Meetings can be useful, innovative and constructive – a great use of everyone’s time. However, they can also be quite the opposite. Recent research established that ineffective meetings waste an estimated £29 billion a year. Not only that but it’s become accepted that meetings are often a waste of time, even for those who wouldn’t dream of being inefficient with their working hours in any other way. Being able to run effective meetings not only ensures positive use of resources within the business but also marks an employee out as someone with useful skills. So, how do you do it?
When is a meeting not a meeting?
When it’s a presentation, an update or an assessment. When you’re setting up a meeting in the first place, make sure that you’ve given it the right description. Then, trim the guest list to ensure that those who you’ve invited to attend really do actually need to be there.
Prepare for the meeting in advance
Create an agenda and make sure that everyone gets a copy of it beforehand – this not only ensures others will be prepared but will also highlight if the meeting is actually necessary. 40% of meetings start late so be clear about the need for attendees to be punctual. It might be useful to assign roles to people for the meeting before it starts and to schedule a check in with those in the room every 10-15 minutes to ensure everyone is still engaged and participating.
Encourage active listening
The more engaged participants are with the meeting the more effective and useful it will be. This requires active listening, which you can encourage in a number of different ways:
- Create the right environment. Comfortable (but not too comfortable chairs), effective lighting and food and drink can all be useful
- Start the meeting with an engagement exercise e.g. an icebreaker
- Ban tech. Make sure that everyone in the room is focused on what’s happening in the present, not on their phones
- Schedule the meeting for the right time – avoid the afternoon slump, first thing in the morning or right at the end of the day
Nurture more participation
If meetings are just one or two people speaking they can quickly become ineffective. You can nurture participation by making attendees feel that they are encouraged to speak and contribute and by creating an open forum for discussion. It might also be useful to break the meeting down into chunks, each of which is led by a different person – or to have break out sessions within it where attendees work in small groups.
Sum up and create next steps
When participants leave the meeting room they should have a good sense of what just took place – and what is required next. Sum up at the end of the meeting, assign action points and think about whether it might be useful to circulate minutes for reflection after the meeting.
A well run meeting can deliver a wealth of benefits to business and make you a very valuable employee – it’s a skill that is well worth nurturing.