6 tips for better meetings

By Anne Sutton, Generation Next Governor at Large
Curry Supply Company

This article was originally published in the September 2021 issue of Generation Next Edition

Does it spark anxiety to see a meeting invitation come across your email inbox? Negative feelings? Do you ever ask yourself why? Maybe it’s because meetings in your organization typically run too long. Or maybe it’s because nothing gets achieved within the meeting itself, so you feel like your time wasn’t well used.

I set a personal goal early in my career to run efficient and effective meetings whenever I had the ability to do so. I’ll share some tips I’ve collected and utilized over the years.

Ask yourself: Is the meeting necessary?

Before I even open my Outlook calendar to put that next meeting on the books, I think about the purpose for even scheduling it. Am I trying to solve a problem? Move a project forward? Provide an update on how results were improved? I’ve found that meetings with specific and defined purposes are not only better received, but if you are the meeting organizer, getting crystal clear on the purpose makes it easier on yourself to prep.

Be mindful when sending the invite

If you followed the above tip, then knowing the purpose of the meeting should guide you in selecting who to invite. Announcing a change? Who will the change affect? Invite them!  I have been invited to plenty of meetings in the past where myself, my boss, and her boss have all been invited. My unempirical study says that 90 percent of the time, not all three of us needed to be there. If your team is working as a true team, then I have found efficiencies in having a team divide and conquer different meetings. This frees up needed time to work on other tasks.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

I personally feel like I fail as a meeting organizer if I don’t find time prior to craft an agenda. Sending the agenda in advance to invitees gets everyone familiar and already thinking about what is going to be discussed. Further, I believe this helps make sure that everyone is an active participate in the discussion and gives leaders the opportunity to listen and not do all the talking.

Be respectful of time and circumstances              

Starting and ending meetings on time sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s an important to cover this here. If you build a positive reputation of someone who starts and ends promptly, think about how many more people will look forward to attending your meetings. I would add to make your meetings remote-friendly, even if you’re in the office, and to not cancel a meeting for a weak reason. If you want your team, colleagues, etc. to consider your meeting important and mandatory, then you too should treat it as such.

Build trust in the room

It’s worth repeating—you should let everyone know their opinions matter from the start. By the time you get to the meeting, you will have carefully selected the invitees and should want to hear from them. Make sure you find the time within the meeting to do just that. It takes practice but you will eventually come up with your own ways of making sure no one takes over the conversation and to engage someone who is quieter within the group.

Follow up

When I can, I like to conclude meetings with recapping actions items or providing a quick summary of what I heard just be discussed. It’s common for people to hear different things, interpret something one way while someone else understands it another. For larger meetings, I have had success in emailing a summary within 24 hours detailing any tasks that were delegated and important deadlines.

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