Unless you work for yourself, by yourself, and your only customer is you, at some point you are going to be having a meeting. After many years working for top producing companies, I have learned how to run an effective meeting.
Well run meetings are critical to productivity and success. Additionally, poorly run meetings hurt team morale and wastes time. In her book “Bad Meetings Happen to Good People: How to Run Meetings that are Effective, Focused, and Produce Results,” Leigh Espy says:
So let’s key in on three simple things you can do right away to make your meetings better, more effective, and more productive. These principles are true for both live in-person meetings as well as virtual meetings.
Is the Meeting Necessary?
Having meetings for the sake of meeting is useless and breeds negativity among the team. Have a purpose for the meeting and be clear about it.
I have worked in teams where a leader would call a meeting that really seemed pointless, other than for the sake of hearing themselves talk. This is truly ineffective.
If you are a leader and you call a meeting, have a point. Members of your team are pulled away from actual productivity, so make sure there’s a reason for the meeting.
Are You Prepared?
The best thing you can do to run an effective meeting is to prepare. If it’s your meeting, send out an agenda so others can come to the meeting prepared.
Nothing kills productivity like going down rabbit trails that don’t have anything to do with the meeting’s purpose.
Keep your agenda on point. A wide variety of topics will muddy the water and waste time. Keep things simple and task oriented.
If the meeting is someone else’s and they did not send an agenda, ask if there is one. Don’t be surly about it, but definitely ask and let them know you’d like to come to the meeting prepared (and then do so!). Maybe by being a productive participant, you can help a team leader stay on point and on task for a more effective meeting.
When the meeting is run by a superior or someone else, the behavior of others isn’t your concern. But you certainly can control yourself. And if the meeting is run by someone else, offer this as a suggestion:
It’s distracting to whomever is speaking when people are constantly looking at their mobile device. You don’t know if they are texting, emailing, or actually paying attention and taking notes.
Let me just say that there should be a recognizable difference between a “group work session” and a “meeting.” A work session obviously would include devices since people are actively working. But the purpose of a “meeting” is to discuss business, get everyone on the same page, and hopefully do it all in an efficient manner.
If it’s your own meeting, insist on meeting attentiveness. When you keep meetings brief and on-topic, you shouldn’t get push-back in this area because the fact that you are able to keep it brief is obvious, and the reason you can keep it brief is that everyone is focused.
If it’s not your meeting, offer suggestions. If a superior wants you to be using some tablet application for scheduling action items during their meetings, obviously you are not going to avoid this. Use your best judgement here.
How to Run an Effective Meeting
These principles will help you stay on task and on target. They hold true for the current era where a lot of meetings are being held through online channels like Google Meet or Zoom (with the obvious exception of leaving your laptop out of it).
Keeping things on point is probably even more important in an online meeting because the participants are more easily distracted.
If you stick to these rules for your own meetings, or you try to encourage them for others, you’ll find that your meetings are more effective and more productive – and quite possibly take less time.
For more productivity ideas, see: