1. Reduce the number of internal meetings
First of all, we have to ask, do you really need a meeting? If you can accomplish your goal without adding another meeting to the calendar, do it - trust us, your colleagues will thank you for it. If another method of communication will work just as well, especially if the purpose is simply to share information, don't meet.
2. Reduce the number of attendees
Secondly, only invite those for whom the meeting is relevant. Likewise, if there are people for whom only part of the meeting relevant, ask if they would prefer to join only for that part. Reducing the time people spend in meetings reduces meeting-fatigue and results in more focused and effective meetings.
3. Define the purpose
Take the necessary time to define the purpose - this is the most important part of meeting preparation. The purpose determines who should be there, how they participate and what format the agenda takes. Define the goal and outcomes you want to achieve. It could be to seek input, share information, make a decision, allocate tasks, or something else. Know your purpose!
4. Set a clear agenda
A clear agenda outlines the content of the meeting, what will happen and how attendees are asked to participate. It gives a frame for how the meeting will run. The agenda should be sent out at least two days in advance so that attendees are warmed-up and have time to prepare.
5. Prepare for engagement
Highlight in the agenda what preparation the participants need to do, such as read a document, prepare an update or simply consider a topic. If you are asking someone to present new information, give them adequate time to prepare. If appropriate, invite suggestions for agenda items. The attendees will be more engaged if you encourage them to participate and share their ideas in the agenda.
6. Stick to time
Allocate realistic amounts of time for each agenda item and stick to the agenda. Ask someone to take the role of time-keeper. If the meeting veers off track, bring it back to the purpose and the agenda.
7. Good manners
Consider the kind of meeting culture you want to foster in your organization and make agreements with your colleagues about this. Being on time, turning phones off and saving small-talk for later, are examples that will enhance focus and make your meetings more effective.
Read our post lack of manners in internal meetings
Let your participants know that they're there because their knowledge and opinions are relevant to the goal of the meeting. In this way, you let them know that their input is valued and you encourage them to contribute. Ask for their commitment in achieving the meeting’s purpose.
9. Summarise and follow-up
End the meeting with a summary of key points, agreements, next steps and who is responsible for upcoming tasks. If you have a long agenda it may be useful to do this after each item. Send a written summary to each participate, ideally within 24 hours of the meeting. This ensures that the momentum continues and people are accountable for what they have agreed to do.
Before the meeting, define what “success” looks like for that meeting. After the meeting, ask yourself if it met its goals. Did it stay on purpose and on time? Did everyone contribute? Did they leave feeling energized and knowing what to do next? Use these kinds of questions to evaluate your success and use the learning to prepare for even more effective future meetings.
Smile and enjoy the meeting! If you are enjoying the meeting, it’s more likely your attendees will too.
Smarter meetings? Yes please!
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