How to run effective meetings | Professional Academy

Written by Professional Academy Management and Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights

How often do you get invited to work meetings? How often do you leave those meetings feeling they have been a waste of your time? Meetings get a bad press. Most people find them unproductive and a disruption to their working day. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If planned and executed well, meetings can be a highly effective way of running your business. All it takes is some careful planning.

What contributes to bad meetings?

The two main culprits of bad meetings are:

1) Focus – people have a habit of trying to multi-task in meetings. This is especially true when meetings are virtual and it results in a lack of focus from people. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, we can’t multi-task, we can only task-switch (moving from one task to another). If a person cannot fully focus on a meeting, then why invite them? Their time is better spent contributing to the business elsewhere.

2) Preparation – on average an employee spends four hours per week preparing for meetings and one third of their overall working week in meetings. That’s around 40% of a working week preparing and sitting in meetings. Have you ever seen a job description stating that 40% of a person’s role will be associated with meetings? Neither have I.

How to run effective meetings

Before you set up your next meeting, think about what the purpose of that meeting is. The next thing to consider is how to reach that end point. This is where a facilitator comes in. A good facilitator will move things forward and keep things on track.

You also need to get three other things right:

1) Minutes

Writing great minutes will vastly improve your meetings. Use WOT to get on track:

  • What – include what got discussed
  • Owner – decide on one person to own each action from the minutes
  • Time – write the minutes document in real time during the meeting to build consensus quickly

2) Agenda

People always over estimate what can be covered in a meeting. I’ve seen agendas for hour-long meetings with 10 or more items on them. Agendas should follow CAT:

  • Clarity – think back to the main purpose you decided on for the meeting. Does the agenda support that purpose?
  • Anticipated outcome – what are the likely outcomes or responses to the agenda items? Have a flow. Don’t start with challenging or controversial items. Begin easy and move into the more difficult ones.
  • Time – split up the overall meeting time between your agenda items. Be realistic with how long you think each item will take (doubling the expected time allocation usually works). Does one item justify a whole meeting to itself?

3) People

You need to be selective about the people you invite to a meeting. Use RITE to help you decide who is worthy of being there:

  • Responsible – invite people who can be responsible for taking action, as well as being able to contribute to the conversation
  • Informed – individuals who only need to be informed do not need to be at the meeting, those people can read the minutes
  • Timely – people need to turn up on time, make timely decisions and take action in a timely manner
  • Eight people - identify the teams you want to involve and invite a maximum of two people per team, eight people in total

Tips and tricks for running effective virtual meetings

The way we work is changing. People are becoming less attached to their office desk and are working remotely. Teams are becoming virtual and that means meetings are too.

As I mentioned above, people frequently switch off in virtual meetings. That’s either because they don’t need to be there or because they’re disinterested. Once you’ve established who does and doesn’t need to be in a meeting, how do you keep the remaining people engaged?

Here are three tactics you can try:

1) Video streaming – when we’re in front of people we have to stay focused. There’s no opportunity to mute the rest of the room of wander off to make tea. Use video whenever you can.

2) Have a good facilitator – make sure you choose someone who is skilled at involving everyone. This person will be able to get everyone talking and even ask those people who have remained silent to give their opinion.

3) Real time minutes – as mentioned above, update the minutes document in real time. This means everyone stays focused on what’s being discussed and what actions are being taken.

If you need further advice, get in touch via LinkedIn.

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