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Last updated: 05.04.18

How to manage effective meetings

Meetings are often seen as one of the least enjoyable and potentially least productive entries into the workplace calendar. Too often they are aimless time sinks that don’t actually progress a project, and leave people feeling that they could’ve spent the time better elsewhere. There are lots of reasons that this happens, but in truth it doesn’t have to be this way. Keep a few tips in mind, and you can help ensure that meetings you organise or attend are productive and even enjoyable. In this article, we’re going to go through a short list of the most important points to bear in mind.

Be timely

Late starts can be particularly annoying, especially when it’s the fault of meeting organisers or senior members of staff. Not only does this shorten the amount of time to cover the meeting’s topics, it also gives a poor impression. As a result, you should always endeavour to make sure that you are on time for any meetings that you organise. If you’re directly responsible for other members of staff, then ensure that they’re on time too. Being punctual will give others a good impression, but it will also likely rub off on them too. Colleagues are less likely to turn up late to a meeting if they know that you’re never late. The end of the meeting is important too - running over can be frustrating for attendees - so if you’re running the meeting or are actively participating, ensure that you wrap up in time for the allotted end time. Knowing how long to allocate will require good planning, which leads us on to the next point.

Set an agenda

Aimless meetings won’t help anyone. They won’t solve problems or come up with anything new, and they’ll serve only to waste time. As a result, any meeting that you organise should have an agenda in place. If it’s a 15-minute catch-up, then a brief set of bullet points that you’d like to talk about will suffice, but if you’re booking in something that’s expected to run for a couple of hours, then spend some time planning things out. Clearly explain what needs to be covered, and who is responsible. It’s fine for things to deviate a little bit, which is completely natural, but having a structure in place will really help. You should also make sure that the agenda is sent out to attendees before the meeting takes place, so they can plan as necessary.

Consider attendees carefully

It’s always a good idea to make sure that you’re inviting the right people to any meeting that you organise. You don’t want people sitting there that feel that they really have nothing to contribute, and you also don’t want to find out later that you missed someone out that could’ve contributed, or who feels that their thoughts should’ve been heard. Always take a few minutes to really ensure that you’re inviting the right people. There’s also nothing wrong with sending an individual email before you send out the blanket invite to see if someone does or does not want to be involved if you aren’t sure.

Ensure there’s a takeaway

In order for the meeting to have been considered a success, everyone leaving it must do so with the feeling that something has been resolved, or there’s a plan for its resolution. This means, where possible, everyone leaving should do so with one or more actions that they need to be involved in afterwards. Collaboratively, ensure that everyone knows what they need to do or think about, and it’s never a bad idea to follow up. You’ll find all of this much easier if you take good notes throughout the meeting. If you’re in charge of running it, then it’s your responsibility to either take notes yourself, or designate this to someone whose job it should be. Try to note all talking points down - not just what you think is important to you.

For more detailed guidance on how to effectively manage meetings, including how to negotiate, and recognise the dynamics of discussion, then the Virtual College course on Managing Effective Meetings may be helpful. Click here to see the course.