We’ve all been there: suffering through a seemingly endless meeting while colleagues release audible sighs of discontent, play on their smartphones under the table, draw ethically questionable pictures on their notepads—all while the boss drones on. And on. It’s no surprise that most employees do not enjoy meetings and generally find them to be a waste of time. No one can deny that meetings are a necessary part of getting things done at work, but do they have to be so painful?
We’re here to help you turn those sighs into smiles with five tips for running effective meetings.
1. List the meeting objective(s)
If you’re calling a meeting for a “general check-in” or “odds and ends” you’ve lost your audience before they arrive. Make sure your meeting is called for a specific reason, and make an agenda of items that will be covered during the meeting. Do not stray from this list. If conversation starts to wander during the meeting, simply say, “While this is a valuable point, we will put it on the next agenda,” and move on.
2. Set a time limit
For every meeting you call, set a time limit that does not exceed one hour, and a time limit for every item on the agenda. Adhere strictly to them in order to manage expectations. If something runs over time, a simple “We have run out of time on this item, thank you for your input and let’s move on,” should work. Keeping your word about meeting length makes meetings more productive.
3. Equal time for everyone
Laura from Accounting may have a strong opinion about everything, but she can’t be the only one to contribute, which will only alienate and annoy the other meeting attendees. Do not be afraid to gently cut someone off by saying, “Thank you for your ideas, but we need to hear how everyone feels now. Ian from Sales, what do you think?”
4. Send meeting notes
Delegate the task of taking notes and summarizing decisions taken during the meeting. If it was decided that Ian from Sales would be in charge of the office Christmas party, be sure that this decision is sent out in writing, along with all other decisions made, no more than 24 hours after the meeting ends.
5. Follow up
Next time you meet with the same group, begin by following up on the last meeting’s decisions. This promotes accountability and shows that your meetings do serve a purpose and are productive.