The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!
The dreaded business meeting. So often it starts with chitchat about the weather and then spins off into random discussions where no resolutions or courses of action are identified. Inevitably the meeting runs over its allotted time and all attendees leave wondering what was accomplished. There’s no follow-up and trying to find a date for the next meeting that suits everyone’s schedule is an impossible feat – if you want it to happen this year.
Does this sound familiar? It’s a scenario that is all too common – and completely avoidable if only the right organizational methods were applied. The changes we need to make to revamp an unproductive business meeting are quite simple, too. Having led countless business meetings on behalf of clients, I have identified five very simple, yet very effective tools for running a productive meeting.
If you’re ready to stop wasting hours of your life that result in nothing more than the need for another meeting, I urge you to implement the following suggestions today!
- Come with an agenda
Set yourself up for success by developing an agenda in advance of your meeting and having enough copies for all attendees. This will help guide everyone through the meeting’s core discussion points and quite literally, keep everyone on the same page.
As you develop your agenda, you’ll also be able to capture all of your thoughts so that you’re not struggling to remember them during the meeting. You can help move things along quickly by researching statistics, options or prices that may come up as a point of discussion. Anticipate what some attendees might ask and have the answer already provided.
- Bring your laptop or tablet
Be sure to bring your laptop or tablet with you! For the longest time, I wanted to travel light so I would carry only paper and a pen into a meeting. This changed when I realized how much more efficient I could be (whether leading the meeting or simply attending) when I had full access to documents, emails, etc.
If people need to see a document or reference an email, everything is right at your fingertips. I also take notes directly on the agenda on my laptop and am ready to send out the summary as soon as the meeting wraps up. This saves me the time of coming back to my office and having to transcribe and organize my notes.
Additionally, encourage other attendees to also bring their devices. Select a meeting space that at least has WiFi – even better would be a meeting space with a TV or projector that allows attendees to share their screen for everyone to see, as needed.
- Have a point person in charge
We have all likely attended a meeting where there appears to be no single person leading the discussion. Or, there is the meeting where everyone appears to be the leader and even more confusion ensues. The person who leads the meeting doesn’t have to be (and likely shouldn’t be) the highest position within the organization. Foremost, you want someone who is reliable and who has good organizational skills.
I have led many business meetings and it really requires only a small amount of time before and after the meeting to take on this responsibility. My favorite part is that I often get to delegate tasks to other attendees as we move through the agenda. It’s amazing how people will begin to chip in more when they know someone else has already taken the lead of organizing the meetings.
- Set the next meeting(s) during this meeting
When you are trying to get any more than 2 people together to meet, you need to schedule all future meetings out well in advance. Accommodating 3+ schedules can seem harder than rocket science (and maybe it is). You can avoid the slew of “Reply All” emails by scheduling the next meeting before you adjourn.
People can immediately pull out their calendars and in real-time tell you what will work and what won’t. If you know you’ll need many more meetings in the future, go ahead and schedule them all! The best method is to set a recurring day and time (i.e. the first Monday of the month at Noon). And if you’re still struggling to coordinate schedules, check out www.doodle.com – it’s a free tool and a lifesaver for scheduling meetings, especially with other busy people.
- Send out a summary of notes, highlighting action items
Finally, even the most organized business meeting can still fail to be productive if there is not some sort of follow-up with the attendees to remind them who is responsible for what. The person leading the meeting (or another designated note taker) should summarize the notes and send them out to all attendees within 1-2 days of the meeting.
These notes should outline important discussion points, decisions that were made and outstanding action items that need resolved before the next meeting. I like to develop a system that makes this visually easy to digest. For example, I color code people’s names and highlight that task in the appropriate color to show who is responsible. I also bold and underline any questions that need input from the group so they are easy to pick out. The more organized you are, the more responsive people will be. Most importantly, remind people of the next meeting!
Business meetings are a necessary evil. For as many times as we have all sat through a boring or unproductive meeting, there are just as many opportunities to take the lead and make your time together worth so much more. Try practicing these five tips at your next meeting – I am confident they will make a big difference!
What other tips have helped you run a productive business meeting? Share your expertise by commenting below!