Meetings can be efficient and effective. Otherwise, why would more than 11 million meetings take place every business day in the US alone? The problem is many of them aren't as productive as they should be.
If you find that your meetings aren't achieving what they should, here are four things you can do to get better results in half the time.
1. Establish the purpose of the meeting.
Unfortunately, many meetings don't have a clear purpose. Not only should every meeting have a stated purpose, but you should be concise enough to tweet (140 characters or less). Note that this key point reads "purpose." Too many meetings try to accomplish too many things. There may be various topics, but the meeting should always have a single purpose. Often, the purpose of the meeting is something that doesn't require a meeting at all. Perhaps an email will suffice. Make sure to state the purpose of the meeting in the invitation, and again verbally at the start of the meeting. This way, everyone knows why they're there and where their focus should be directed.
2. Invite only the key people to the meeting.
Far too many meetings involve people who aren't essential to the purpose or outcome of the meeting. Think of every potential invitee as someone you are "hiring" for this particular event. Is their time more valuable in the meeting or is it better spent working on something else? If the meeting involves decisions, then invite only those who have a key role in the decision-making process. Further, if one or more of these key people can't attend, consider postponing the meeting. Again, this goes back to the purpose. Keep the achievement of that purpose clearly in mind and let it drive these decisions.
3.Prepare an agenda, set a time schedule, and stick to both.
Don't schedule a meeting unless you have an agenda and a time schedule. Otherwise, you're risking wasting time.
Using a visual meeting agenda like this one is a proven method for planning, conducting, and tracking meeting progress. SmartDraw has ready-made templates that make this quick and easy to do.
It's a good idea to share this visual agenda with all attendees in advance of the meeting. Map out discussion topics and decisions to be made. Solicit feedback—this will enhance engagement and maximize meeting results.
Stick to the agenda. Any sidebar discussions should be taken offline and discussed later. Keep discussions on track and focused on the meeting's purpose.
4. End the meeting with a summary of the outcome and then follow up.
Conclude the meeting by briefly summarizing the decisions and outcome. Make sure that the purpose of the meeting has been achieved. Follow up with a written meeting brief. Make sure that decisions and action items are added to the agenda map. Share it in your meeting brief. If a follow-up meeting is necessary, this document now serves as a starting point, so time won't be wasted back-tracking on things already covered.