Mastering the Meeting: How to Make Every Minute Count

Posted On: October 9

“I don’t have time to go to another meeting. It seems like all I do is sit in meetings.”

This sentiment is understandable, especially when you are booked in back-to-back meetings, leaving little time for focused work. This kind of schedule can be exhausting and counterproductive. However, it’s important to understand that meetings, when conducted effectively, are a highly valuable investment of your time.

The first step in making meetings more effective and less time-consuming is crafting a well-defined agenda.

This roadmap should outline the objectives, time allocated for each topic, and desired outcomes. Distributing this agenda 24-48 hours in advance allows participants to prepare, making the meeting more efficient and focused. Meetings without an agender meander all over the place. People are chasing rabbits or pontificating on unimportant topics.

Inviting the right people is the cornerstone of an effective meeting.

For each agenda item, identify who has a stake in the outcome and limit attendance to those individuals. I have learned that if you add one unnecessary person, they will be the one who drives the meeting into the ground. 

Having the right attendees is especially crucial in decision-making meetings, where the absence of key decision-makers can render the meeting pointless. There are few things as frustrating as holding a meeting to make an important decision, only to have it reversed by someone higher up the did not attend the meeting. 

In contrast, information-sharing meetings may require a broader audience to disseminate updates or news. Other types of meetings include progress-tracking meetings, focused on the status of ongoing projects, and brainstorming sessions, which are more open-ended and creative. Knowing the kind of meeting you’re conducting helps in inviting the right participants.

Time-efficient participation is another critical aspect of effective meetings.

Invite people only for the segments that require their input. Everybody hates sitting in a meeting for an hour when you could have shared what you needed to in five minutes and gone back to your “real” work.

Regularly assessing the effectiveness of meetings is vital.

This can be done through quick surveys or by dedicating a few minutes to an open forum at the end. Such feedback loops ensure that meetings remain valuable. The person leading the meeting needs to know if there is anything they can do to improve the effectiveness of future meetings.

The primary goal of any meeting should be to drive action.

Therefore, it’s crucial to conclude with a summary of action steps, clearly assigning each to an individual and setting specific, achievable deadlines. Never leave a meeting if you don’t know what the next steps are.

Within 24 hours, send all participants a concise summary outlining the outcomes, action steps, and deadlines. This ensures that the attendees know exactly what is expected of them. And it is the clarity of expectations that forms the foundation of accountability. Ambiguity breeds mediocrity.

Poorly run meetings are a time suck. They drive people crazy. Well run meetings are incredibly productive and valuable. I hope you implement the suggestions above to improve all your meetings.

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