Too many business meetings happen too casually. There are those standup meetings and meetings on the fly where casual is okay.
Here, I would like to share tips that have worked for me and can make your meetings more effective.
Towards the end of this article I’ll also share a sample agenda for your meeting
- Prepare thoroughly. Meeting effectiveness is a direct function of the preparation put in. Employees, from rank and file to senior executives, resent their time being wasted.
Remember: preparation takes time and personal involvement.
Depending on the time and environment
, you may be able to delegate some or many duties, but if you’re managing the meeting, the accountability is all yours:
- Invite only those with a direct connection with the desired outcomes.
- Phrase and communicate a clear goal.
- Specify what you expect from each meeting participant and how it connects with the meeting goal.
- Describe how you will measure achievement of that goal.
- Limit topics, issues, and tasks to those related to the goal.
- Predict how member contributions and votes will work out.
- Solicit input from participants in advance to see if it belongs on agenda, and instruct contributing participant to provide materials and limit their talk to a specific time slot.
- Settle participant concerns in advance when possible.
- Organize the physical environment: space, seating, refreshments, A/V equipment, supplies, and so on.
- Rehearse presentation parts of the meeting, but clearly visualize the pacing and participation.
- Provide a clear, organized, and detailed Agenda.
(A trainer told me about a time he asked the hosts to have water accessible only to find them delivering water every 15 minutes in metal cups rattling on metal trays.)
With time and experience, you can turn some of this process into paperwork and email communication, such as checklists.
I have found senior managers and execs push back on the need for preparation, figuring they are above all the administrative work. But, if you review the bullets, you’ll notice that most of the steps are thought processes.
If the goal is productive cost-effective meetings, this is a skill set and prerequisite talent for management roles.
- Establish Rules of the Meeting. It helps enormously if the organization’s culture has established Rules of the Meeting.
If everyone knows and respects effective meeting behaviors, it speeds things up, keeps attention focused, and standardizes expectations. If such rules do exist, revisit them regularly and every time a meeting strays from the rules. If such rules do not exist, define, communicate, and practice them with authority. (A rule can be that note-taking is rotated weekly among participants).
Hold members accountable for arriving 10-15 minutes before the meeting start, time when they can chat, get coffee, arrange materials, and the like.
If you are to own the meeting as you should, your meetings must start on time every time.
Circumstances vary, but you’ll want to minimize the use of personal electronics to devices necessary to the meeting, and that includes a reasonable ban on cellphone use.
Use the Agenda and email communication to identify participants and guests, but if guests are customers, clients, or other VIPs, introduce them respectfully at the beginning with the time limit on the Agenda.
If meeting minutes are procedurally necessary, distribute the minutes and solicit approval or dissent in advance of the meeting. Resolve conflicts off the record, and move on before the meeting occurs.
Decide in advance if you will distribute materials during the meeting, and when. Handling out materials too early might distract participants from paying attention to the speaker. Not handling out materials might put participants at a disadvantage when discussing an important issue.
: Rotate minutes-taking through the different participants with instructions on what is expected in appropriate minutes. Where verbatim minutes are required, you do better to record the meeting for later transcription.
In the best meetings, you can designate a trusted facilitator or meeting manager to keep people and agenda in line. Trying to rule the meeting and facilitate a non-fear atmosphere are tough for you to juggle delicately if you own the meeting.
Meetings should not fill time. They should follow and adhere to the Agenda, but that means ending as planned and communicated. Topics and issues that appear to jeopardize the schedule can be moved to a parking lot for later resolution.
If Rules of the Meeting are not engrained in your organization, you must build and implement them together with Human Resources and Training.
If your organization lacks the support from HR and Training, establish the rules as a best business practice and cultural norm.
- Prepare the Agenda. A meeting agenda is not something to scratch on a restaurant napkin or note on a blackboard. It takes meaningful preparation and execution.
With enough experience and qualified assistants, you can delegate some or all the process. But, you cannot surrender ownership and accountability.
Meeting Agenda templates are readily available online and through MS Word and Google Docs. These have the advantage of being familiar in look and availability to all users.
Software applications like Meeting Booster
share the news and meeting planning process as you work toward a final agenda.
The meeting purpose may have some influence on the form. Executive meetings, Board meetings, and other groups have special needs. But, if we focus on the work of Customer Success Managers, here a look at a usable approach to a full day’s meeting (Sample Agenda)