How to Have Effective Meetings

Sarah George on Team Building

Brainstorming MeetingWhen you’re working in a team setting, effective meetings can hold the highest importance. They help everyone understand the team’s process and move forward with implementing his own part. Or meetings can waste time.

In the article below, we will discuss how you can have effective meetings every time.

By the end, you’ll understand how to hone your attendees list, create a helpful agenda, and manage the overall meeting discussion. You’ll also understand the importance of emailing a meeting summary to attendees after the discussion is over.

Let’s get started.

What does an effective meeting look like?

Meetings will look different for every company, for every profession. Meetings with small teams may tend to have a laid-back atmosphere while those with company CEOs and heads will include more formalities.

Whatever the details may be surrounding the meeting, one factor must stay the same. The meeting should set and accomplish a goal that’s relevant to the company’s interest.

To ensure the meeting does this, the goal should coincide with a business objective.

A business objective is a specific, measurable goal set in place to further a broader company goal.

For example, a business objective might be to retain 20 percent more customers over the next quarter. You could then set the goal of the meeting as: to put into place 3 ways to retain customers that the marketing team will test.

When the meeting is over, you should easily see its effectiveness based on whether it achieved this goal.

Cut down the attendees list.

Now that you understand what an effective meeting looks like, you can begin preparing. The mark of any meeting’s effectiveness starts before the meeting ever begins.

First, you should choose attendees carefully. All attendees should have a direct part in accomplishing the business and meeting objectives.

Ask yourself, “What role does this person have in the discussion? Will they be a valuable contribution to the goals at hand?”

If some attendees don’t have a direct part, they will be wasting valuable work time and may become bored with the topic discussed. In many cases, these miscellaneous attendees actually slow the productivity of the meeting. They may ask unnecessary questions or steer the discussion in the wrong direction.

In addition, not all team members will have equal roles in the meeting’s goal. In the above example, customer service personnel and marketing writers might have a heavy role in retaining customers. Those focused on updating the company’s social media might not.

If information does come up that a group should know, you can always inform those with smaller roles later.

Create an agenda that everyone understands.

Next, you will need to create a meeting agenda.

An agenda is a list of activities or topics the meeting will cover. These activities or topics should be listed in the order they will be addressed.

The agenda will set the pace of the meeting and keep it focused on the goal at hand. It can also act as a preparation tool for team members who are attending.

Team members can use the list to research ideas or background information beforehand, helping them contribute more valuable information. In turn, you will accomplish your goals more quickly.

Here’s what to include in your meeting agenda:

  • The goal of the meeting

  • Its location, start time, and expected end time

  • List of topics to be discussed

  • The person presenting each topic

  • The amount of time allotted for each topic

  • Final discussion

Remember here that the meeting’s goal should coincide with a business objective.

You should also ensure that you’ve left enough time for discussion even if one or two topics go over their allotted time. The discussion will finalize decisions and action plans or give time for clarification, making it an important part to keep in.

Use these helpful tips for implementing the agenda in your meeting:

  • Put the most important topics on the agenda first. If you have to cut a few topics short during the meeting, you will have at least covered these.

  • Send the agenda to attendees 1 or 2 days before the meeting begins.

  • When you send out the agenda, outline what preparations attendees should make before coming to the meeting..

  • If possible, post the agenda where everyone can see it during the meeting.  

Delegate a time manager.

Now that you’ve laid out the agenda for the meeting, you have the responsibility to see those tasks accomplished. Time management is key in this process.

As the meeting facilitator, you can keep track of timing yourself. However, delegating this responsibility to a time manager will allow you to focus on the discussion.

You should choose a time manager whom you can trust to keep the meeting on track. His job is to notify you at certain points, especially if the discussion is going past allotted time.

For a fast-paced meeting, you may even want him to notify you every 5-10 minutes. Otherwise, you could have them speak up a few minutes before a topic’s allotted time is over.

Handle time-wasting topics.

Then, another important aspect of time management is dealing with time-wasting topics or questions. You need to know when a topic has gone on for too long and how to avoid off-topic subjects.

First, your time manager will help with timing, but you should still be able to gauge when an attendee has spoken for too long. Think through how much time each person should have to speak based on time you’ve allotted for a topic.

If you feel that a person has taken too much time, say, “Thank you for your thoughts. We do need to hear from other people, but we may be able to return to your points at the end or in the meeting summary.”

Second, you can handle off-topic subjects in a similar way. However, instead of returning to that topic later, you can mention their points in the meeting summary. Then, you may bring up these points in a future meeting if it’s pertinent for discussion.

Depending on the subject’s sensitivity, you or another marketing manager may want to approach the team member separately about his topic.

Email a meeting summary.

Last, you should finalize the meeting with an email summary of your discussion.

Many times, attendees will end the meeting with their own idea of its conclusion. They may have even taken notes so that they can implement their responsibilities right away. The email summary will make sure that everyone understands the same conclusion.

In the summary, you should list topics covered in the meeting again. Remind those who attended what decisions the group made and any individual tasks or deadlines they were assigned.

Then, as you stated in the meeting, list off-topic subjects brought up that you may need to cover in a future meeting. Ask attendees to respond with any questions or concerns and address these in a timely manner.

Finally, this email summary is a great chance to include less involved team members in the discussion. They may have not needed to attend the meeting itself, but the summary can keep these essential team members informed.

What if I have a laid-back office setting?

In a laid-back office setting, meetings may take on an informal approach, but many of the above principles still apply. Any office should be concerned about keeping work productive and achieving the company’s goals.

How you set up the meeting can look different, though. For example, you might send a simple email rather than a formal agenda. The email can still tell team members about the meeting and list some topics you’ll discuss. You may also allow more time for each topic.  

Depending on your specific setting, you might even allow some humor or short off-topic subjects. However, you should keep in mind how those topics will affect the day’s workflow.

The meeting should keep an appropriate time frame and accomplish its goal, no matter the setting.

Summary: How to Have Effective Meetings

  • What does an effective meeting look like? An effective meeting will coincide with a business objective and, from that, create a specific meeting goal.

  • Cut down the attendees list. Only team members with a direct part in accomplishing the goal should attend. Those with a smaller role can receive necessary information later.

  • Create an agenda that everyone understands. The agenda should state the meeting’s goal, list topics to be covered, and include each topic’s allotted time.

  • Delegate a time manager. The time manager is responsible for notifying the group about timing, especially how much time is left for a topic.

  • Handle time-wasting topics. As the meeting facilitator, you should know when a topic has gone on for too long and how to avoid off-topic subjects.

  • Email a meeting summary. The meeting summary will finalize the meeting’s conclusion and make sure that everyone took away the same ideas. It will also keep less involved team members informed.

  • What if I have a laid-back office setting? No matter the setting, meetings should still focus on keeping work productive and achieving the company’s goals.

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