
This will eliminate all those meetings that are evidently wasteful.
But sometimes, meetings are a must. And that’s fine — here below, we’ll look at how to keep those meetings effective.
2. State your purpose.
Effective meetings have a structure. That’s why you need to start with the end in mind- with a purpose.
Your meeting purpose determines pretty much everything about your meeting:
- The meeting focus (what it’s about).
- The agenda (discussion points).
- Participants (who attends).
But what is a meeting purpose? It’s basically your goal. So, your meeting purpose could be:
- Do you solve a problem?
- Do you share information?
- Do you engage team members?
- Do you make a decision?
Your meeting purpose has one more function. And that is to communicate the meeting benefit.
Why? Meetings are important… But unless they feel important, meeting participants won’t prioritize them.
So tell them what your team will achieve thanks to your meeting. You can use this handy formula:
“This meeting is to ___ (fill in the goal), so that ___ (fill in the benefit).”
The trick here is to define your purpose so that an illiterate 5-year old understands it. You see, if your purpose is crystal clear, there can be no misunderstandings about it.
3. Ask everyone to prepare before the meeting.
It goes without saying… One of the main reasons your meetings are ineffective is that meeting attendants are unprepared.
And most of the time, it’s not their fault.
After all, it’s hard to prepare if there’s no meeting purpose or agenda. Where are they even supposed to start?
But there’s an easy fix:
Make sure people know the meeting purpose. And send out a copy of your agenda before the meeting.
If you can, be specific. Assign discussion points to every participant, preferably within their area of expertise. They’re then responsible for those discussion points.
Now you ensure everyone preps for your meeting. And you also engage your co-workers and get them to take ownership of the meeting.
4. Use meeting tools.
Once you have a system that works for you, it’s time to ensure your meetings remain effective.
With meeting tools. You know, tools that help you communicate more effectively with your team before, during, and after your meeting.
Our own tool, Minute, is developed for meetings based on customer feedback. In short, Minute helps you organize, structure, and archive your meetings. Your agenda, minutes, files… everything is kept in the same place and it’s extremely easy to share your documents with others.
You can read more about Minute here.
Be the most effective meeting participant
As a meeting participant, you’re in a key role when it comes to holding effective meetings. Want to know how you can improve meetings? Use these three effective meeting tips:
1. Do the work upfront.
An effective meeting needs an agenda…
…And you as a meeting participant need to familiarize yourself with the agenda before your meeting.
What many people don’t realize is that the bulk of the meeting happens before the meeting.
That’s when you prepare your notes and talking points.
And that’s when you introduce your ideas so that you can build up support for them and meet counterarguments.
If you, and all your co-workers, take the time to do this, you’re guaranteed to have more effective meetings.
2. Speak up.
One of the best ways to be effective in your work?
Getting outside of your comfort zone.
And during meetings, this can mean uncomfortable situations where you need to speak up.
Your co-worker comes with an unrealistic suggestion.
Or someone is speaking too much. Unless someone intervenes, the meeting will go to waste.
What do you do?
Yeah… It can be agonizing to speak up.
But for effective meetings, it’s a must.
You don’t have to be blunt about it. You don’t even have to have the best counterarguments.
You could simply say:
“There’s something about this suggestion that doesn’t sound quite right.”
And to catch people’s attention, do this:
- Avoid leaning back in your seat or setting up a laptop in front of you. These things could make you seem less engaged than you actually are.
- Get to the point. Be clear and avoid “filler words” or presenting your argument in an unfocused way.
3. Try not to monopolize the discussion.
Yes, you need to speak up when it’s uncomfortable…
…But you also need to stop talking when you prefer to keep on going.
You only have so much time in the meeting room. If one person does all the talking, everyone else (who’re there for a reason!) don’t get to give their insights.
And that, pretty much, goes against the purpose of a meeting.
So how can you tell you’ve talked for too long?
People’s bored or uncomfortable faces are one way to tell. But time is another.
Effective meetings should take 15-30 minutes (according to companies like Google and Facebook). So you should speak for not more than 5-10 minutes, depending on the meeting purpose and the number of meeting participants.
4. Ask yourself: “Is there a reason for me to be there?”
Last but not least:
“Am I supposed to be in that meeting room?”
What are some good indications you shouldn’t attend a meeting?
You have nothing to add to a discussion, you don’t have expertise that’s required and you don’t take any part in the project being discussed.
Again, it can be uncomfortable to ask your co-workers to remove you from a meeting. But you can do so tactically.
Ask them why they added you to a meeting and how they want you to contribute.
If they can’t come to think of anything, ask them politely to remove you from the list. But instead of blurting out: “I don’t want to attend this meeting”, frame it as: “As I understand it, I can’t really contribute anything to this meeting. Would it be a good idea to remove me so that the others get more room to discuss this project?”
By shifting focus from you to the other attendees, you make it hard to say no.
Conclusion: Use these 8 effective meeting tips consistently… And your meetings will be productive.
That’s it- now you know how to organize effective meetings and be an effective meeting participant.
What’s the one thing you’ll do at your next meeting to ensure your meeting is effective?
Write in the comments below and let me know!