Meetings are a big part of working life for those working in offices, hybrid or remote. They might be online, in-person, or a mixture. Sometimes they are for an hour and other times it can be whole days. For some of our clients, we have observed meetings, facilitated sessions, and offered guidance on how to do things differently to make sure they run more effective meetings.
There are six things to consider when it comes to being more intentional and run more effective meetings:
Define the Purpose for the meeting and agenda items
Always ask for the purpose of the meeting if you’re being invited. You need to know what the ideal outcome is of the conversation and why you’re being invited. This will help you prepare and manage your time. If you’re chairing the meeting, make sure the purpose is clear to those attending. As chair, you will need to make sure you reach the outcome you want for each agenda item so having that clarity will allow you to stay focused.
Easier said than done. We are constantly interrupted by notifications on laptops and phones and our brains struggle to focus on someone speaking for more than 20 minutes. This makes listening a challenge. If you’re in a meeting, put your phone on do not disturb and if it’s an all-day meeting, use the out-of-office functionality on email.
Have the Right People in the Room
Sometimes people want you in the room because they need your energy or your insight. They might want you in there just because it’s nice to have you there. But if you’re not the right person to add value then it’s a waste of everyone’s time. If the purpose is to make a decision and the decision maker isn’t there – the meeting won’t achieve its purpose. Make sure if you’re organising the meeting you’re clear with people about their role and if they can send someone else if they can’t make it. Make sure they know the purpose and the outcome you’re looking for.
Contract Behaviour – camera on or camera off
A term used a lot in facilitation or coaching and it’s important in everyday business too. Discuss and agree on what is acceptable in the meeting before it starts. Check in on whether people need to leave early, or if they have a meeting straight after. This means you will run the meeting based on agreed terms which will support a safe space for sharing. Online meetings can go over the allocated time as there can be the expectation that people are more accessible. Be clear if you have a hard stop time – it doesn’t matter why you have it (childcare, exercise, etc) all reasons are valid.
Be clear about when cameras should be on or off if you’re online and if the meeting is hybrid, explain how you will run it if you’re chairing it so people know what to expect.
Set an Agenda
This might sound pointless for a quick meeting but even if you’re only getting together for an hour, having a clear set of time allocated to the topics is important. If the purpose is a discussion, provide some parameters for that so people are comfortable that there is some structure. In online meetings, this is really important. Having chunks of time helps us focus and it helps the meeting have pace.
Next to each agenda item state if it is a discussion, decision, information, or a mixture so people know if they need to do any work to prepare.
Be Clear on Deadlines And Actions
This is something we regularly coach people to do. ASAP is not a deadline. What’s as soon as possible to you is not as soon as possible to me. Be clear when setting actions, make them attributable to one person, and have a timescale attached to them. As chair, you should follow up to make sure they are done before the next meeting.
If you’re asked for a deadline for an action you are responsible for, be honest about what it should be. It can be uncomfortable to commit to that in the room but it helps make sure things move forward from the conversation.
Meetings are such a big part of work today so if you’re finding that they aren’t quite doing what you need or there are gaps in the skills of the team to facilitate or chair meetings, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss a workshop or 1:1 session to help your team run more effective meetings.