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How to Make Meetings More Effective

employees meeting, team meeting in office
Chuck Leddy
Published on

Meetings are how modern business happens. They are the standard forum and format through which communication, teamwork, strategic decision-making, and idea generation get done. But not all meetings, whether virtual or in-person meetings, are effective. Just consider the common complaints among business professionals about how many meetings they have and their quality.

People’s productivity suffers when:

  • A meeting should have been an email
  • One or two domineering meeting participants hijack the agenda
  • Nothing gets decided and discussions go nowhere
  • A meeting has no clear purpose.

Business executives say that 67% of meetings fail to meet their intended goals, according to the eye-opening infographic, “The Ugly Truth About Meetings,” which claims that $37 billion is wasted on unproductive meetings each year in the US.

This post will help improve your meetings by explaining precisely what factors make any effective meeting, as well as providing tips and strategies.

Better meetings start with better planning - check out our top tips.

What Makes An Effective Meeting?

So what makes a effective meeting? Here are some common features every effective meeting shares:

1. A Clear Business Purpose

You need a good reason to meet, other than “the finance team always meets on Tuesdays at 10am” or “because our chief executive says we need a weekly meeting.” Without a clear purpose, a meeting is a waste of everyone’s time, like a meaningless journey without destination.

There are plenty of different reasons to meet, directly impacting who you invite, what gets done, the layout of the meeting room, and whether the meeting is recurring.

Here are some common meeting types:

One-on-one Meeting: It could be a performance review, a job interview, or something else, but one-on-ones require a small meeting space and typically take between 30 minutes to an hour.

Team Meeting: Whether it's a weekly department meeting or a project meeting, team meetings generally involve four to ten people and happen in a conference room. Team meetings usually take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour in order to review team progress and discuss next steps.

PS: When it comes to recurring team meetings, you should also double check, with the help of your booking system, that your room of choice has video conferencing tools for any off-site meeting participants and other equipment you might need for hybrid meetings. 

Whatever the meeting type, ensure there is a clearly communicated purpose.

Brainstorming Meeting: These are held to generate new ideas and will likely require a white board and a strong facilitator. A brainstorming session can extend anywhere from a half-hour to multiple hours, depending on the scope and number of participants.

Strategy Meeting: These are intended to make strategic decisions about the direction of the company or team, and can take place monthly, quarterly, annually, or when big events occur. They generally involve the company’s senior leadership team, including the chief executive, and happen in a conference room. Strategy meetings can take anywhere from an hour to all day, depending on the strategic focus.

All-hands Meeting: These are gatherings of the entire organization, so typically require the use of your largest meeting space or auditorium. They are used to make company-wide announcements and hold important discussions that impact the entire company. These all-hands meetings can take anywhere from an hour to several hours depending upon the scope of the announcement or discussion.

2. A Thoughtful Meeting Agenda

Once you have a good why, with meeting objectives, you need to map out the areas for discussion and decision-making. The meeting organizer needs to generate and share the meeting agenda with meeting participants beforehand, so they can be prepared.

It’s also a good idea to designate an amount of estimated time for each item on the agenda, so the organizer can move the agenda forward as meeting objectives are met. When you have a destination (a why) and a map (a solid agenda), you have the foundation for an effective meeting.

3. A Meeting Organizer

The meeting organizer has an important role to play in booking the appropriate time and place for in-person meetings. Having an array of meeting room sizes helps, as does ensuring that necessary equipment is available and working in the meeting room, including meeting room signage.

An effective meeting room booking system is crucial for ensuring that meeting space matches the needs of meeting attendees. Booking systems also makes the life of team leaders easier by making scheduling meetings easier.

Getting your mix of meeting rooms just right is a Goldilocks proposition: too many conference rooms or too few means you are wasting your expensive real estate. Survey your people, monitor room utilization with workplace analytics, and be ready to course correct to keep your mix of meeting spaces just right.

Technology, like room displays, can make it easier for teams to find the space they need.

4. A Collaborative Facilitator

Having a clear, shared agenda helps facilitate participation in meeting discussions, but the meeting leader should encourage participants to join in on the discussion. It helps if the meeting leader or organizer creates a safe space for each team member by modeling active listening, respect for others, and an attitude that welcomes opinions, even dissenting ones, during group discussion.  

When any participant decides to monopolize the discussion, the leader should step in diplomatically, thank the person for their input, and encourage others to join in. Research shows that creating a safe space for everyone to speak is a key component of any effective meeting.  

5. A Set of Clear Ground Rules

An effective and successful meeting needs clear ground rules on when the meeting begins, who speaks and when, how decisions will get made, and what follow-up actions take place after the meeting. For example, it’s important for participants to clearly understand that they should speak one at a time and everyone should have an opportunity to speak if they want to. 

If participants are late, should the meeting start on time anyway and how should latecomers be brought up to speed? How will decisions get made, by vote or otherwise? The leader should work with participants, especially if meetings are recurring, to clarify and communicate ground rules.

6. A Focus on Decision Making

Someone needs to keep track of what decisions have been made, and an official note-taker should be designated. No decision is complete until it becomes an action item, meaning that everybody understands next steps (who needs to do what and when). The person taking notes should send out action items and other relevant meeting notes to all participants after the meeting.

7. A Plan to Communicate Post-Meeting Results

Once the action items and next steps have been recorded and circulated after the meeting, those can then be used as the starting point for future meetings. Reviewing the last meeting at the start of the next meeting closes the circle and provides participants with an important sense of accountability and momentum for further discussion.

Once the meeting wraps up, share any action items and a summary of the meet up.

An Unsuccessful Meeting, Illustrated

Meetings can go wrong for an almost infinite number of reasons; key participants don’t show up at the meeting time, maybe because they have back-to-back meetings and are running late, or the discussion becomes a chaotic free-for-all that leads to no decision being made.

Equipment and technology failure is a classic meeting killer. Imagine a marketing team using video conferencing software for a hybrid meeting. What could go wrong? 

There could be frequent audio and video glitches throughout the meeting, as well as connection issues causing participants to miss key parts of the campaign presentation and discussion.

Alexis, the marketing manager, wanted to share her presentation on the new campaign, but the screen sharing feature was unreliable and froze five times, making it impossible for participants to follow along. 

Avoid unsuccessful meetings by preparing well in advance.

When the marketing team needed to discuss the new marketing campaign, the platform lacked collaborative tools like virtual whiteboards or document sharing, so they were forced to describe their ideas verbally, which was not only less efficient, but also left no record/documentation to share after the meeting.

What did this hypothetical marketing meeting achieve? Other than creating confusion and abject frustration among all the participants, nothing. To ensure you hold effective meetings, all your meeting rooms must be properly equipped with microphones, cameras, screens, digital signage, and more that can support multiple devices like laptops, smartphones, and tablets.

Check (and keep checking) that the equipment is operating well, and have skilled people on-call to help when snafus arise, because they will.

Streamline Meetings in Your Office

Effective and efficient meetings foster collaboration, community-building, and clear communication. They are key drivers of business success and people’s productivity. Use the suggestions and technology tools recommended herein to keep your meetings from wasting people’s time and your valuable office space.

To learn more about implementing effective meetings, start with Robin today.

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