Meeting management is one of the most important business skills you can have. After all, meetings are a time suck. Middle managers use up to 35% and upper managers up to 50% of their time in meetings. To ensure that your meetings don’t require an excessive amount of time, you need to learn how to run meetings.
If you’re new to organizing meetings or want to improve the way you manage meetings, this guide is for you. Read on to learn step-by-step how you can effectively manage your next meeting.
Do you really need a meeting?
First things first:
Before you even start planning your meeting, you need to ask yourself if you really need a meeting. Chances are you don’t need one.
At least 30% of the time workers spend in meetings are considered unproductive. A more effective way to handle a lot of these unnecessary meetings would be to send emails, write notifications or schedule one-on-one meetings.
To figure out if your meeting is necessary or not, you should ask yourself:
What do you want to achieve with your meeting? Every meeting should have a goal and by defining what that goal is, you can eliminate all meetings with obscure goals.
Is there a more effective way to communicate what you want to discuss? For example, would it be faster and less time-consuming to send a document using Google Docs or other collaboration tools? If yes, your meeting isn’t necessary.
Is it absolutely crucial that you get feedback or outside input to make progress? If you can solve the problem yourself, your co-workers shouldn’t have to sacrifice their time.
Meeting Management: Planning is key
If you conclude that your meeting is necessary, the next step is to start planning it. This stage is key to managing an effective meeting.
This is what you need to plan:
- The attendee list. There’s one rule for your attendee list: it needs to be as short as possible. Only those who have a clear role at your meeting should be invited.
- The agenda. Your agenda lists the goals for your meeting so that everyone’s on the same page. Make sure you create a specific agenda that you send out to your co-workers before the meeting.
- Length. While you might want to schedule a long meeting “just in case,” it’s far better to keep it as short as possible. That way, you ensure that meeting participants are focused on the agenda. There’s no ideal length, as it depends on your agenda, participants and so forth. Many experts recommend 15 minutes. In any case, you shouldn’t schedule in more than 30 minutes.
- Meeting time. Again, the meeting time depends on your individual needs. But according to a study by WhenIsGood.net, the ideal meeting time is at 3pm on Tuesdays.
- Amenities and meeting environment. While they might seem like mere details, amenities and work environment have a huge impact on your productivity. For example, studies show that natural light is better than artificial light and water can increase productivity by 14%.
Now you know what you need to plan. What’s left is the actual planning, which can be a demanding task.
Need some technical help to keep track of everything?
Minute helps you plan and manage your meetings (full disclosure: you’re reading our blog). With the app, you can create the agenda together with your co-workers and share files and documents.
Meeting Management: Your role as the meeting manager
When you’ve planned your meeting, it’s time to execute on your plan.
This is where you as the meeting manager get to shine and show your co-workers how an effective meeting is run.
What is the role of a meeting leader?
During the meeting, your primary role as the meeting manager is to:
- Ensure that the meeting runs smoothly.
- Ensure that everyone contributes to the meeting outcome.
- Ensure that the meeting objectives are met.
Your role as the leader is not to do all the speaking. Quite the opposite; your role is to ensure that everyone who attends the meeting collaborates to achieve meeting objectives.
Meeting Management: How to tackle problem situations
There are several problem situations that can come up during a meeting. You as the manager are in charge of resolving these problems.
While most people don’t plan for such situations, it’s important that you do. By allowing interruptions, you will eventually fail to properly manage a meeting. Interruptions cause a significant loss of productivity. That’s why you should have a plan B whenever your meeting gets disrupted.
- Tech problems
What do you do if the tech fails you? The Internet might be temporarily out or you’re unable to start a presentation. If you’re organizing a virtual meeting, those shortcomings are obviously even more disruptive.
There are a few things you can do to avoid that you’re meeting suffers from tech problems. If you meet in person, you should make sure that you have a printed version of meeting presentations, the agenda and all the documents you need at your meeting. If you have a virtual meeting, you should have backup tools you use if one of them fails you.
- A meeting participant doesn’t stop talking
Chances are that one of your co-workers likes to monopolize meetings. It’s a tricky situation – you don’t want to be rude, but at the same time, your co-worker is wasting precious meeting time.
There’s an easy solution to your problem: when you feel that someone has spoken too much, thank him or her for the insights and comments, but go on to point out that others should be allowed to speak up on the issue.
- A meeting participant won’t speak up
Can’t get a meeting participant to participate in the meeting? Every meeting participant is in the room for a reason, so you naturally want them to give their input. Otherwise, you won’t be able to achieve your meeting goals.
Here’s what to do: Address that person by name and ask him or her a specific question. That way, you’re bound to get a reply.
- The discussion gets derailed
It’s not too uncommon for meeting participants to start talking about issues that are not part of the meeting agenda. What does that mean? In short, your meeting is pretty much useless, because you don’t achieve your meeting objectives.
There’s a simple way to stop this from happening:
First, be as specific as possible in your agenda. That way, meeting participants are on the same page when they enter the meeting room.
Second, when you start the meeting, ask participants if they have the same understanding of the meeting goals. If a co-worker mentions an issue that’s not included in the agenda, you can include it or ask that you use email or instant messaging if they are more effective communication tools. Alternatively, you can suggest a separate meeting where you discuss the unrelated issue.
After the meeting: follow up
It’s easy to think that wrapping up the meeting means you’re done for the day.
However, there’s still some work left to do.
If you’ve managed the meeting correctly and effectively, all meeting participants have walked out of the meeting room with actionable tasks. If not, you’ve merely held an unproductive status meeting with no tangible value.
During your meeting, you need to agree on the next steps for each agenda item. That includes establishing deadlines and preferably assigning tasks to every meeting participant.
After your meeting, it’s time to follow up on those tasks and deadlines.
First, send out a reminder to all meeting participants to make sure that everyone understands what’s required from them.
Then, follow up with your co-workers to check that your meeting objectives are achieved.
Now you know how to manage a meeting. Meeting management isn’t rocket science, but you better get it right to ensure that you and your co-workers don’t waste your time on unproductive meetings. Follow the steps laid out above and you’re bound to organize a successful and effective meeting.
Meeting Management Checklist:
Before the meeting:
- Specify why you want to organize a meeting.
- Plan your meeting: who should you invite and why? What are your objectives? How long should the meeting be? When should you hold it and where?
During the meeting:
- Make sure you have Plan Bs for problem situations to be able to solve them quickly and effectively.
- Divide tasks and set deadlines for every item you discuss during the meeting.
After the meeting:
- Ensure that your co-workers know what’s expected of them.
- Follow up to check that meeting objectives are met.