Hosting meetings is a well known tradition at companies where people spend a lot of their valuable time together hoping to get some work done. Well, guess what… Not everything works as expected everytime.
I am going to discuss some ways in which you can make the meetings more powerful, productive and better for everyone.
This is the most important point of all. You should have an agenda to the meeting. You should not host a meeting just for the sake of it. You need to ask yourself about what you are planning to discuss in the meeting, is it really needed and most importantly, share the agenda with others beforehand so that they come prepared for the meeting and not waste everyone’s time giving excuses or delaying the process.
Also, having an agenda gives a clarity for everyone and keeps everyone on the same page. And make sure that people speak to the point without beating the bush. This saves a lot of time as well.
Assess the need
It is important not to waste anyone’s time. Even your time is precious. See if you can have the communication in an asynchronous fashion. May be over emails, collaboration & planning boards, chat rooms, etc. If you can, prefer that over face to face communication.
Face to face communication is more effective sometimes than asynchronous communication when you are doing it one-one rather than as a group but you should make sure if it is really needed.
If you are organizing meetings to track daily progress or monitor the work which people do, keep it short and sweet and allocate a maximum of 5 minutes for everyone to share what they did the other day and close the meeting. This keeps everyone in the team aware of what is happening and at the same time does not end up eating their time in the process.
If you want to collaborate more on specific topics organize a separate meeting with the agenda and call only the relevant stakeholders without wasting everyone’s time.
I have seen some meetings in which so many people are invited irrespective of whether they are needed or not. This makes things messy.
Keeping your audience small is very important to an effective meeting since you can have proper targeted discussions, allowing enough space for healthy discussions rather than creating a chaos.
It is also important to collect feedback before and after the meetings (asynchronously) on things like the agenda, audience and anything relevant so that you just don’t just stop with the meeting and have a feedback loop based on it.
Minutes of the meeting
I have seen many people take notes in meetings while things are discussed. While this may seem as if they are too sincere, that is not the case. Listening, observing and thinking is more powerful than blindly writing what people discuss. Have the meeting recorded or ask one person to write the minutes while others just focus on what is being discussed. This keeps the focus on and makes things effective.
Time & Schedule
You need to ask for convenient times beforehand from all the stakeholders before organizing a meeting rather than rushing into choosing your own time. This is a very good etiquette as well since it makes people think that you are giving importance to their choice as well. You need to respect people’s schedules and have meetings organized around it.
Also, make sure that you stick to the schedule. If the meeting is scheduled for 30 minutes, try to end it in 20 minutes and allow 10 minutes for Q&A and other discussions regarding the first 20 minutes of the session.
If the meeting is very interactive and you end up not being able to cover all the topics you wanted to cover, schedule a new meeting separately rather than extending the existing meeting. This keeps things neat on the calendars.
If you have scheduled a 30 minute meeting but are done with all the discussions within 15 minutes, great! Don’t spend the remaining 15 minutes there just because you have scheduled it. Just end the meeting and allow people to do their work.
You might find mobile phones ringing, people having unnecessary chat, the projector not working or anything which is keeping you from thinking and discussing about what you were supposed to discuss.
Try to set rules beforehand. Ask them to switch off their mobile phones or put them on silent, and make sure you change your delivery to make sure you always have their attention without any interruption.
If people are talking long about things which were not in the agenda, politely say to them that you will sync up with them offline rather than wasting time of others in the meeting since it may not be relevant to them.
Being a good host
This is very important when you organize meetings with a large audience. In such cases, there might be lot of criss-cross conversations, all of them talking at the same time or none of them talking or people pointing fingers on each other.
If you are the host, it becomes very important for you to moderate all those by keeping them all up to the groove and giving them just enough freedom to convey what they have in their mind.
You should also make sure that it is not just one person always speaking and others always listening. In such cases, you should trigger or start conversations with others to encourage their participation in the meeting.
People might have good things to say or share, but they might be a bit shy to say it out loud. So, you should make sure you understand that and make them comfortable to the environment.
Action oriented meeting
It is not just meetings which are important. You must be able to derive actions out of the discussions. People must be able to understand what they have to do next to achieve closer to the common goal which you have set.
If you have an hour long meeting and if people don’t know what they have to do next at the end of the meeting, then it is an utter waste of time. So, make sure that you have it covered and share the task assignment list with all the attendees after the meeting.
People attending the meetings might be have different portfolios and might be from different departments, designations, etc. When having a meeting with all of them together, you must make sure that the meeting is never biased towards a set of people alone. Try to keep it neutral to the general audience, and set a stage for everyone to share their opinions and treat everyone’s opinions equally.
While in reality, this might be difficult to do, doing this will make sure that you just focus on the problem statement at hand and not the person in the meeting room.
In summary, I would say that meetings are very very important if done right. If not, it is going to turn into a total disaster and haunt everyone in the future.
Things get beautiful when you work as a good team and working together is only made possible with good communication between all the team members.
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