The Art and Science of Effective Meetings

Meetings, meetings, meetings. At times, life at a start-up seems like one big meeting with no end in sight. Sometimes I wonder when any actual work gets done since so much of so many people’s time is tied up in never-ending meetings. Many meetings are ineffective and waste valuable time. While meetings are critical and useful to moving a company forward, people don’t spend a lot of time making sure their meetings are productive.

Productive meetings don’t just happen there is an art and science to making them more effective. Here are some simple tips to make sure you are getting the most out of the time spent in shared space with your coworkers.

Articulate why you are having the meeting. Put the purpose of the meeting in the meeting notice advisory that is sent to meeting participants, along with what you hope to accomplish and what people may need to bring. Microsoft Outlook, as well as other scheduling programs, has a field in its meeting notices to do this.

This exercise will help you determine if a meeting is actually required and lets your team know what to expect at the meeting. Re-emphasize the agenda and purpose at the meeting. We start every marketing meeting at campsix with the organizer stating the purpose of the meeting, telling us what we need to accomplish, and reviewing the agenda.

Be on time. Enough said. If you accept an invitation to a meeting and can’t make it on time, notify the organizer in advance.

Start on time. Start your meeting when it’s supposed to start don’t wait for latecomers. And don’t backtrack on their behalf when the tardy arrive at the meeting this validates their bad behavior. One barrier to starting on time is coffee. If you must have something to eat or drink, team members should bring snacks and drinks before the meeting start time, not at it. One way to keep things on track is to have treats at the meeting so people won’t leave for a fill up.

Have an agenda and stick to it. This should take you through the meeting’s purpose and help generate the desired results. Allocate a set amount of time to go through each particular agenda item. Move the discussion to end at the time designated. If you have to extend the discussion, also set a time limit so the conversation stays focused.

When appropriate, it’s always great to ask meeting attendees if they have relevant agenda items as well so you can budget time appropriately. Finally, if a new item comes up in the meeting, put it in the “parking lot” to be addressed at another time and place.

Send review materials in advance. Make sure all relevant documents or materials are sent to meeting attendees in advance of the meeting so they have enough time to review and digest the materials. Don’t create what I call the “Library Effect,” where everyone gets the materials for the first time and starts reviewing them at the meeting wasting valuable meeting time.

End on time. If you need to extend a meeting, try to do so by scheduling a new time later in the day or week so attendees do not need to reassemble their own schedules on the fly. This way they won’t miss or be late for their next meeting.

Don’t accept double bookings. If you can’t make a meeting, say no and tell the scheduler why. (There is a reply function in Outlook.) If you are required for that particular meeting, it will be rescheduled. And try to give yourself time in between meetings. When meetings are back to back, it’s almost impossible to be on time for the second meeting when the first meeting is completed.

Always pick a meeting location, and book the appropriate meeting room. You’ve seen the meeting nomads, wandering from place to place to find a spot to meet. Have meeting-room schedules and use them.

Turn off your cell phone. Once more, enough said.

Gotta go, I’m off to a meeting.

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