1. Be Certain That a Meeting is Necessary
Having a great meeting starts with making sure that you need one. Ask yourself: do you need to have everyone in the same room to get the agreement you’re looking for? Meetings take up everyone’s valuable time, so you need to ask yourself whether it’s essential. Could you do it just as easily through email, or even better, over the phone or through a video call?
2. Brief Everyone Before the Meeting
So much time at the start of meetings is wasted by passing out handouts, going through PowerPoint slides or using some other method of briefing everyone on what’s happening. Meetings are for discussion and decision making, not group reading.
Make meetings short and snappy by ensuring that everyone knows the situation beforehand, especially if it’s a meeting with a client. That way, people’s attention spans aren’t run into the ground, and the meeting won’t run off on a pointless tangent- especially if there are plenty of points you have to get through. Briefing also helps you keep your priorities clear: what’s at the top of the agenda and what’s at the bottom?
3. Only Use the Time That You Need
Following on from the previous point, make sure not to pad out meetings with unnecessary waffle. Don’t book an hour-long slot if you know that you only need a 20-minute discussion, and spend the rest of the time going round in circles. Good meetings don’t have to be long. Make the time limit fit the meeting, rather than stretching the discussion to fit the time limit. In the same vein, make sure you allow enough time to say everything you need to. You can even go so far as to end a meeting before you’re scheduled to, if you’re clear that a client’s expectations or the purpose of the meeting was met. Think of all the time you’ll save!
4. Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth
If you invite too many people to the meeting, nobody’s going to feel responsible for keeping the discussion flowing. Consider what would happen in a meeting where 50 people were sat around a giant conference table. Do you think any individual person would feel as though they’re valuable enough to speak? A meeting with 6 or 7 people would be far more productive. It would also mean that everyone feels responsible for carrying out the agreed upon actions.
5. Have a Clear Goal in Mind
Always make sure that when going into a meeting, there is a very clear and defined agenda. Don’t schedule a meeting with a general idea of what needs to be discussed, and hope that somehow it all flows nicely and everything gets worked out. Discussion can easily fall off-track if there isn’t a plan. Allocate a specific time slot for every point that needs to be raised, and make sure to include time for questions throughout.
6. Make Sure Someone’s in Charge
It’s so easy for discussion to stray off the path and get side-tracked. One person starts off talking, and someone else picks up on a small point they’ve mentioned. Suddenly, the meeting heads in a different, and sometimes irrelevant, direction. Before you know it, everyone’s talking in circles and nothing is moving forward. Ensure that one person in particular – ideally the person who called the meeting – is responsible for making sure it flows.
7. Play to Everyone’s Strengths
The people that you’ve invited to the meeting have all got something valuable and unique to add to the topic, so make sure that they do. How can the person who’s been with the company the longest use their experience to an advantage? Who’s the most creative? Can the younger people offer anything new and exciting? Give everyone a chance to have their say. You may be surprised at what you hear.
8. Have a Laugh!
Meetings don’t have to be boring and official to be effective. In fact, that’s a sure fire way to cause people’s minds to wander and daydream. If you keep things light-hearted and make jokes every now and then, people are more likely to keep listening, and you can start building a much better relationship with any clients present. Not only that, but everyone will be in a better mood, and look at things more positively. That’s when productive discussion is most likely.