Eight tips for holding better meetings

Large meeting
By Andrew Harbison, CA Today

8 May 2017

Two-hour meetings that start late and run over, meetings for the sake of meeting, and people paying more attention to their phones than the agenda. Sound familiar? Try our eight tips to hold better meetings.

1. Time is of the essence

Research carried out by eShare found that UK office workers spend around two years of their lives preparing for, and attending meetings. Your meetings should start and finish promptly, ensuring that everyone is on schedule for the rest of the day. 

If your meetings have a reputation of keeping to a tight schedule, people may be more likely to attend. Some companies even use timers to enforce the end time. 

Try having more stand up meetings. No-one wants to stand for an extended period of time, so people's discomfort can help keep the meeting short and to the point.


2. Do your homework

If you are planning to hold a meeting, then you should have at least a rough idea of the subject matter and topics you plan to cover. Don’t assume that all your attendees will have as clear an understanding as you.  

Make sure you "do your homework" from any previous meetings and hold people to account over actions assigned to them.  And, don't forget to send out the all-important agenda with a summary of proposed objectives along with a timeline.

3. Tech free zone 

If people are sending off emails, checking social media or playing the latest candy based game, then you won’t have their full attention. And it’s also just plain rude. 

Suggest that in order for all points to be addressed as quickly and smoothly as possible, everyone should leave their tech at their desk and out of the meeting.

Broken tech

4. Sandwich anyone?

Not literally. To hit objectives and topic targets throughout the meeting, you have to be ruthless with time thieves. 

It’s imperative that everyone has an opportunity to share their thoughts and views, but there is often one person who likes the sound of their voice a bit too much. You need to deal with these people, but keep it diplomatic. 

Thank them for their input then advise them that you need to move on or that you would like to hear from someone else, but that you like their idea. 'Sandwich' the part you tell them to "zip it" with compliments.

5. You’re not on the list 

There is a phrase about an abundance of chefs ruining a perfectly nice soup…or something like that. When you are compiling the list of attendees be brutally honest about who does, and does not need to be there. 

Depending on the organisation and reason for the meeting, it’s best to keep it to no more than 10 people in the room. Choose the people who you think will give the best input to the specific problem you are trying to solve. Google is well known for the 10 people per meeting rule and it seems to be working well for them.


6. Record it

You’ve just had the most productive meeting ever, solving all of the problems you wanted to address. There’s just one hiccup, no-one can quite remember the process leading up to the solution. Doh! 

Make sure there is some record of the meeting, either written or, depending on company policy, an audio/video recording. This lets you skip to the key points of the meeting and listen to how everyone got there.

7. Decisions, decisions

It’s great when people come to a meeting with original and innovative ideas and solutions to the issues that are being discussed. But sometimes too many ideas can be just as bad as not enough, making it harder for everyone to come to a consensus. 

Taking the lead from Google once again, why not appoint one person as the designated decision maker for the session? Most importantly, if a decision needs to be made, don’t wait for a meeting to come around. If it is essential for a meeting to happen, then make it happen right away. 

8. Share the love

It’s a good idea to follow up with attendees by emailing out the key findings from the process. This means that everyone is ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’, and will give people an objective to aim for. 

You can also send this summary to those who may not have been able to attend. But make sure they know that this is not their personal meeting newsletter service, and that they need to attend in person.

How does your organisation hold meetings? Share your tips in the comments below.


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