There are many certainties in life, and one of them is meetings. Yes, regardless if you’re running our own business, servicing clients or working in a corporation, you will have to either attend or facilitate meetings.
While some meetings can be productive, more often than not, it can be lengthy and even a waste of time. Having trained many clients on how to facilitate effective meetings, we are always asked for some quick tips when it comes to organizing one.
Here are a few essential guidelines that we always recommend, and we thought it’ll be good to share them with you too. Of course, as coaches, we prefer to use questions instead of giving instructions, because it’s proven to be more thought-provoking and solution-centric.
1. Can the Meeting be Avoided?
Calling for meetings can be a habit; a bad one if it can be avoided in the first place. A good practice is to keep meetings as a last resort. If an issue can be settled over an email or phone call, do it. If only one person needs to give the green light on a few options, just pop in the office, ask for 5 minutes, present all the options, and get the person to commit to one. You can even look for moments when the key decision maker is entering a lift to have a quick pitch, and believe it or not, sometimes you can arrive at an agreement even before the elevator arrives at the lobby!
2. What is The Agenda?
Ok, the meeting cannot be avoided, so it’s best to have an agenda. Having one is like using a compass to guide your direction. An excellent way to start the meeting is to brief everyone present on the key outcomes, and if you can write it on the board, that’s even better. You see, discussions can sometimes go off track and off topic very quickly, especially when there are disagreements. By writing the agenda down on the board, it’s a good way to bring everyone’s focus back to the matter at hand. Should any of the side discussions be urgent, put it on a “pinboard” and if there is leftover time during the meeting, those issues can be addressed. Otherwise, a separate meeting can be held once proper preparation has been done.
3. Who are The Attendees?
Be clear on who to be invited to the meeting, especially the decision makers. Brief them upfront before sending the invite, so the person knows what is being expected of them. It is also useful to give a 5-minute briefing on the issue before the meeting, so they can be mentally prepared. Meetings can be a waste of time if the attendees are not on the same page, and the organizers have to repeat info that others already know of.
If it’s top management that is invited to the meeting, give the briefing notes to their secretaries or assistants. Put it in point form so it’s easier to be communicated as well.
Also, always inform all attendees who else are going to be in the meeting. This is to avoid duplication, in case only one person is needed instead of two. This will also make it easier if a representative is to be appointed to attend the meeting on behalf of another person.
4. What is the Duration?
Punctuality is key, so starting and ending on time is critical for maximum productivity. Some companies we know make it a point to start on time, even if not all attendees are present. This may sound brutal, but it’s necessary to make sure the habit of bad punctuality is not being reinforced. Do note that different agenda may require a different length of time. For example, meetings to brief everyone on the progress of a project is faster than one where brainstorming for a solution is needed, so allocate time accordingly.
It’s also a wise practice to buffer for an additional 5 minutes towards the end for wrap up.
Hint: It may be a good idea to cut out food and drinks as it can be kept for after the meeting. The outcome should always be prioritized, because there are other occasions where bonding can be done.
5. What is The Follow-up Actionable?
During the last 5-minute wrap-up, use it to recap and assign tasks and deadlines quickly. Ensure the person present are held accountable by getting them to commit to their respective assignments. Keep the actionable specific so it’s easy to track, and set up milestones and check-in points to ensure everyone is on track.
Bonus Tip: Suspend Technology
If a meeting is shorter than 30 minutes, a good practice is to get everyone to silence their phones, and keep their devices aside. Technology has become one of the greatest distractions of our time, and to keep everyone aligned to the agenda, it’s best to eliminate any forms of interruptions.
And there you have it! Our clients have reported positive outcomes after using these simple but powerful questions to facilitate productive meetings. As a matter of fact, one of our clients has even included it in the SOP manual for all managers, and productivity has never been higher. Give these recommendations a try, and let us know how it works out.
If you are keen to know what are the advance meeting facilitation skills we help our clients with, drop us a message and let’s discuss. We use a combination of time-tested international frameworks, complete with local examples to make it relevant for our clients, and this had been a winning formula for them, and for us. Chances are, it will work wonders for your meetings and team effectiveness too!