I would like to share with you what I do to run an efficient meeting. Do not expect new and shocking solutions. It is a list of practices I have deemed successful, based on my team’s and mine experiences.
I have split the best practices into three parts, describing what happens before the meeting following with what is worth remembering during and after it. I’ve illustrated all the tips with hand drawings that I drew when I was presenting the topic during an academy (a series of presentations by Wavemakers to Wavemakers that we do in Making Waves every month). Drawings were kind of a competition – who guessed what tip I was drawing in the flipchart got a point. The person with the most points won a prize!
Let’s start with the “before” (Captain Obvious).
By “before” I mean everything that happens from the time one thinks “hmm we need a meeting” to the time people are invited to the meeting.
Is the meeting needed at all?
First thing I do when I want to create a meeting in my calendar is consider if it is needed at all. I ask myself a series of questions like:
- Can I do this over an e-mail?
- Do I need to meet with those people and use their time?
- Can’t I make this decision by myself?
- What will happen if that meeting never takes place?
I want to be sure that the meeting won’t be wasting other people’s time as well as my own.
What will be the outcome of the meeting?
I am sure that the meeting is the way to go. Now is the time for me to create a well-defined desired outcome of the meeting. I try to list a number of points that I can later use to verify if the meeting was indeed successful.
Who should I invite?
Since I know what I want to achieve with the meeting I move on to the next step – I need to invite people to the meeting.
From my past experiences I know that inviting too many people to the meeting can be devastating to the efficiency of the meeting. I try to only invite people that may have input that pertains to the information that will be covered in the meeting. I can simply inform the others at a later date, with an e-mail for example.
Usually, at this stage I calculate the cost of the meeting. I multiply the number of people I want to invite to the meeting by the hourly rate we would charge our customer for an hour of our work. It gives me a price which helps me identify if the meeting is cost effective, aka if it is worth it.
Remember how I earlier wrote about the cost of the meeting? Have it in mind when setting the time of it.
Default duration of the new meeting request in Outlook is a multiplicity of 30 minutes. Some meetings can be very efficient and last only 15 minutes or 40, or 25. Use the field, it is editable! (Really, I checked, it works!)
You already know:
- the desired outcome of the meeting,
- who to invite,
- how long the meeting will be.
It is high time to invite those that you want to meet with. Remember to tell them what you already know about the meeting! In the invitation include purpose as well as the desired outcome. In fact, in my team, we have a rule that one can ignore an invitation if the purpose and desired outcome are not described in the invitation.
Agenda and detailed information
While you prepare the meeting you create an agenda of the meeting. Share it with the attendees!
With this information they will come to the meeting mentally prepared as they will be aware of the content of the meeting. If you want them to prepare now is a good time to ensure that they do. Also, it is a very good opportunity to ask them for feedback about the planned content of the meeting. Maybe there is something that you missed or you didn’t know about.
If the meeting is a follow up of another meeting, remind attendees what happened during the last meeting. Resend them notes, revisit action points. If they are smart enough to prepare before the meeting (which we know they are ) you already have the makings of a successful meeting!
There are probably more things that one can or should do before a meeting. Those steps described above are used by my team. They seem to work, which means we have fewer meetings, most of the meetings we have are better planned, and people invited to them know what the meeting will be about. All of it is worth our effort I do believe.
Tips on what to do during and after the meeting – coming soon!