You’ve likely been here before... You’re in the zone at work, knocking out your to-do list, and even getting ahead on some projects. But just as you begin to tackle your next task a ding from your phone breaks your mojo.
Meeting reminder. 10 minutes.
You take a deep breath. This is one of those recurring meetings that consistently starts late and runs long and lacks any clear focus. In short, a soul-sapping time-suck.
Scenarios such as this play out countless times at organizations everywhere. Meetings are set up because someone felt like they needed a meeting. But lack of focus, an unwieldy invite list, or a weak agenda can diminish morale and hurt engagement and productivity.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Meetings can be a positive experience when they help you find solutions to vexing challenges, brainstorm new ideas, or build unity and morale on your team.
Taking the time and effort to run more effective meetings can benefit you, your team, and ultimately your company.
Good meetings share some common traits. These include timeliness, having the right people in the room, and establishing a clear and achievable purpose and an agenda to support it. An effective meeting:
Poorly run and meandering meetings are not only bad for morale, they are bad for business, wasting time and sapping productivity. Some signs that your meetings need improvement include:
When it comes to running effective meetings, there is always room for improvement. By taking some proactive steps you can build greater engagement, morale, and teamwork—as well as get key issues resolved, top priorities accomplished, and plans in motion to achieve goals and execute on growth strategies. Here are some tips for making it happen.
Before you dive into creating an agenda, take a step back and give some serious thought to the purpose of the meeting and what you want to accomplish. It’s important to be realistic here. Narrow your focus to what is achievable whether it be creating an action plan for an upcoming project, getting updates from team members, or brainstorming a solution to a specific challenge.
A good agenda is clear and brief, highlighting the key issues you want to cover while allowing time for discussion and questions. Specifically your agenda should include:
Rushing into a meeting unprepared is the recipe for a bad meeting. You should commit to taking ample time to properly prepare for a meeting so it has a logical flow and can run as efficiently as possible. Some preparation tips include:
The most effective meetings include only participants who can make a unique contribution and are essential to the meeting. Inviting people who aren’t directly involved with the topics being discussed at a particular meeting wastes their time and the time of the other meeting participants.
You want to invite the fewest people needed to achieve your goal, but you also want a group to bring diverse perspectives and knowledge, especially if the purpose of the meeting is decision-making or brainstorming
When you meet matters—and setting a standing meeting for 3pm on a Friday is probably not the best time. The same can go for early morning meetings that don’t always work well for night owls.
The key is to find that just-right day and time that works best for everyone’s schedule and helps assure that participants will bring high energy to the meeting. With many calendars packed these days, using an online scheduling poll is a great way to quickly get participant feedback to nail down the best time to meet.
Try to avoid holding meetings over lunch hours, unless you are footing the bill for food for a lunch-and-learn session. Late end of the day meetings can also be problematic. With more and more people working remotely, be sensitive to the late afternoon hours when children may be returning home from school and commanding some of your team members' attention.
Research has found that our capacity for creative thinking is highest right after sleep, so schedule brainstorming sessions first thing in the morning. Meanwhile, people are generally better problem solvers later in the day when our minds are a bit tired so set meetings focused on working through a problem in the later afternoon.
People’s time is valuable. If they start thinking that you’re wasting it, it can chip away at their engagement levels and motivation. The rule of thumb here is to be prompt but reasonable. It’s OK to leave a brief grace period before a meeting starts, but don’t let that drag out any longer than five minutes and consistently encourage attendees to be on time so you can get through the agenda before the meeting’s scheduled end.
Make sure you have a definitive end set for the meeting which will help ensure you accomplish what’s on your agenda and get people back to their work promptly.
It’s common for people to get carried away on tangents during meetings. If these tangents are not connected to the discussed topic in any way, try to steer the conversation back to the discussion at hand. A clear and focused agenda can be a great tool to get people on track and keep them there.
The longer the meeting, the more effort it will take to keep up the energy and discussion of participants. Research has found that 52 minutes is generally the longest time workers can remain truly engaged so try not to schedule meetings that last more than an hour. Shorter than that is even better, as it keeps everyone focused and sends a clear message that you respect participants’ valuable time.
Just about every meeting should end with an answer to the “what’s next” question. Leave the last few minutes of every meeting to review action items and discuss next steps. Ideally, individuals should be assigned to specific tasks with accompanying deadlines so there is clarity on what needs to be done before the next meeting, and who needs to do it.
After the meeting, it’s good practice to send a follow up email with the outlined notes from the meeting, along with next steps and action items, who is responsible for each, and deadlines. This is not only helpful to those who attended the meeting but helps assure that those who had a conflict are up-to-date on what happened and what the action plan is moving forward.
The bottom line is that your meeting invites should be greeted with enthusiasm, not dread. It takes focus and some practice to become adept at hosting effective and efficient meetings. But the payoff can be significant in terms of better engagement, increased clarity around roles and responsibilities, and improved productivity.
And if you have the sense that your meetings are missing the mark, you can take action to change that. Using SurveyMonkey’s meeting feedback survey template can quickly provide you with insights into various aspects of your meeting. Good questions to ask include:
Gathering feedback not only provides great insights for improving your meetings, but has the added benefit of conveying to participants that you value both their time and their opinions.
SurveyMonkey has a range of plans to fit any budget. And if you are hosting your meetings on Zoom, SurveyMonkey can add real value by making gathering feedback part of your ongoing meeting process.