In this video we’re going to talk about effective meetings best practices, so that every single meeting you hold is useful, productive, and people actually do what they commit to during the meeting.
So. Let’s go over my 8 tips for successful business meetings:
The first of my effective business meeting recommendations, would be to clearly set the objectives for the meeting beforehand.
The meeting must have a clear purpose. What do you want to achieve with it? Share specific information? Make decisions? What topics do you want to cover?
If there isn't anything specific that you want to achieve with a meeting, just don't hold one. And did you notice the word "specific" there?
Even in the case of periodical pre-scheduled meetings, such as team meetings or status update meetings, if you have nothing to discuss, consider cancelling. Do ask other participants if there is anything they want to discuss before cancelling though. Because if there isn't, you'll be doing everyone a favour. Never go ahead with a meeting just for the sake of it. Stop wasting people’s time.
The second of the effective meetings best practices that I suggest you implement, is that you invite the right people.
Make sure that all the people whose feedback you need in order to achieve the meeting's goals are present.
Also, don't forget those whose buy-in you will need in order to implement any decision. Keep in mind that not getting them involved in the decision process may make it difficult to get them to cooperate later.
Do remember, however, that it’s harder to move the discussion forward as the group becomes larger, so everyone you invite must play a relevant role. If someone does not need to be there, don’t invite them.
The third of my effective meetings recommendations is that you share the agenda with participants beforehand.
This not only allows them to prepare, but also gives them a chance to provide feedback about it.
So, list all the topics you need to cover during the meeting, and then, assign specific time slots to discuss each topic, so everyone understands that you have limited time to discuss. This forces you to keep moving forward if you want to cover the entire agenda.
If there is a need to present data to introduce a specific topic, include who will be responsible for presenting the data, and how long they will have to do it. Needless to say, this is something you need to agree with the person presenting before distributing the agenda.
And if the data takes more than a few minutes to present, is hard to process, or you want participants to give it some thought, you need to send preparation materials to participants beforehand. This allows everyone to go through the relevant information in advance, and you will only need to address doubts and major highlights during the actual meeting.
As you may have noticed, these 3 effective meetings recommendations are things that you must do BEFORE the meeting ever takes place. It may seem like a lot, I know, but it’s a worthwhile investment. Give it a try if you don’t believe me.
But it’s time to the tips for effective business meetings that you would implement during the actual meeting.
The fourth tip on how to run effective meetings, is that when starting the meeting, you review the agenda one more time.
This will remind participants of the objectives, but also that there is limited time to go over each of the topics. It also allows you to make changes if required.
Now. Sometimes you will need to dedicate a little more time to an important topic than what was initially planned for. Acknowledge this; the group must be made aware that the discussion is taking extra time. So:
- If the discussion is being productive but can't be finalized quickly, either the meeting needs to be extended, or, if that cannot be done, you need to choose which of the other topics' discussion will be shortened or postponed to a later date.
- If the discussion is not moving forward, cut it short and move on to the next topic. In this case, do summarize why a conclusion could not be reached at present, and what steps need to be taken in order to reach a conclusion at a later time. But stop wasting everybody’s time right now.
The fifth tip for effective meetings, is that before ending the meeting, you summarize conclusions and next steps, including who will be responsible to implement them and by when.
I found that it’s a good idea to close the discussion after each topic with a summary of the conclusions and decisions. This is important to make sure that ideas are clear, and that everyone is on the same page.
Especially if you’re holding a multidisciplinary meeting. The more complex the subject, the more important this becomes. It’s much easier to capture all the important aspects with everyone's help than later on your own, especially if there are a lot of technical specificities that you don’t fully understand, because it’s not your area of work.
This also helps us make sure that every participant knows what he/she has to do as a follow-up and by when.
My next effective business meetings recommendation, is that you take notes that allow you to put together meeting minutes later on.
You may think it will be easy to remember the overall discussion, but be honest with yourself; it is really easy to forget details, like who committed to doing what, not to mention deadlines. And even if you do have a brilliant memory, other participants may not.
So, to avoid people forgetting what they committed to (and even save you from potential arguments in the future), you should put together meeting minutes.
Now… minutes may not always be needed, but at least in cases where people committed to something, it is better to have them.
Also, remember that minutes are not a supposed to be a summary of the entire discussion, just of its outcomes. So, sometimes a couple of bullet points on an e-mail are enough. Keep them as brief as possible, but do include:
- The list of participants whenever this isn't obvious, and people who were invited but didn't attend.
- Main decisions and/or conclusions reached.
- Next steps, including who is responsible for their completion and by when.
You can of course delegate the writing of the minutes to a less senior team member if there is one, but still, take notes that allow you to review the minutes and add missing information.
Now. Once the meeting is finished, there are a few more things that I’d recommend you do to ensure that all the work you’ve done so far doesn’t go down the drain.
And the seventh of my tips for business meetings, would be that you send out minutes to all participants and ask for feedback.
Again, this is especially important when dealing with complex subjects and multidisciplinary teams, since you may have difficulties getting all the details down on paper. So, that’s the first reason reason to ask for participants' feedback.
But another reason to ask for feedback on the minutes, is that later on, nobody will be able to say that they didn't agree with the content.
This may sound bad, but it's important to avoid future arguments when the attendees do not have the same interests. Common examples include meetings with suppliers, clients, different departments... or anyone who has an interest in not following through with what they committed to during the meeting, really. This can even be someone on your own team.
Finally, my eighth recommendation for effective business meetings, would be that you redistribute a final version of the meeting minutes with all participants' feedback incorporated.
Apart from participants, consider whether other people should receive the minutes, such as people who were invited but didn't attend.
There may also be a wider group of people that despite not being invited should be informed (you only invited those who would play a relevant role, remember?). But there may be others that despite not being relevant participants, should be informed of what was decided.
And that’s it! These are my top tips for successful business meetings. I hope these steps can help you improve the productivity of your meetings, decrease their number, and stop wasting time with pointless discussions.
If you have additional tips, please share them in the comments! I'm always looking for good ideas about how to improve the way I do things!