Like death and taxes - meetings are inevitable. I know this is one of my more morbid blog post introductions, but anyone who has ever been in an unproductive meeting can understand my strong stance and the purposeful juxtaposition of the three fore-mentioned terms (meetings, death & taxes). Unproductive meetings lead to: wasted time, wasted money, increased stress, team disorder and the overall frustration of all parties involved. If you are a young professional, there is a very high likelihood that you will be responsible for leading/facilitating a meeting at some point in your career. I am here to make sure that when that day comes, you will be ready!
Now, there are many ways to successfully lead a productive meeting. The steps I have included in this blog post are simply the steps that I have been utilizing. I have lead and facilitated hundreds of meetings with many influential clients, and this method has worked seamlessly every time.
If you are reading these tips and have questions, or need more in depth clarification - just leave a comment below or write me directly here. I love answering questions, and I am happy to help you in any way that I can!
Step 1: Develop a formal agenda for the meeting. The pre-work is without a doubt the most important aspect of holding a productive meeting. The agenda allows you to communicate the overall goal/purpose of the meeting to all participants prior to the meeting. It allows participants to review documentation & compile information ahead of time, with the goal of being able to make meaningful contributions to the conversation during the allotted meeting time. Providing the agenda early enough for participants to review information is crucial. I would recommend 3-5 days prior to the meeting. Also, send out a meeting reminder with the agenda the day before the meeting as well.
The agenda should include:
- meeting name/subject
- date/time (specify time zone for virtual meetings)
- location information
- list of all expected attendees
- formal agenda topics
- table for collecting action items (columns include: action item title | designated POC (point-of-contact) | expected completion date | actual completion date).
Step 2: Begin the meeting by recording all meeting attendees. It is so important to accurately record all meeting attendees. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to use that information to state my case when individuals claimed that they "did not know" about a task they were supposed to complete. Taking detailed meeting minutes & meeting information is crucial, and can be used to hold others accountable in the future.
Once you have recorded all meeting attendees, run through the list verbally for good measure. This may not need to be done if your meeting is a face-to-face meeting. A great deal of my meetings were virtual, and validating all attendees was a necessity since individuals would join late over the phone.
P.S. It is totally okay to ask individuals to repeat or spell-out their names during the roll call. Don't feel embarrassed if you need more clarification! And don't be afraid to ask!
Step 3: Review action items from previous meetings. If this is your first time meeting with the group on a specific topic - you will not need this step the first time around. Reviewing the list of action items from your last meeting will hold individuals accountable, and put everyone on the same page.
Step 4: Begin addressing agenda topics. Be sure to segue clearly into the next topic of discussion. If you are facilitating the meeting, you can do a soft handoff to the individual who is responsible for addressing the first agenda topic. The key here is clear and concise communication. There should be no doubt in anyone's mind what topic is being addressed.
Step 5: Open the floor for open discussion. Once all agenda topics are covered, open discussion time leaves space for individuals to discuss ideas/concerns that were not originally included on the agenda. It is important that all topics not included on the agenda are saved until this time. If individuals do bring up topics not included on the agenda, it can create a very long rabbit trail. Rabbit trails rarely end in solutions. And meetings are all about finding solutions! If you see this happening, bring it to light. It may sound something like this "Kevin, that is a good topic for discussion. Let's table that subject for now, and discuss it once we get through these agenda items." Then simply steer the conversation back to the original point of discussion.
I know it sounds rude, but it's not. Odds are the individual will understand. I recommend jotting that topic down, in case it is forgotten by the time the end of the meeting comes around.
Step 6: Record all action items. Throughout the meeting, actively be listening for and recording all action items. Make sure you record what the action item is, the individual responsible for completing it, and the date it is expected to be completed. Record this information in a table, and insert that table below the meeting agenda in the very same document. Again, the key is that the action items are included in the same document as the agenda/meeting minuets.
Step 7: Review action items & close the meeting. This part is also crucial. You must verbally repeat and confirm that all action items have been assigned & are slated to be completed by their expected completion date. Repeating them out loud, and getting verbal confirmation from each individual responsible will go a long way! You would not believe the number of people who do not take notes during meetings (crazy, I KNOW).
Closing the meeting is simple, but necessary. It is so awkward when the meeting host awkwardly sits there in silence waiting for people to just get up and leave the room. When I close meetings, it sounds something like this
"Alright everyone! Thank you all for attending today's meeting. We have a number of action items to work through, and if anyone needs clarification or assistance please let me know. Meeting minutes will be sent out within 1 to 3 business days. Have a great day & I will be in touch!"
That is rather lengthy, but you are free to use this same format if you want :)
Step 8: Edit the meeting minutes & distribute to all meeting attendees. The meeting minutes should be edited (free of spelling/grammar errors), and sent out to all meeting attendees within 1-3 business days (no more than 3). The sooner you re-communicate this information to attendees, the better.
So there you have it! How to hold a productive meeting - in 8 easy steps. Meetings are very intentional, and should have a clear beginning, middle & end.
I also published a post on InfoBarrel on How to Look Productive in a Business Meeting! Check it out & let me know if any of these tricks work for you!
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Stasia | Rose
Photo Credit: StockSnap