Nowadays, meetings take up a lot of our time. We engage with our coworkers in person or via ZOOM or Microsoft Teams. Although we continuously change our ways of communication alongside the technology that we use, there is not element which has not evolved… meeting effectiveness.
Several years ago I had the opportunity to work with a general manager from Germany – he is both, a great person and leader. Anyhow, you may recall all the stereotypes about Germans; they enjoy everything being well organised and working perfectly. His first meeting with our leadership team was set up on a Monday, 9am. However, the only people in the meeting room at 9am were him and I, the rest were late. He asked me about why we’re not starting and where the rest of the people were, but I was without an answer – as I was there with him. 15 minutes later, everyone else had finally arrived and we held a short discussion about the topic of being late and how a meeting scheduled for 9am serves the purpose for individuals arriving for 9am. Afterwards, we spent one hour discussing all the key points of our agenda, but what was surprising is that in the past, we usually spent 2-3 hours on different topics during our leadership meetings. Sometimes, even without any following actions or valuable conclusions. What changed was our newly-implemented approach to our meeting excellence brought accountability to the whole team. We each owned all leadership team meetings, agendas and actions. We took the team’s capability to collaborate to an entirely new level. The ‘Silo mentality’ was removed and we all worked towards our common goals. Over the next few years, I observed how our leadership team mastered meeting excellence.
Below, you will find key tips allowing your meeting etiquette to make yourself and your team ‘Meeting Masters’.
- Invite only those who are required to participate in the meeting and who add value to the agenda.
- The leader needs to prepare a clear agenda for a 45-60 minute-long meeting with precise objectives.
- Send out a link to pre-read a few days before the meeting and allow participants to prepare. This will turn each meeting into a decision-making meeting. You can use OneNote.
- Identify the roles of key attendees in advance (chair, note-taker, timekeeper etc.)
- Be mindful of other people’s calendars – avoid back-to-back meetings wherever possible. Allow people to have a break/reflect in between meetings.
- Ask all attendees to participate in, focus on and contribute to the meeting, and to avoid multi-tasking or reading emails.
- Aside from the meeting leader, who will facilitate the session, you will also need to have someone to keep track of the time and sometime to take notes of the meeting.
- For online meetings, have a facilitator to monitor any questions or comments in the chat.
- Stick to the set timing and agenda.
- If there is anything that needs to be followed up on, ensure that you decide on a specific action, person responsible and timeframe.
- The leader should invite everyone to participate and speak up. Let’s do it in the meeting room and not in the kitchen following the meeting.
- Minutes must be taken and shared later in OneNote.
- Action items and minutes should be distributed within 48 hours following the meeting.
- Act on the agreed actions and update all participants on the progress, challenges and then completion.
Meetings will hold various functions. There are meetings wherein you share information: where few people talk and it perhaps contains a Q&A session. We participate in meetings where KPIs are presented. Sometimes, you may call a meeting to solve one specific problem; usually, such meetings are 30-60 minutes long. If you’re working on finding a solution to a problem, you can create a meeting and invite others. Although a meeting may take longer, by encouraging participants to discuss, share perspectives, brainstorm and ask lots of questions you’ll be able to find valuable insight into the problem at hand.
If you implement the above tips, you will limit your meeting to max 1hr. Each meeting will in turn be more focused and all participants will be prepared. You will avoid long, no value-added discussions. Both, the productivity and satisfaction of your team, and team members, will increase.