Since Covid took over we have all been having more meetings than ever. So I thought it would be a good time to get back to the basics of running a good and effective, and most importantly, productive meeting. We have all become almost too familiar with platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Team, Uber, and a whole slew of others as well so we can skip over that part. I certainly am not qualified to discuss which are the best of these services, and which are the worst. What I’m more interested in is how to manage a meeting no matter if it’s live and in person or on your computer.
Here are 16 guidelines to running a successful meeting:
- Make sure everyone gets the invitation and confirms they will be there. Please remember to send reminders at least two times after the initial invite. And make sure that that the connection data is included on all emailed reminders for the meeting. There is nothing worse than getting a meeting reminder and having to wade through a whole string of emails to get to the connection link.
- Make sure you really need a meeting. This is not as obvious as it sounds. Is what you are going to discuss so important that you have to hold up two or three or fourteen people for thirty minutes or more, interrupting their workflow to spend time with you? It had better be important!
- Schedule the meeting for a time that everyone can make. Here is a hint. If you want the meeting to be short and sweet and to the point schedule it a half hour before lunch and you’ll get much more accomplished. If you want to make sure that no one will show up, schedule the meeting for 4:30 on a July Friday afternoon. Although these are both pretty obvious there is a strategy involved based on when the meeting is scheduled.
- Set a goal for the meeting. What are you going to accomplish by bringing all these people together? Have a firm goal in mind.
- Set an agenda that includes not only the items to be covered but also the goal of the meeting, that is what you want to accomplish during the meeting. And send the agenda out beforehand so everyone attending the meeting will be prepared to discuss what they need to discuss.
- Does everyone need to be at the meeting? Make sure that everyone needs to be there and why they need to be there.
- Start the meeting on time. This is especially true if it is a regular meeting. Get people in the habit of getting there a little bit ahead of time so you can start on time.
- By the same token, set a certain amount of time for the meeting. You can even add time-allotments for each agenda item and then, and end the meeting when you promised to end the meeting.
- Avoid rat holes. If a discussion starts to go long, too long for its allotted time, then set up another meeting to discuss that particular topic. Do not let anyone hijack your meeting by taking a subject down a road of no return.
- Along these same lines avoid pontificators (long-talkers) who love nothing more than to go off on their favorite subject for hours at a time. This is the most counter-productive thing that can happen to your meeting; and it’s up to you to squelch this. And for heaven’s sakes make sure you are not the pontificator!
- Make sure the meeting moves at a brisk pace and don’t let it get bogged down. As the meeting leader the pace of the meeting is up to you.
- Make sure everyone is heard from. Always try to include everyone. If someone is not speaking up, call on that person and solicit her opinion. It is better that she speaks up now than be unhappy later.
- Make assignments with dates. The success of the meeting will be determined by this. Make sure that all actions are listed and defined and assigned with completion dates. In the end this is one of the most important aspects of the meeting.
- If a follow-up meeting is required, make sure that the date is determined before the current meeting is adjourned.
- End the meeting with a verbal summary of what took place, including listing the decisions made and the actions assigned. Get the consensus of everyone who attended the meeting that you are going in the right direction before the meeting ends.
- Follow up the meeting with a summary. This should list all of the decisions and most importantly the actions that have to be completed.
And one last tip, in the spirit of under promising and over delivering. If the meeting is a regular meeting make sure that you always hold the meeting, even if it feels like there is not much to discuss this time, consistency is the key to success. So always consistently hold the meetings as planned. Always. It’s only common sense.